If you're allowed only one word to describe Colorado's off-season to date, try "bad"
The Colorado Avalanche found rock bottom not that long ago, but had since drastically turned things around. While the Edmonton Oilers bottomed out, drafted three #1 overall picks, then continued to bump their backside on the league’s bottom, the Avs used their high picks well, complimented them well, and climbed all the way to 112 points during the 2013-14 season.
While most pundits (me me me me) don’t think their 2013-14 season reflects what they really are, they undeniably took a positive step towards being a consistent Western Conference playoff team, which is synonymous with being a really darn good team.
So, with a core of Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Nate MacKinnon and Ryan O’Reilly, the Avs set out on the off-season after their first playoff appearance since 2010. Annnd, it’s been a trainwreck ever since.
I’m not privy to the thinking behind the scenes or anything (save money, maybe?), but right when you expected the Avalanche to take some steps to get really competitive in the brutal West, it seems they’ve toe-picked and buried their face in the dirt. You’d have to make one heck of an argument to convince me they haven’t gotten worse, even with some progression from their kids.
Let’s assess their transactions of late:
Acquired Brad Stuart for a second-rounder and a sixth-rounder
Stuart is a 5th/6th defenseman on most NHL teams making $3.6 million. He’s 35 and about to flip past the 1,000 NHL game mark. While I get that the Avs D-corps was so dodgy last year they wanted to do something, this was a fairly uninspiring pick up. He ain’t the player he once was.
P.A. Parenteau out, Danny Briere in
They traded a younger player who scored 0.60 points-per-game last season after threatening a point-per-game in the previous two seasons for a guy who plays the same role with the same cap hit who’s older and is coming off a season that saw him total 0.36 points-per-game. Oh, and welcome to the tougher Conference, Briere. Obviously they wanted Parenteau out for whatever reason, but this move undeniably makes them worse on the ice. (More from me on this trade here.)
Lost Paul Stastny in free agency to St. Louis
Someone was going to pay the guy, which is unfortunately a thing you have to do with good players when you’d like to compete with the big boys. Which, one would think, is a goal for Colorado.
Signed Nick Holden to a three-year extension
Hey, 27-year-old D-man with 61 career NHL games - here’s a three year deal? I know they like him, but geez.
Signed Zach Redmond to a two-year, $1.5 million deal
Two years to a 26-year-old D-man with 18 total NHL games. Those are one-way years, by the way.
Signed Jesse Winchester to a two-year, $1.8 million contract
Two-years for a 30-year-old who’s never cracked 20 points. Kay.
Signed Jarome Iginla to a three year, $16 million contract
All the money to an aging scorer who’s in obvious decline and about to wade back into the Western Conference on a team with a weak back-end. Oh, and for three years. This could get ugly by that contract’s end.
Signed Bruno Gervais to a one-year deal
Two-way for a “quadruple A” player.
Signed Maxim Noreau to a two year, $1.25 million contract
Two one-way years for a 27-year-old D-man with one (1) career NHL game.
And finally, they still haven’t re-signed talented RFA Ryan O’Reilly
I’m sure they will soon enough, but yeah.
The Avalanche identified a weakness on defense, and addressed it by adding an older guy with 985 NHL games, and three players in their mid-20s who total 80 put together. Problem solved!
They slot in Iginla for Stastny (downgrade), Briere for Parenteau (downgrade), and find themselves with a glut of middling depth names for their bottom six.
I like the Colorado Avalanche just fine. I like Joe Sakic, Patrick Roy, their history, and their state in general. But looking at what’s transpired with their roster so far this offseason, it’s impossible for me to conclude they’ve done anything but get worse.