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02-07-2013, 12:47 AM
Waingro's Avatar
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What Does This Team Have To Do To Return To Greatness?

A Growing Concern

It's still early in this season, but what we've seen in the past and so far this year, I think we've seen enough to be concerned about what this group's destiny is gonna be. I can't figure out if they just need a couple things, and how likely is it that they can get those needed pieces, or if they really need to make some big changes.

Your Best Players Have To Be Your Best Players

Duchene has been great so far, which ordinarily would be a great storyline, but apparently that wasn't the thing keeping this team from taking the next step. I've always been a supporter of Stastny, and he had a decent game prior to Anaehim, though he did get a bit lucky. I hoped that would get him rolling again, but apparently it didn't. There's only so many times you can use the injury excuse IMO, and Sacco has already returned to that well again early on. Big deal, Jones isn't 100%. Big deal Downie's out, and they're missing their 19 year old captain. There's still plenty of firepower capable of playing at a higher level than they are. They're just underperforming, and not capable of rising to the challenges presented to them. We've just seen it too many times at this point, and that's the bottom line.

The concern is that Stastny, while he's been good with good players in the past, just doesn't have it in him to make things happen on his own, or make lesser players better. He just seems to have fallen into a one trick pony. He crosses the blueline with the puck the same way all the time. He makes the same half hearted swipes at the puck in close. He just doesn't have enough creativity to his game anymore. I used to think he could be a solid #1 center with good linemates, then I thought he could be a solid #2, but now he just doesn't do anything except make decent plays defensively in the neutral zone, not get in too much trouble in his own zone, and put himself in decent position every once in a while offensively, but everyone sees what he's gonna do a mile away. I really think it may be time to accept that they need someone they can rely on in his position, and that means cutting ties with him somehow. Either when he becomes a UFA, or through trade. It may just be one of those deals where he may return to form somehow, but it's not gonna be until he has a fresh start with a new team. I don't see it happening with the Avalanche.

Jones Just Can't Stay On The Wagon Long Enough to Help This Team

He's just too inconsistent, and will always at best have little nagging injury problems. I feel like he's had a million little knee injuries, and also a couple big ones. Even when he's healthy he's inconsistent, and I don't see any reason to believe he can stay healthy. To make matters worse, the only person he's had chemistry with is the guy I just dedicated the last paragraph to. He can't stay healthy, he's inconsistent, he only has chemistry with a guy that doesn't appear capable of carrying the team, and he just signed a four year $4m contract. This is cause for concern in the long term plans of this team.

Quantity Never Overcomes Quality

It's no secret to most of us, this team's biggest achiles heel is it's defense. EJ is the only person within lightyears of being considered a top pairing defenseman, and it's become painfully clear that while he's a very solid all around D, he's not going to be a big point producing defenseman. When that kind of guy is your best offensive defenseman, and the rest are either stay at home types like O'Byrne and Zanon, or two way guys that shouldn't be playing above the 3rd pairing on a playoff team in Wilson and O'Brien, or smaller PMD's that both have a plethora of holes in their game defensively, and can find a way to contribute offenisvely either in Hunwick, Barrie, and Elliott, you're obviously in big trouble.

The Avs have a bunch of D that are pretty decent. O'Byrne's a good defensive defenseman with size, though I don't know what the hell has happened to him in the last few games or so. Wilson is pretty good as a two way guy that can lay big hits as a 3rd pairing guy. Zanon should be a good stay at home type, that blocks a lot of shots and keeps things simple like Skrastins. Hejda's a bit overpaid, but can play a solid defensive role, and can move the puck out of harms way while taking the occasional shot on net. O'Brien is a rough around the edges guy that should excel as a teammate, and in a 3rd pairing role. EJ is capable of forming an outstanding top pairing with the right partner. But that's all the Avs have.

They absolutely need to find a way to bring in a competant top pairing partner for EJ. At the very least someone like Quincey without the BS. A solid two way guy. At best, a legit offensive puck mover that doesn't completely suck defensively. EJ can not do everything for this team. As much as I like his game, I think it would be foolish to expect him to be a 45+point guy and carry this team. He's not the best PP QB. He's not the best puck rusher. He's not the best shooter from the point, his shots seem to get blocked a lot. He's just pretty good offensively, is a great skater, and very good defensively. The perfect partner for someone else capable of playing a top pairing role, but not enough on his own.

And once they get that partner for EJ, they will have to find a way to get a legit #3 guy to take the next step after that and challenge for a cup. Basically this team has a long ways to go, and a lot of problems to address is what I'm saying. They've put themselves in a great position, and with some very good pieces, but purse strings, and the sheer hardship of bringing in diamond in the rough players like top pairing D, and 1st line stars to carry your team are gonna put Sherman to the test big time.

Even a Blind Man Can See

That Sacco is not capable of molding this team into a winner. Whatever deficiencies this team has, Sacco can't fix it. Whether that's his fault from a systems point of view (or lack therof) or a motiviational POV, or an accountability perspective, it doesn't matter. He just isn't capable of righting this ship, and if they don't do something soon this team is gonna get used to losing. I'm already worried guys like Stasny let losing roll off their lackadasical back too easily, and don't have that fire in them to win. Meanwhile this team's front office has pissed off a heart and soul guy that would take every loss to heart, and made him feel like he needs to dig in for an overpriced salary on a long term deal.

What the hell is this team doing? I'm starting to think all this, "Oh we'll trade Liles because Elliott and Barrie will be great players" or "Oh we don't need any real veterans on this team to calm and guide them in close games" or "Oh we can get by on trying to find solid players in trade like McGinn or Downie to carry our team" or "Hey take it or leave it O'Reilly, we don't need you that bad" is just a huge misstep in terms of re-building this team into a winner. None of that has turned this team into anything but a cause for concern at this late stage of development, and even with Duchene finally playing up to potential. Turns out Elliott and Barrie are a long ways off, if they'll make it past the Cumiskey stage at all. Turns out, having a bunch of solid quality players like McGinn, Downie, Jones, ROB, Hejda, and O'Brien aren't gonna cut it. You're still losing, and looking bad while you do it. You need some quality players, and I'm not sure how you're gonna pull it off at this point to be honest. The UFA route for a team like the Avs isn't a big draw, and they're always finish in that in between point of tanking for a franchise player, and getting another solid NHLer that won't take them over the top.

The Saviour(s)

So who or what is gonna come in and save this team? A new veteran, established coach? Will systems, and a been around the block mentality fix this team alone? Will one offensive defeseman to play with EJ fix this team by itself? If they end up tanking this season and/or win the lottery and draft McKinnon, will his passion and elite skill and game breaking ability be enough to help the team at such a young age? Can they possibly expect to fix all of these problems in such a short order of time, or can some of the problems be lessened by fixing the other aspects?

I just get the feeling this team may have to drastically shift gears here from what they were planning on building towards. Especially with this whole O'Reilly fiasco. Even if they bring him back, it's become blatantly clear that in order for Duchene to be the kind of player this team needs him to be, he has to get a lot of ice time. He has to be the go to guy, and that's just not gonna happen with a 3 center team, especially with the ice time being given to a $4M 3rd line center in O'Reilly.

Final Thought

I'll end this with a quote from Zero Dark Thirty that summarizes how the Avs front office should look at how they proceed with this group. "If you thought there was some working group coming to the rescue. I want you to know that you are wrong. This is it. There's nobody else. There's just us. And we are failing."

Last edited by Waingro: 02-07-2013 at 02:09 PM.
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