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What's Next for the Avalanche?

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1What's Next for the Avalanche? Empty What's Next for the Avalanche? on Fri Jun 05, 2009 5:57 am


The Avalanche--like their ancestors Les Nordiques, at their peak--once buried their opponents with awesome displays of talent from greats like Bourque, Roy, Forsberg, Foote and Sakic among others...but in the last few years the Yetis have found themselves snowed under as time has caught up to a roster not sufficiently replenished. Club head honcho Pierre Lacroix got out the plough and shoveled out the executive suite. Now it remains to be seen if the denizens of Denver can clamber back up the mountain.

Yahoo Sports shares its profile of the clan in Colorado:

Inside Shots: Colorado Avalanche Team Report

Yahoo Sports, June 5, 2009

Tony Granato was dismissed as head coach of the Avalanche and replaced with Joe Sacco, the coach of the Lake Erie Monsters, Colorado’s AHL affiliate, after being left to twist in the wind after team president Pierre Lacroix made an unsuccessful attempt to replace him with former star goalie Patrick Roy.

Roy turned down the offer, telling Lacroix that he would continue as part owner, general manager and head coach of the Quebec Remparts in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

When Lacroix fired general manager Francois Giguere on April 13, he said no further comments would be made until after a new “management structure” was in place.

Sacco, 40, had a losing record the last two seasons at Lake Erie, but new general manager Greg Sherman favored him for the position.

The Avalanche finished last in the Western Conference in 2008-09 with a 32-45-5 record, its worst since the team moved from Quebec to Denver in 1995.

Roy, meanwhile, wouldn’t rule out an eventual return to the NHL, or to Denver, which does no favors for Sacco, who may be perceived as simply keeping Roy’s seat warm despite Sacco’s three-year deal.

“All I can say is that the Avalanche’s offer was more than interesting,” he said during a news conference at the Colisee in Quebec City, where the Remparts play. “My quality of life here in Quebec City is extraordinary. I adore this adventure, I adore working with youth. For me, it’s a daily challenge, working to help these youths realize their dreams.”

Roy, who won two of his four Stanley Cups with the Avalanche, also said he wanted to stay in closer contact with his three teenage children—Jonathan, Frederick and Jana—something he said would have been difficult if he had accepted the Avalanche’s offer.

“I just want to make sure that I’m there to support them,” he said. “If I were to take the job, it would have been very demanding on my time.”

Season Highlight: Veteran forwards
Milan Hejduk and Ryan Smyth collected the 300th goals of their NHL careers on the same night, scoring Jan. 18 against Calgary in the Pepsi Center.

The goals came 4:44 apart in the second period against Flames goalie
Curtis McElhinney in a 6-2 win that improved the Avalanche’s record to 23-22-1. It was the last time the Avalanche had more regulation wins than losses.

Smyth and Hejduk became the second teammates in league history to reach the 300-goal plateau in the same game. They joined Detroit’s Danny Gare and Ivan Boldirev, who did it against the New York Islanders on Feb. 26, 1983.

Turning Point: Where to start? The Avalanche opened the season with three losses, followed with a season-best five-game winning streak, then lost five in a row. The Avalanche had eight losing streaks of between three and eight games.

Losing top centers
Joe Sakic (back and hand surgeries) and Paul Stastny (broken arm and foot) for significant amounts of time were damaging blows for an Avalanche team without much offensive power. Sakic missed the final 60 games. Stastny was sidelined for 26 games from Dec. 27-Feb. 22 after fracturing his right arm and he missed the last 11 games with a broken foot.

Notes, Quotes

The Avalanche is still waiting to hear from captain Joe Sakic, who has yet to decide whether to return for another season or retire. Sakic, who turns 40 on July 7, missed the final 60 games in 2008-09 to recover from surgery for a herniated disk in his back and another surgery for three broken fingers and tendon damage suffered in an accident with a snowblower.

The Avalanche scouting staff conducted three days of meetings in Denver to prepare for the June 26-27 NHL entry draft before leaving for the league’s draft combine in Toronto that ends May 30. The Avalanche owns the third overall selection and three of the first 50 picks. “The combine allows us to get a better feel for these kids as people,” said Richard Pracey, the team’s director of amateur scouting. “We try to understand how they feel about themselves as players, what are their strengths and what areas do we need to improve upon? A lot of this stuff is putting a face to the name.”

Quote To Note: “Anyone that goes home thinking they did their job is fooling themselves. Everyone could have done more and should have done more.”—Avalanche forward
Ian Laperriere, still upset that the team missed the playoffs for the second time in three years.

Roster Report

Most Valuable Player: A tie between right wing Milan Hejduk and left wing Ryan Smyth, frequently linemates and easily the Avalanche’s two best players this season.

Hejduk led the team in goals (27) and points (59) despite having to play with a variety of centers following injuries to Joe Sakic and Paul Stastny. He reached the 20-goal mark for the ninth consecutive season, collected his 300th career goal and was the only Avalanche player to play in all 82 games.

Smyth rebounded from an injury-marred first season in Colorado to collect 26 goals and 59 points despite missing the final five games with a broken hand. Like Hejduk, Smyth was forced to play with a variety of linemates because of injuries, but he was the Avalanche’s most dangerous player in front of the net, where he made life difficult for opposing goalies on a nightly basis.

Most Disappointing Player: With top centers Joe Sakic and Paul Stastny sidelined for long periods of time, the Avalanche needed
Tyler Arnason to pick up his game. If anything, he regressed.

Playing in the final year of a two-year, $3.35 million contract, Arnason was a non-factor in most games and finished with five goals and 17 assists in 71 games. He failed to score a goal in his last 14 games and was a healthy scratch 11 times.

Free Agent Focus: Captain Joe Sakic is the most prominent of the eight Avalanche players who are eligible for unrestricted free agency, and goalie
Peter Budaj is the most significant of four players who could become restricted free agents.

The other unrestricted free agents: goalie
Andrew Raycroft; defenseman Daniel Tjarnqvist; forwards Tyler Arnason, Ben Guite, Ian Laperriere, Per Ledin and Brian Willsie.

The other restricted free agents: forwards
T.J. Hensick, David Jones, Cody McCormick and Cody McLeod.

Sakic will either re-sign with the Avalanche or retire, a decision that probably won’t be made until at least the middle of May. He’s the face of the franchise but has had serious injuries two seasons in a row. If Sakic comes back, he’ll have to play a more secondary role, likely as the No. 2 center behind Paul Stastny.

The Avalanche should re-sign Laperriere, a grinding forward, penalty killer, team leader and fan favorite. Guite can be a useful fourth-line center, but he also can easily be replaced.

Arnason is as good as gone after scoring 15 goals in two seasons following a 16-goal campaign in 2006-07 that enabled him to swing a two-year, $3.35 million deal.

Ledin, who spent most of the season in the minors, and Willsie, who had one goal in 41 games with the Avalanche, are expendable. The same is true for Tjarnqvist.

The Avalanche signed Raycroft to a one-year, $800,000 contract last summer after losing
Jose Theodore to Washington, and his play was no better than average. It’s doubtful he’ll be re-signed.

Budaj, who made $800,000 this season, probably will be tendered a qualifying offer to retain his rights. But the Avalanche needs a major upgrade in goal, and Budaj likely will have to settle in as a backup if he’s re-signed.

McLeod, one of the Avalanche’s few bright spots this season, scored a career-high 15 goals and surely will be re-signed. McCormick gives the team a physical presence and should be re-signed. Hensick, 23, and Jones, 24, will be back and expected to play a major role in the team’s rebuilding process.

Player News:

Adam Foote would be a logical choice for Avalanche captain if Joe Sakic decides to retire. Foote, 37, would become the Avalanche’s elder statesman. He has always been a team leader and was a member of its Stanley Cup championship teams in 1996 and 2001. Foote has one year remaining on his contract, after which he probably will retire.

Chris Stewart showed flashes his rookie year in 2008-09 that he could develop into an elite power forward. Stewart, 21, was the Avalanche’s first-round pick (18th overall) in the 2006 NHL entry draft. A 6-foot-2, 228-pounder, he had 11 goals, eight assists and 54 penalty minutes in 53 games while spending most of the season on the third and fourth lines. But Stewart needs to be more consistent; he scored one goal in his final 12 games.

RW David Jones continues to recover from the Feb. 18 shoulder surgery that ended his 2008-09 season. Jones had seven goals in his final 22 games after scoring one in the first 18 games. At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Jones gives the Avalanche good size and he has deceptive speed for a big man. He’s expected to play on the first or second line next season.

Medical Report:

C Joe Sakic is recovering from Jan. 7 surgery for a herniated disc in his back.

Marek Svatos is recovering from April 8 surgery for a broken finger.

LW Ryan Smyth is recovering from April 2 surgery for a broken right hand.

Ruslan Salei is recovering from a right knee injury that won’t require surgery.

C Paul Stastny is recovering from March 18 surgery for a broken foot.

Kyle Cumiskey is recovering from Feb. 19 shoulder surgery.

RW David Jones is recovering from Feb. 19 shoulder surgery.


So what's next for the Avs? Over to you, GM Hockey Members!

Last edited by davetherave on Sat Jul 04, 2009 6:21 pm; edited 2 times in total

2What's Next for the Avalanche? Empty Re: What's Next for the Avalanche? on Fri Jun 05, 2009 7:12 am


They are in deep weeds. If Sakic retires then you hand the "C" to a 37 year old -- that's what teams do in the re-building years. Except they'll be rebuilding with a rookie GM and coach, and no-one in goal that could be considered a true #1.

Even is Sakic is back, he is in the declining years of his career. Arnason and Raycroft are gone (or they'd better be). They need a minimum of two top-six forwards and a goalie, just as a starting point.

Unless the coach they just hired is a geniu s(he is not) and the new GM can work magic, this team wil miss the playoffs again. Probably for the next 2-3 years. The West is getting tougher, with LA, Blues getting stronger, with Chicago already there. Just for that, Sakic probably should retire, since he's not going to the Payoffs before he is 40.

3What's Next for the Avalanche? Empty Re: What's Next for the Avalanche? on Fri Jun 05, 2009 8:24 am


Hall of Famer
Hall of Famer
I wonder if Bulin will end up here?

4What's Next for the Avalanche? Empty Re: What's Next for the Avalanche? on Fri Jun 05, 2009 3:29 pm


Lyle Richardson's take on the changes in the Avs front office and the team's status, from his Fox Sports column "Spector's Blog", dated June 3rd...

Finally the Colorado Avalanche today made their long-awaited clean sweep of their management and coaching staff, promoting assistant general manager Greg Sherman into the GM role and firing head coach Tony Granato.

As per TSN and the Avalanche’s NHL home page, the club also fired assistant coaches Jacques Cloutier and Dave Barr, goaltending coach Jeff Hackett, assistant to the GM Michel Goulet as well as their video coordinator.

Craig Billington, who also worked in the GM’s office, survived the purge and will be assistant general manager while Brad Smith remains director of player personnel but as the team release states with expanded duties and responsibilities.

The Avalanche also hired Eric Lacroix, who used to play for the club and was a scout for the Phoenix Coyotes, as their new director of hockey operations. Lacroix is the son of team president Pierre Lacroix.

No word yet on who’ll replace Granato (this written just before Joe Sacco was been appointed as Head Coach--Ed.) but the general consensus amongst pundits and bloggers is he didn’t deserve to be left twisting in the wind for so long by the club before the ax finally fell.

It was obvious given the Avalanche’s poor performance last season, their worst since they moved to Denver from Quebec City in 1995, that changes were coming to this team. The club had earlier fired GM Francois Giguere prior to today’s clean sweep.

What remains to be seen now is how these changes will affect the Avalanche’s lineup, which currently carries several veterans with big salaries, a handful of promising young players and lacks a quality starting goaltending.


On the goaltending rumours, ESPN Chicago's Al Cimaglia seems to think Colorado signing an expensive veteran like Khabibulin would run counter to a rebuilding plan expected to be focused on youth.

5What's Next for the Avalanche? Empty Re: What's Next for the Avalanche? on Sun Jun 07, 2009 8:35 pm


Terry Frei at the Denver Post offers his view of the forthcoming "Greg Sherman Era":

Terry Frei, The Denver Post, June 7, 2009

It all sounds fine in theory. Here's the theory: The Avalanche front office, with new general manager Greg Sherman leading and president Pierre Lacroix retreating into semi-retirement, will make decisions through a collaborative process.

The hockey staff, including Sherman, Craig Billington, Brad Smith, Eric Lacroix and others, will stand behind that decision as decisively as if the vote in every case was unanimous from the start, even if it took more votes to get there than the 1912 Democratic convention did to nominate Woodrow Wilson.

It could work if Sherman, who has climbed through the Pepsi Center ranks because of his accounting and business backgrounds, a) gets good advice and information, including because everyone feels empowered to say what they think rather than what they believe Sherman or anyone else wants to hear; and, b) has an ability to inspire, organize, communicate, effectively delegate, sift and decide — a touch that is effective at the top of any power structure.

One local example of how that can be effective: Hank Brown's background was in law, the Navy and politics, and not in education, yet he did terrific work while president at the University of Northern Colorado and the University of Colorado.

However, that's pretty much the way it was supposed to work under the fired Francois Giguere, whose numbers- crunching background was similar to that of Sherman. This is not a radical departure; in fact, it's more of the same.

Pierre Lacroix, conscious of preserving his legacy and still given an owner's power without franchise deed, might be paying closer attention than he did the past three years. Yet he always has been at least monitoring the proceedings. Even when he was GM, he frequently emphasized the pooled-opinion nature of the operation, and decisions were made during that tenure that affect the franchise to this day.

It's also more of the same with many of the same people.

Despite the departure of Giguere and Michel Goulet, the Hall of Fame winger who was the assistant to the vice president/general manager, those taking part in the collaborative process under Sherman for the most part are the same who took part in the collaborative process that got the Avalanche into this fine mess, regardless of how far back you want to go.

Yes, that previous power structure included Sherman, whose job description in his role as assistant general manager under Giguere included dealing with the salary cap and contract negotiation. Whether he was simply interpreting fine print and working with numbers, while not being heeded or have a major voice in the decisions, is something we perhaps will never know. Among other reasons, that's because Sherman so far has been adamant about not looking back, but moving forward, whether to dodge accountability himself or to avoid taking cheap shots at Giguere.

Also, fair or not, the return of Eric Lacroix again raises the same issue that could make it awkward at times in the dressing room when he was an Avalanche winger. Gee, the guy over there has the same name as the big boss. Eric is almost universally liked. He knows hockey. I'm among those who believe he likely would be a good general manager someday, in the tradition of current NHL GMs Chuck Fletcher (newly hired at Minnesota), Ray Shero (Pittsburgh) and David Poile (Nashville), whose fathers were GMs in the league.

But Eric Lacroix again has to make it clear he's his own man, not his father's representative in the room.

In 2009, the Avalanche image has been battered. Around the NHL, there is what ranges from raised eyebrows to outright derision over the franchise's — and Pierre Lacroix's — refusal to conduct a real job search, whether to hire a general manager or coach. That would require actually announcing the job is open, really open. That would mean accepting, courting and considering applications from men with absolutely no previous connection to the organization.

That's not the Avalanche way.

This could work.

But Sherman has to prove a lot of folks wrong for that to happen.

6What's Next for the Avalanche? Empty Re: What's Next for the Avalanche? on Wed Jun 24, 2009 8:48 pm


Following the landslide of changes in Denver, Hradek and Vollman dig through the challenges facing the Avalanche.

Capable Panthers' backup would be a big upgrade for Colorado's crease
EJ Hradek, Robert Vollman/ESPN INSIDER, June 21, 2009

Plugging Holes - Colorado Avalanche

What's Next for the Avalanche? Col
The Hole: Goaltender

Of all the money spent on salary, the Colorado Avalanche spent the lowest percentage in the league on goaltending, and it showed. Since stopping 92.6 percent of shots in a remarkable 2003-04 rookie season, Andrew Raycroft has failed to stop even 90 percent. In that same timeframe, Peter Budaj's best is the 90.5 percent he stopped 2006-07. Together, they formed the third worst goaltending tandem in the NHL last season, with a -18.8 GVT. Perhaps they should have asked Patrick Roy back as goalie instead of coach.

The Fix: Sign G Craig Anderson (UFA, Panthers)

Given that even a great goalie won't be enough to make the Avalanche a contender for at least another season, there is no sense in giving up draft picks to get a restricted free agent. Anderson may not be a proven starter, but he was brilliant filling in for the injured Tomas Vokoun. Andy's +14.3 GVT was almost as much as vaunted free-agent goaltender Martin Biron, and in almost half the ice-time. His remarkable 0.924 save percentage last season is, unbelievably, the worst he has had in three seasons in Florida.

E.J.'s Take: The Avalanche could do worse than Craig Anderson. They already have, right? Anderson did a very nice job in Florida last year. He would be an upgrade. And, after making just $575,000 ($550,000 cap hit) last season, he should be reasonably priced.

There is one concern. Anderson, 28, has never played in more than 31 games during his NHL career. If they're not sold on Anderson, new GM Greg Sherman can consider potential free agents like Marty Biron, Antero Niittymaki , Manny Fernandez, Ty Conklin and Scott Clemmensen.

No matter who they decide on, they'll be hard pressed to be in a worse situation than they were during the 2008-09 season.


Robert Vollman is a writer for Puck Prospectus. E.J. Hradek is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.

Note: A mainstay of Puck Prospectus's metrics is "Goals Versus Threshold" (GVT). The stat blends an array of offensive and defensive figures to measure the value, in terms of goals, a player contributes above what the marginal player would over the course of the season. A marginal player is one that could be replaced with a player of equivalent skill, e.g. from the minors. For instance, Evgeni Malkin had an offensive GVT of +18.9, a defensive GVT of +4.5 and a total GVT of +23.4 for the 2008-9 regular season, meaning that Malkin was worth 23.4 goals more than a marginal player over the course of the season, or worth about 0.3 additional goals per game. In the team context, GVT refers to performance above an NHL average team. For the regular season, the Detroit Red Wings had a +30.8 offensive GVT, a +15.1 defensive GVT, a -21.5 goaltending GVT, for a +24.4 total GVT. Therefore, at even strength, Detroit was 24.4 goals better than the average team.

Last edited by davetherave on Fri Jun 26, 2009 7:44 pm; edited 1 time in total

7What's Next for the Avalanche? Empty Re: What's Next for the Avalanche? on Fri Jun 26, 2009 7:40 pm


Matt Duchene is being compared by the RDS commentators to Joe Sakic.

That can only be a good thing. The Avs have been a great would be cool to see them rockin' in Denver again.

8What's Next for the Avalanche? Empty Re: What's Next for the Avalanche? on Fri Jun 26, 2009 7:41 pm


Duchene is so complete... Good all around... Looking forward to seeing him.

9What's Next for the Avalanche? Empty Re: What's Next for the Avalanche? on Fri Jun 26, 2009 7:46 pm


caissie_1 wrote:Duchene is so complete... Good all around... Looking forward to seeing him.

Duchene was just interviewed by RDS...he said he wears #9 in tribute to Rocket cool is that?

10What's Next for the Avalanche? Empty Re: What's Next for the Avalanche? on Sat Jul 04, 2009 6:25 pm


The view from Rocky Mountain High on the Smyth trade and the Avs' next steps:

Adrian Dater, The Denver Post, July 4, 2009

Since finishing last in the West with a high payroll, there has been a mandate from Avalanche ownership: Get younger, get cheaper and rebuild.

Part of that mandate was filled Friday night when the Avs traded left wing Ryan Smyth to the Los Angeles Kings for two young defensemen — Kyle Quincey and Tom Preissing — and a fifth-round draft pick in 2010. The trade will not become official until the players pass a physical.

It may come as a shock to some Avs fans that the team would trade the former all-star, but it has been a poorly guarded secret for a while now that the Avs were trying to trade him.

When he signed a five-year, $31.25 million free-agent deal in 2007 that included a no-trade clause, the 33-year-old Smyth was hailed by management as a critical piece in getting back to the Stanley Cup Finals. But after a last-place finish this season, Smyth's age and contract were seen as undesirable.

The key to the deal for the Avs may be Quincey, who posted a respectable 38 points (four goals) in 72 games for the Kings last season, leading all defensemen.

At 23, Quincey fits the new Avs profile, as well as a desirable salary for the upcoming season: $550,000.

Quincey had surgery in April to repair a herniated disc, but is expected to have a full recovery.

Preissing, 30, is well-known to hardcore area hockey fans, as he played four years at Colorado College, where he was a Hobey Baker finalist in 2003.

"We are pleased to add two quality NHL defensemen," Avs general manager Greg Sherman said in a statement. "They will add defensive depth to our lineup."

Last season, the Avs shopped Smyth around at the NHL trade deadline. He had a disappointing first season with the Avs, not helped by injuries, but was one of the team's most productive players in 2008-09 with 26 goals and 33 assists. In 132 games with Colorado, Smyth had 40 goals and 96 points and a combined minus-19.

Phone calls to Smyth were not returned Friday night, but he told Canadian television network TSN: "As a family, we've really enjoyed Colorado. It's been a great place to play and a great place to live, and I really think if our team had been healthy over the last two years, we would have been a lot better. I wasn't surprised when (agent) Don Meehan called to present the offer and ask if I was willing to waive the no-move clause."

Preissing, 30, had a very disappointing season with the Kings. At one point, he was even sent to the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Manchester, N.H. And his contract is not all that small—he is due $2.75 million in each of the next two seasons.

But he's had some above average NHL seasons, including 2006-07 with Ottawa, in which he was a plus-40 with 38 points in 80 games.

He played only 22 games for the Kings last year.

The addition of two defensemen to the roster could mean the team is not done dealing. A veteran such as Brett Clark, Scott Hannan or Ruslan Salei could be on the move, provided the Avs find a trading partner. Hannan, like Smyth, would have to waive a no-trade clause.

There was a report that former Avs left wing Alex Tanguay, currently unsigned, could be brought back to the team to replace Smyth. But the team has said a Tanguay signing is not in the works.

Adrian Dater: 303-954-1360 or

11What's Next for the Avalanche? Empty Re: What's Next for the Avalanche? on Sat Oct 03, 2009 3:51 pm


Anderson is standing on his head again. This really isnt a surprise but still impressive non the less.

12What's Next for the Avalanche? Empty Re: What's Next for the Avalanche? on Sat Oct 03, 2009 3:57 pm


Didn't he have two massive back to back performances last year too? Shut outs or close at least with 50+ shots per game?

13What's Next for the Avalanche? Empty Re: What's Next for the Avalanche? on Sat Oct 03, 2009 4:15 pm


Yup, he killed the Sens as well. Told people to take notice of this guy last year.

14What's Next for the Avalanche? Empty Re: What's Next for the Avalanche? on Sat Oct 03, 2009 4:20 pm


And you were right. Found the info on those two games too...

  • On March 2, 2008, Craig stopped fifty-three of fifty-three New York Islanders shots in a 1-0 shutout victory. "A lot went untold there," Anderson said after being saluted by his teammates with a Superman-style cape and a shaving cream pie-in-the-face. "A lot of guys were blocking shots, a lot of guys were collapsing, putting their faces on the line. "Most of the shots were from the outside. They did a good job of clogging up the middle and allowing me to see the puck. A lot of times, I got point shots that hit me in the chest."
    Two nights after Anderson's 53-save shutout, he earned another 1-0 shutout victory, a forty-save overtime effort in Boston against the Bruins.
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