#CupcakeStrong

The other night, the Colorado Avalanche were losing to the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Down 2-0, I sent out this tweet:

And the Colorado Avalanche’s official twitter account retweeted it, and people started retweeting and favoriting it.

And the Avalanche scored.  And then they scored again.

And then they won it in overtime.

Sunday, I was at the last regular season home game, and the Avalanche were losing, 2-0.  At the second intermission, I went to the cupcake stand on the club level (yes, I know, fancy), and got a Red Velvet cupcake.  My podcasting partner, Jay Vean, put out this tweet:

Eighteen seconds into the third period, Ryan O’Reilly scored.  Then they scored again.  The Avs would eventually lose in the shootout.  But still, a cupcake and a comeback.  I’ll take it.

So if you want to have a little fun (and contrary to what the internet will tell you, hockey should be fun) and it’s in your wheelhouse, come along for #CupcakeStrong.  Get a cupcake, ready it up, and eat it when the team is down.  Who knows, we could make some magic happen.

Note: I’m biased towards Red Velvet cupcakes, and will be having mini-cupcakes.  You can do what you want.

 

 

 

Thin Air – Coaches Comma

A few thoughts from around the league.

- There’s a lot of hand wringing over the Vancouver Canucks and John Tortorella. The question is whether or not he is the right coach for the Canucks considering their current slide and doubtfulness of making the playoffs. Frankly, Tortorella is one of many problems the team has, which started after game seven of the Stanley Cup Final in 2011. Note that I did not say game six. The slide of the Canucks started with the mishandling of the Luongo situation, and only got worse as time went on.

I’m not sure Tortorella is the right coach for most teams. You had better have the right mix and type of player to deal with him. He might be a brilliant hockey mind, but he brings his baggage with him, and expects everyone to be his bell hop. I don’t believe that his antics behind the bench, in the press conferences, or near the Calgary Flames locker room helped his cause at all.

- One of the things that works against Tortorella is something I think every coach at the NHL level fights: every coach that has come before in the player’s lives. By the time a player has reached the NHL, how many coaches have they had? If they were lucky enough to crack an NHL roster in the early stages of their career, they might not have the lineup of minor league coaches that most of your lower draft picks have had. Still, no matter the player, they have had a bunch.

Kids are coached in hockey starting around age five, and I believe that most coaches, systems, and even parents would start earlier if they could. Every aspect of their game has been criticized, refinded, taped, played back, discussed, evaluated, and most likely shoved down their throats. It’s like that guy at the office who has been there for twenty years, and some new manager comes in to really shake things us. And all that guy is thinking is, you’re just the next guy who is going to tell me I don’t know what I’m doing, and I’m going to still be here after you are long gone.

The player’s know how to play hockey. They also know when a coach is full of it, and when they actually know what they are doing. I’m not so sure it’s a matter of a coach losing the room. I think coaches in general are losing the room, because there is way too much coaching. They have practically lost the room as soon as they gained it.

Maybe it’s time to have a three coach rotation. One a hard ass, one a player’s coach, and one in the middle. Rotate them every few weeks. You know, a Coaching-Go-Round. When players tire of one, bring in the next type.

- Can we talk about two rules everyone hates, but I think are absolutely necessary? The first is Intent to Blow. You know, that maddening moment when a puck crosses the line, and the ref says the play ended moments before? I think it’s a generally good rule, even while I understand why it pisses people off.

The two issues with the rule is that it is only used in circumstances when something is going to be waived off like a goal. The other is it brings into question the integrity of the ref. Only they really know when they decided to blow the play dead.

Perhaps we can solve this issue with a sort of video replay. When Intent to Blow is the ruling, play a video of the scene for the ref to watch, and ask him specifically when the play was blown dead. If the puck is in the net after he says the play is dead, you have a goal. Also, the apparent grey line of exactly when the intent was is eliminated. I’m sure it isn’t as simple as this, but why not give it a shot?

- The other one is the delay of game penalty for the puck over the glass. From a pure safety standpoint, I like this rule. I don’t know if a single puck has not gone into the stands because of this rule, but it stands to reason that players think a little more about not putting it over the glass.

I don’t like games being decided on this penalty, but I don’t think anyone enjoys a game ending on a power play of any sort. The rule here to stay. The refs tend to get the call right, and that’s the important thing.

- I talked about the #ImagineAvs video already. But the tl;dr version is this: I would not compare it favorably to the fashion show in Slap Shot. But at least they are trying something.

- Elliotte Freidman, in his 30 Thoughts column, mentioned that Ryan Kesler penciled Colorado as one of six destinations he would have allowed a trade to. So let me get this straight. Kesler wanted to go to a Patrick Roy coached team from a John Tortorella coached team. I think that says a lot right there, about both coaches.

But actually, what surprised me was that he thought there was a place on the roster he would fit. The Avalanche are carrying enough centers, so many that they had to move Nathan MacKinnon to wing. Where would he have gone? Fourth line? I’m guessing the only thing the Avs would have been willing to give up would be Paul Stastny, which did not happen, and wouldn’t be enough to land Kesler anyways.

- How much depth do the Avalanche have? How about this: Paul Carey was called up from Lake Erie. Who is Paul Carey? Beats me. Lake Erie have been to the playoffs once since the team was formed, and didn’t make it out of the first round. The depth issue needs to be addressed soon. You can’t carry just enough forwards forever.

Imagine This Happened

After a game of rec hockey, I decided I needed to sit down with the new Avalanche video, #ImagineAvs, and see what I thought.  Responses online are mixed, and about as partisan as congress these days.  If you haven’t seen it, here it is.

My thoughts?  I thought it sucked.  But we need to go into why I thought that, and why it doesn’t matter (either that it sucked, or that I thought it sucks).

Why it sucked:

OK, let’s start with the simplest and most obvious issue: lip-syncing.  Why are the Avs lip syncing?  Why do we need Paul Stastny lip-syncing “whoa oh?”  It’s fairly obvious that the Avs players did not suddenly form some ****-rock band and put out a video.  If you are going to do lip-syncing, it should be fun.  Moody, brooding, I’m-sad-on-the-inside-and-buff-on-the-outside lip-syncing isn’t interesting.

And I called it ***-rock above because I don’t know what to call this.  I wasn’t a fan of the song, and I don’t want to compare it to Creed (because that’s some seriously low hanging fruit, like almost touching the ground).  But what is this?  Wikipedia says they are an “alternative rock band” but I don’t see it.  Alternative to… good?

What the hell is an Imagine Dragon?  Know what? I’m going to let that one go.  Naming things is hard.

The song, Radioactive, doesn’t seem to go anywhere.  I understand you don’t want a lot of depth when you are looking for music to backup a sports franchise, but when you pair it with moody images of players trying to be intense, you are creating (or trying to create) depth.  The two things don’t mesh.  The closest thing to a message the song has is “Welcome to the new age,” which is an appropriate comment on the change in culture the Avalanche have experienced.  Beyond that, the song never seems to go anywhere.

Jay and I discussed songs that talk about being “ready to rock you” like this one does, but never actually get to the rocking, at the end of episode 84 of the Avs Hockey Podcast. This is a classic example.  They are ready to rock us, but haven’t started, and I doubt their ability to do so.

Who the hell is that guy with the homie jazz hands and the bass drum?  Is that an Imagine Dragon?  Is that John Mitchell?  Has there been anyone since Limp Bizkit that looked cool doing this?  I’m pretty sure Smashmouth tried this once and someone got hurt.

Firefox

 

Hey, why so moody, Avalanche players?  Landeskog, you look sad.  And why so angry, Matt Duchene?  You are playing well, the fans are into the games, you are in a playoff position.  What’s with the gloom and doom?  You don’t need to get all “Friendship is magic” on us, but come on.  Lighten up.

What worked for me:

Hockey highlights.  They didn’t do their usual photoshop filter job and screw up the highlights to make them look cool and hip.  Hockey looks cool enough, don’t screw with it.  They didn’t here.

The shots of Denver.

High production values.  The Avalanche media team did a good job with the quality of the video.  It looked excellent, which is what it has to do, because you know they will be showing this on their huge HD jumbotron in the Pepsi Center.

What really matters:

Did you catch what the issue here is?  Did you notice why my opinion of the video doesn’t matter in the long run?

What did I like about the video?  The hockey, because I am a hockey fan.  This isn’t aimed at people who are already hockey fans.

Does the average Avs fan need moody players?  No.

Do they need the cheesecake shots?  I can think of a few, but put out a calendar.

Do we need stalking and beating drums?  Nope.

We need winning to bring back the fans to the ice.  And the Avalanche have been winning.  And the fans are starting to come back.  The 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues game needed standing room only ticket sales to meet the demand.  It’s been a while since that has been the case.

No, this isn’t for me, and that’s just fine.

The real question is how it will play with the people whom it is for, namely people who are not yet Avalanche fans.  That’s something that’s harder to measure.  They say you throw away half your advertising budget, but you never know which half.  Even if it’s less true in the  online market, it’s true with traditional media.  It is going to be hard to tie this video directly with any increase in ticket or merchandise sales.  Or Imagine Dragon album sales.  Or sales of imaginary dragons.

What is good is that the Avalanche are finally making things like this.  They are starting to embrace using their players as the best advertisement of the game.  They are making things that move and flow, not just stills with funky filters and photoshop images in TV ads.  For years, the sighting of a billboard with the Avalanche on it was like spotting a rare majestic bird.  The Avs haven’t pushed their presence to the public in a long time, and they have paid the price.

Being critical of this video should be separated from being happy they put it out there.  It’s been a long time since the Avalanche seemed to care enough to put their message out, and they finally have product on the ice that is worth advertising about.  This sort of effort has been a long time coming.

My overall concern is whether the Avalanche put out the story they want to tell.  All marketing is storytelling, and the Avs can shape and tell the story about their team they want to have.  For years, the story the Boston Bruins have told is the hard-working, lunch pail gang going to do their job.  The Montreal Canadiens story is the elite history of the game, the dynasty years and the hockey glory that has been handed to the next generation of players.  The Toronto Maple Leafs trade on the traditions of the game.  The Flyers build their story out of toughness.

What story are the Avalanche telling with this video?  What story are the Avalanche trying to tell in general?  Those are the questions I have after watching this.  It’s not the story I would want told about this team.

The Attendance Issue Again

Monday was the annual rolling out of the “attendance woes” column by the Denver Post.  Unlike most years, it was given this time to the more thoughtful Terry Frei, rather than the standard pallbearers.  So there was less “bad fan” jabs and more “I’m kind of surprised” this year. It’s a nice change.

I can’t speak for all the fans.  As I’ve found out, I’m not like most fans, and I find that a good thing.  I will speak for myself however.

Since the last lockout, I haven’t spent any money on tickets to an Avalanche game (this season, I’ve been to two games).  I haven’t spent any money on an NHL game, actually, although I have dropped a few dollars on a few minor league games.  I’ve also handed over plenty of money this season to play beer league hockey, so my hockey investment is going somewhere.

I have given the NHL my money in the form of Gamecenter Live.  I have the online package, so I can watch almost any game from anywhere.  With a nice TV and an Apple TV to watch it on at home, I don’t feel like I’ve given up on much.

Is this stance, that I haven’t spent money on tickets, a reasonable one?  I’m not entirely sure.  I only occasionally miss going to games, but it’s mostly for the social aspect of it, rather than the game itself.  The game is wonderful, and I love attending games, but somewhere in the back of my head, I get annoyed that I spend that much money for this.

“This” includes:

  • A long walk to the arena, because I won’t be spending THAT MUCH on parking,
  • The same music, videos, games, gags, highlights, and ads every time,
  • An uncomfortable and squished seat, often around obnoxious non-fans (warn me next time I buy a ticket on “guys night out,OK?),
  • Overpriced everything,
  • An upper concourse you can hardly wiggle though at intermission, or
  • A lower concourse that is jam packed with drunks,
  • Drunks,
  • Drunk fans of the opposing team,
  • Drunk Red Wings fans (they are always around),
  • Loud armchair GMs
  • Loud armchair coaches,
  • “SHOOT!!!!”
  • Lines to unclean bathrooms.

The list goes on.  All of this for an outlay of A LOT OF MONEY, NO MATTER WHERE YOU SIT.  Wow, what a privilege to pay top dollar for that.

I’ll be honest, watching at home gets a little tiring.  I miss the live game, and I miss the experience.  But by playing hockey, actually getting out there and playing, I get such a great experience, even at my low level of ability.  I have a completely different angle on the NHL game and I experience it differently.

As far as the Avalanche, they aren’t the same team as they were in the glory years, and they haven’t been for a long time.  We all know this.  After their success and stars went elsewhere, the fans did as well.  Then the communication with the fans went away.  The marketing went away.  It was like the front office wasn’t even trying.  And when you don’t try, you get exactly what is coming to you.

Fans bemoan being told from the outside world that Denver isn’t a hockey town any more.  I don’t blame them, but the numbers don’t lie.  There are many die-hard fans in Denver, and I love those people.  I count myself as one of them.  But it isn’t Canada.  It isn’t Pittsburgh and much of the East Coast.  Sometimes, it isn’t even Minnesota.  The level of fandom doesn’t tend to translate to the number of fans or ticket buyers.

The numbers tell a different story than we fans want to believe.  Even the minor league Denver Cutthroats, with their free parking, low ticket prices, and loads of promotion are struggling at the gate.  They are last in the league in attendance, averaging 1,371 a game, nearly six hundred down from the nearest competitor.  That’s down 1,400 from last season.  1,400.  Sure, last season they were new, and half the games were played during the NHL lockout.  Sure, the Broncos are a great distraction for the city, but fans are fans.  Cheap games are still cheap games.  Where did everyone go?  I would love to compare to the numbers from the start of the CHL season to the end.

Denver is a saturated sports market.  Two lacrosse teams, all the major sports, MLS, and a minor league hockey team.  There is more sport than there is dollar to support it right now.  At least there isn’t arena football to throw in the mix.  But there was, and it didn’t help the Avalanche cause.

Look, I don’t like it any more than other Avalanche fans, but I’m also not going to many games myself, so yes, I am a part of the problem.  Oh, the injustice of it all.  Right now, I’m an NHL level fan with a minor league budget, and a bit of an ax to grind over the last lockout.  That ax is getting smaller and smaller all the time, but still, the investment I have made in time and money over the years in the Avalanche has been significant.  If I want to watch from the sanctity of my own home, I will do so.  The Denver Post will just have to deal with it.

At least, until next year.

A Duke’s Gotta Do What A Duke’s Gotta Do

This is not your mother’s Colorado Avalanche.  It isn’t even the Colorado Avalanche of your youth, or the one from last season.  Things are changing, and it is a bit of a shock to the system.

- Finally fired the coach?  Yep.

- Skipped the top rated draft pick that plays a position of great need? Done.

- Management shakeup?  Oh yeah.

- Talking to the press and fans? Someone released the kraken here.

- Didn’t overspend in free agency, signing depth instead?  It’s dogs and cats living together (mass hysteria).

Anything that comes as no shock might be a shock at this point.  But the fact Milan Hejduk won’t be back by the team might give a few fans whiplash.  It’s… almost shocking.  Almost.

Hejduk previously decided to go the route of Joe Sakic and Teemu Selanne (and what I thought Alfredsson should have done with the Senators, but decided to do with Detroit), and sign one year contracts until the end of his career.  In this season, he is going to sign a contract with another team.  From the Denver Post:

Hard as it is to picture, it is possible Colorado Avalanche fans will see Milan Hejduk playing in another NHL uniform next season.

“He wants to keep playing,” Hejduk’s agent, Jiri Crha said Monday in a phone interview. “If there is any team that really wants to use him for his offensive skills, he still believes he could do it.”

The Avs, however, don’t appear to be interested. Hejduk, 37, is an unrestricted free agent and Crha said the Avs have informed him he is not in their plans.

“They are very honest about their different plans. They don’t believe he can play in their top six of forwards,” Crha said. “We just saw a player (Daniel Alfredsson in Ottawa) who left after 17 years with the same team. That’s the reality of the hockey life.”

I agree.  He can’t play with the top six forwards on the Avalanche, and the top six just got harder to crack.  Hejduk played himself out of the top two lines over the course of the last season, and unless he had surgery on something that was ailing him or found some serious youth cream to swim around in, he wasn’t likely to crack those lines next season.  So where do you put him?  Third line?  With the youth movement going on now, sticking him with MacKinnon and O’Reilly doesn’t look like a good fit.  He has decent hands, but his feet and legs aren’t going to keep up.  Fourth line?  Hejduk is a lot of things, but a grinder he is not.  He does not belong on a checking line.

So it’s time for him to leave, as he doesn’t fit on with the Avalanche any more.  For some reason, Alex Tanguay fits but Hejduk does not, and that reason is actually obvious to anyone who watched him last season.  The Duke is slowing down.  It happens.  It’s not a slam, or mean to him.  It’s just what happens as time goes by.  If I had the legs and lungs I had when I was bicycling all the time in my teenage years, I would be lighting up the rec leagues.  Nope, I’m 40 and it shows.  In a league that is getting younger and younger, a 37-year-old that is slowing down a bit is something you have to make a hard decision about.

The scary part is that the team that is generally associated with older players looking for one more shot at glory is the Detroit Red Wings.  If he were to go there, it would hurt the fans quite a bit.  The rivalry has cooled between the Wings and the Avs, but not for the fans.  The hockey hate is still there.

But the cap era, forcing teams to make money decisions that force players out, has brought about Team  NHL.  The anger and bile thrown at Daniel Alfredsson was stunning considering this is how the NHL is set up now.  From cap crunches to the penalties associated with over 35 contracts, the CBA forces teams to consider letting go of their aging (former) stars.  Hejduk, wherever he lands, deserves to take another shot, and maybe a change will be good for him.

It’s will be strange to see him in another uniform after cheering for him in an Avs jersey for so long. But this isn’t the same Avalanche.  And I’m good with that.

Who to Take? Avs Might Bypass Jones

Let’s be honest.  The Avalanche have less depth right now than Russell Crowe playing Javert in the Les Miserable movie.

Yes, I went there.

There have been a few defensive call-ups from the farm system.  I’m not as impressed with Elliott as some were when he was called up, but he got better as the season went on.  The problem is that there are few forwards that could develop into top six players in the Monsters right now.  Obviously, if you have a top six forward, put him in the NHL, damn it.  But replacements from Lake Erie  produced mixed results.  And every forward that was highly drafted or highly regarded (Duchene, Landeskog, O’Reilly) went right to the NHL because the need existed.  All three might have benefited from a transition year in the AHL, arguably.  But needs are needs, and needs in hockey are rarely convienient.

So what do you fix?  Do you draft a highly rated defenseman and plug him in right away, do you draft forwards that you might plug in or develop, or do you move down for more picks to stock up?

Let’s break it down.

Why draft a defenseman:

It’s pretty obvious that the Avalanche are in sore need of defense.  They were 27th last season in goals against and 29th in goal differential.  The Avs D was fairly awful in general, chasing pucks, losing steps, taking bad penalties and tuned out when the season was all but over.  When it was pointed out to me on the Avs Hockey Podcast that Matt Hunwick was the most consistent Avs defenseman last season, I almost ate my hat.  I don’t often wear hats, so I almost went to get a hat, put it on, take it off and eat it.

This is largely the defense that will be around next season.  The Avs have six defensemen signed and two call-ups that on entry level deals.  Unless the Avs move someone, you are stuck.  But six defensemen means the seventh slot is available, and that could be Seth Jones.  Aside from Erik Johnson and (grudgingly) Matt Hunwick, you could stick any of the other defensemen in the press box and that would be just fine.  Jones would get his ice time, Tyson Barrie and Stefan Elliott can go work on their game in Lake Erie, and life is good.

That is, if Jones is ready to play in the NHL now.  It’s a given that the first overall pick is going to play in the NHL as soon as the ink is dry on their contract, but that doesn’t mean they are NHL ready.  I’ve already mentioned a few Avs that should have been in Lake Erie for a year.  Let’s look to the east for another highly touted prospect that wasn’t quite NHL ready: Steven Stamkos. Yeah, he’s great right now.  He developed his game in the NHL, but for a time he was in the press box with a note pad.  He had some learning to do, which he did.  And then he came back and eventually tore up the league.

So if Jones isn’t ready for his NHL debut, fine, stick him in the AHL and maybe he has a bright future ahead of him.  A defenseman worth his salt is still an asset no matter when you call them up, no matter when they play for you.  Solid defensemen are not easy to find.  Grab them while you can.

Why draft a forward:

The Avalanche were 27th overall in goals scored (tied with Ottawa with 116, who made the playoffs with a stingy 104 goals against).  I have bad news for Avs fans, that ain’t good.  The fan base is in love with Landeskog, Duchene and O’Reilly, but the production isn’t there yet.  In the shortened season, only four Avs scored over ten goals. O’Reilly may have gotten there had he played the entire season.  Only six players collected twenty points or more.  Only two had over 30 (PA Parenteau and Matt Duchene with 43 each).  That isn’t good.

And how is Lake Erie looking for support?  Like no one is going to develop past a third or fourth liner.  There are no secret weapons looking to be called up.  The team had a ton of patience with players like Ryan Stoa, Joey Hishon may never play in the NHL, considering how his concussion history is going, and Brad Malone is still Brad Malone.  Maybe Sgarbossa will be ready (67th in scoring in the AHL)?  But the Monsters are not looking like the place to go for scoring right now.

If you need a defenseman now, go buy one.  And no, that hasn’t exactly been the Avalanche’s strong suit recently.  Greg Zanon and Jan Hejda aren’t exactly earning their money.  But this is a new regime (I say cautiously, as both Greg Sherman and Pierre Lacroix are still involved with the organization).  From the forwards back, it takes longer for a player to develop the closer you get to the crease, so drafting a defenseman to plug a need now is a crap shoot.  It might work out, or you might wind up stuck with a piece that isn’t providing what you need.

So do the Avs need scoring?  You bet they do.  And a forward fresh out of the draft might be the right fit for a young group like the top six Avalanche forwards.   It depends on how much of a complete game they have.  If they are like Matt Duchene, they might not be what they really need.

But consider that there is one defenseman that everyone is going nuts over while three forwards wait in the wings.  There is more variety and that may help the Avs find exactly what they need.

So what should they do?

Honestly, you got me.  I don’t think there is a losing scenario here, aside from trading down into territory that may not be as plunderable as the top four picks.  And considering the second, third and fifth picks go to the eastern conference (if that is what it will be called in the new realignment), missing out on a certain player isn’t going to come back to haunt you as much if they went to a division rival.

Time will tell.  Even if the Avs take Seth Jones, there is no guarantee that he will work out.  More than anything, I’m stunned that we are hearing anything at all from the Avalanche in June.  New regime indeed.

Roy-tever

I’ve been asked a few times if I’m excited over the prospect of Patrick Roy becoming the new head coach of the Avalanche.

No.

Patrick Roy might be a great coach for the Avalanche. He may turn the team around, if he is hired. And he might not. The proof should be in his record, not in the glory of the past, not in his ability to stop a puck, and certainly not in his accomplishments as a junior coach and GM.

There is nothing like coaching the NHL. The minors have a lot of movement. College and junior hockey have different goals, with new rosters every four years or so. There are no guaranteed contracts, no ‘no-movement clauses,’ rooms aren’t lost, players are. The NHL is very different. And as we have seen before, having the experience of being behind the bench is not the same as sitting on it.

If he gets hired, I will happily wait to see what happens next. I have seen way too many people start the parade before the ink was dry on a contract, be it for a player or coach. No, I’ll get excited when the season starts. Not before.

A note on comments: I am getting an s-ton of spam right now, and have turned comments off for the time being. I will turn them back on later, or start asking people to register to leave a comment. Sorry, I know it sucks.

What Bugs Me About the Ryan O’Reilly Situation: No One Is Spared Edition

The Ryan O’Reilly situation is coming to a head in Colorado. Reports, and I use that term as loosely as possible, are that the Avalanche are looking to get some value from him in a trade, and negotiations have broken off. One side wants one thing, and the other wants two different things, take your pick.

As a fan of the Avalanche, the entire situation is frustrating, but the frustration comes from every angle. So let us break this down in this week’s breakdown:

The Avalanche:

- The Avs have a draconian negotiating style, boiling down to “take it or leave it.” They don’t negotiate, and the process has been, at times, brutal. They ship off players who don’t dance to the dollars management wants them to. When you treat your players like terrorists (we don’t negotiate with terrorists, right?), you don’t get a favorable return.

- Information about the situation is rare, and everything comes via leaks and reports. This wouldn’t be a big deal, as negotiations should be happening outside the scope of the public. But when it comes to the Avalanche, everything happens outside the scope of the public. There is a corporate message – that everything is going fine, we are fine, and hard work is all that’s needed – and we fans don’t get anything else. While we shouldn’t know much about what is going on in this situation, the fans never know what is happening in ANY situation. The frustration compounds, and the fans are left wondering if the team even cares about them. Pro Tip: They don’t.

- The team is spiraling, and with the mounting injuries, O’Reilly would be a big help. He won’t be the solution for everything, but he would be something. The problems with the Avalanche exist in just about every department other than goaltending – it’s been a while since I was able to say that – and the banged up defensive corp is probably the most glaring. This is simply weighing the sort term value of the player vs. the long term implications of the contract, and seeing if it’s worth it.

O’Reilly and his camp:

- O’Reilly might not want to play with the Avs. It could be that simple. If so, ask for a trade and move forward. Please.

- If O’Reilly wants to play for the Avs, take something short and work on the rest later. Get that trade in the next contract, or if things work out, hold out then. Coming straight off an entry level contact into a big payday is not something the Avalanche is keen on.

- Honestly, is he worth what he is asking for?  Probably not, but the scale salaries right now are so out of whack, there is very little to base this on.  You compare him to players of equal production and age, and the range is all over the place.  This is how a more open market works, but still, I don’t think he is worth everything he wants.

Media:

- There is no shortage of pot-stirring in the Denver hockey media. This is a provocative group, and they know how to push all the right buttons with the fans. The thinking seems to go, no matter how much anger there is from the fans, at least they are talking about the Avs, and therefore are looking to the media for information. The main beat writer, Adrian Dater, is pretty provocative in his tone (I’m being diplomatic here), and the rest of the group seems to follow suit. A few blog posts, a column or two, and the fans are sufficiently whipped up. Even though nothing has really changed, even though the process is moving along as expected, there is a sudden surge of angry fans NOW. I know where it comes from.

- The media here don’t care for the Avalanche and its management, and the feeling seems mutual. Again, toeing the corporate line is one thing the Avs do have some consistency with, so it makes it hard for the local newspaper reporters to get much to work with; the relationship is strained and possibly beyond repair (if that is even a consideration). That doesn’t serve the audience (if that is even a consideration).

Fans:

- The fans generally want O’Reilly to take the deal, to shut up and play. If they think that the players, after losing half a season to get the CBA they got, are going to just shut up and play, they have another thing coming. And if all they want is for O’Reilly to shut up and play, then they are more interested in the asset of O’Reilly than the person. They didn’t actually like him, they liked his skill. That’s fair, but you can bring in skill with a trade. Or development in the minors. Is this about O’Reilly, or a diminishing situation?

- It’s important to know the difference.  Because the fans loved Joe Sakic for his play and for who he was.  They loved Patrick Roy for his play more than for who he was as a person.  Do they care about Ryan O’Reilly enough to respect his decision to think about his career as opposed to the team?  You can’t sacrifice what you think is right for everyone else every time it comes to crunch time.  It rubs up against our ideas of the myth of the hockey player in uncomfortable.  We think it should be team first, but that doesn’t make sense in every situation.

- It took this situation for the fans to finally come to the conclusion that the Avalanche are a management nightmare?  It took O’Reilly to make them realize the team is this cheap or mismanaged or out of sync with the rest of the league or any number of negative attributes that make the fans want to turn their backs on the team?  It wasn’t the firesale from a few years ago that saw Craig Anderson, Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk shipped out.  It wasn’t the other players that were ostracized for any number of offenses like wanting a raise.  It wasn’t the signing of Brad May (to me, the stupidest offense the Avs every committed).  Perhaps it’s the combination of the lockout and the O’Reilly situation that pushed people over the edge.  But the signs were there all along.  The issues have been with the team for years.  Fandom makes people blind to it.

 

So what now?  What happens next?  Who knows.  The ongoing drama doesn’t make things any better for anyone involved.  The team should move forward, in whatever way that means.  Trade, negotiate, whatever produces action.  This has been an organization driven by inaction and reaction for too long.  There is no initiative left.  We could be waiting a long time.

O’Reilly and Waivers?

I was just reading Elliotte Friedman’s as-usual excellent 30 Thoughts column, and ran across this:

14. Another ESPN slave, Craig Custance, reported some teams had interest in Brent Sopel, playing for Metallurg Novokuznetsk. Teams are definitely looking for defencemen. Problem with Sopel is that, according to the NHL, any player who dressed for a game in another league after Jan. 19 must clear waivers. The KHL’s website indicates he played on Jan. 26.

Which sent of some bells and whistles in my head. When was the last game Ryan O’Reilly suited up for a KHL game?

Because I must be inept, I can’t seem to figure out the KHL website, and Jared Clinton did the heavy lifting and sent me the info. From this gamesheet, it looks like the last game was January 23rd.

So the question is, does Ryan O’Reilly have to clear waivers if the Avs sign him? Anyone know? Because that could be a severe hinderance to the process, eh?

My initial assumption is that this doesn’t apply, or the numbers are wrong, otherwise we would have heard much more about it before. Can someone let me know? Comments are open.

Avs Before Free Agency

We’re about five minutes away from another free agent frenzy, and I just wanted to pop in with a few quick thoughts on the Avalanche and what they might or might not do.

You will notice I used the word might, and not the word will. The reason is that no one really knows. The Avs are infamously tight lipped, and don’t tend to show their hand before they do anything. While the Leafs are the most obvious team in the league when it comes to telegraphing their moves, the Avs are always in stealth mode. Anyone who says they know what the Avs will do is just joshing. Anyone.

OK, so here are my thoughts.

- Parise and Suter: If the Avs even bother making an offer for either of these players, I would be surprised they tried at all. These guys want to win a Cup, especially after the playoff runs both experienced this postseason. The Avs don’t show the kind of opportunity other teams like the Penguins and Red Wings display year after year. Yes, the Avs have a lot of cap space, and they might even spend some of it, but that doesn’t mean a big time free agent is going to want to take it here. Both of these players are going to be paid handsomely wherever they go, or if they aren’t payed as much as they could command, it’s going to be for their own personal reasons. The Avs might not even bother.

- Staying the course: Every signing this off season points to one thing: there is enough faith in the direction the Avalanche are taking that they want to stick with it for a few more years. I tend to agree, so long as needs start being addressed in a realistic way. I don’t think overspending on a single free agent is going to get those needs addressed. There are about four or five things the Avs need, and all of them should start with the word ‘mean’ or the word ‘tough.’ More than one decent 25 goal scorer wouldn’t hurt, either.

- The Hejda factor: Let’s be honest, would you want to take a big dip in the free agent waters if you had the kind of success the Avalanche have had the last few times they have ponied up? If Scott Hannan and Ryan Smyth aren’t cautionary tales, Jan Hejda certainly is. This doesn’t seem like an organization being blinded by the shiny stars. Free agency can be pretty on the outside, but nasty on the inside.

- Duchene’s deal: I didn’t think of this until a few days ago, but Duchene’s deal will run out when it’s time for Landeskog to get paid. Good timing, like when the Islander’s lease runs out about the same time the arena in Quebec should be ready to open.

- Wait it out: I think the needs of the Avs would be better addressed when the dust settles on the first few days of free agency. I would rather see them make a smart move then throw cash at a one dimensional solution that probably isn’t much of a solution in the first place. Signing a big free agent to a lot of long term cash isn’t going to put a lot more butts in the seats at the Pepsi Center. And in the free agency period before a new CBA could clamp down on the salary cap, there is not sense in spending everything you have available. It’s disappointing to the fans to see the first day of free agency go untouched, but that’s what I think the Avs should do.

But hey, that’s just me. I’ve been wrong many times before.