Remember how many people openly mocked Sakic for having the audacity to ask for three assets in return for Duchene? He wound up getting seven in return. Let me repeat that:
A few people have countered that, well, but he didn't get any established D-man to play right now. Except, Samuel Girard is going to start playing right now. Jared Bednar hasn't made out his lineups just yet for the weekend series from Sweden, against Matt Duchene and the Ottawa Senators, but he said Sunday night to me, in Brooklyn, that Girard will play right away in Sah-veeden.
Here's a clip of a little of what Girard can do, from a game the other night for Nashville:
I said this before the season, after interviewing Sakic in San Jose at the Rookie Showcase tournament: That Sakic is more comfortable now in the job, more confident, more assertive, has figured some stuff out now. I think, as more time goes by, it's clear that the setup with Patrick Roy was always going to end in dysfunction.
Roy had the title of "executive VP of hockey operations", but what did that really mean? Sakic had the final say on hockey personnel decisions, but Roy was going to chafe against that eventually. One thing anyone who has spent much time around Roy knows: He wants to be the boss. He wants to be The Man in everything he does.
Roy wanted to sign Alexander Radulov two summers ago, for big money. Sakic didn't want to do that. Sakic wanted to start over with a really young rebuild, centered around Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen and developing prospects like Tyson Jost. Roy wanted more of a "Let's try to win more now, with veteran guys" approach, which makes sense because he was the coach and coaches always want to win right now to preserve their jobs.
Sakic saw a roster with too many old guys already, with diminishing results, and overruled the Radulov idea. That's when the "philosophical, creative differences" fissure between Roy and Sakic really opened. When Roy left, Sakic went to Josh Kroenke and outlined the new plan moving forward: Younger and faster. That was it. Youth and speed.
Is there no question that this is now a younger and faster team? Now, Sakic has seven new players - all under 30, or will be (with three draft choices still to be made from the deal) to add to this mix. All for a guy who 1) Didn't want to be here anymore and 2) Would have left as a UFA after next season, no matter what.
Sure, none of the assets obtained by Sakic are proven players just yet. And maybe none of them ever get there. But I like the odds that at least two or three will, led by Girard. It's not just me who thinks Sakic did great on this deal. Here's one national hockey pundit who thinks so too.
Still? OK, so it didn't pan out too well the first year or two, and there have been some bad breaks with EJ and injuries after that. But I think EJ is a stud out there most nights now. He's definitely a better defensive defenseman than when he first got here, way back in 2011.
Yeah, it puzzles me why he can't score a few more goals and pile up more assists on the power play. I think that's the one area of his game that still hasn't gotten there with the Avs. People forget, he put up some pretty good offensive numbers in St. Louis. But, as he told me a couple weeks ago, he's had to think a bit less about the offensive end in playing as many minutes as he has this year.
One thing that has made him better: He is quicker than he once was, because he modified his diet to get a leaner body mass. He used to be a big believer in heavy weightlifting, and was really bulky a few years ago. But as he's gotten a bit older, he's found that a leaner body works better in today's warp-speed NHL.
Shattenkirk has been a very good player over the years. He's one of the best power-play quarterbacks in the league. But I don't think he's as good defensively at even strength as Johnson is. So, chin up Guvna; the trade hasn't been the disaster some predicted.
I think this is the difference: Around those "core" guys before were lots of old guys. Jarome Iginla, John Mitchell, Francois Beauchemin, Brad Stuart, Daniel Briere, Max Talbot, Cory Sarich, P-A Parenteau, Nate Guenin, Cody McLeod, Alex Tanguay - all were 30 and over when playing for the Avs just a few years ago.
Now, the Avs' oldest player is Carl Soderberg, at 31. Now, the surrounding cast is nothing but young guys. J.T. Compher, Tyson Jost, Samuel Girard, Nikita Zadorov, Alexander Kerfoot, A.J. Greer, Chris Bigras, Sven Andrighetto, Nail Yakupov - all key guys and all under 25. Now Mikko Rantanen is part of the core too, and he's getting better every week. And, now there are six new or soon-to-come prospects and draft picks, from the Duchene trade (counting Girard and excluding goalie Andrew Hammond).
Plus, there are some really good, developing young D-men in the system already, in Cale Makar and Conor Timmins. That's why I think it can be more accurately prognosticated as a brighter future now. It may still take a bit to happen, but I think it's on the right path now.
Barrie: I mean, he may look a little more expendable now, with Girard and Makar now in the system. But, boy, I'd be very hesitant to even consider dealing him. I know there are the occasional D-zone brain cramps, but he just does so much else in terms of getting the puck out with his own speed and stick-handling ability, and gives you so much at the offensive end. He's signed for two years before this one, at $5.5 million per. Let's not try and rush him out the door here, because these other kids still have a ways to go before being real players.
Realistic playoff chance for this year? I still think it's pretty low, probably 30 percent. But that's better than the 5-10 percent I would have predicted before the year.
Was it weird to see No. 9 leave? It was definitely one of the more unique nights in my hockey-reporting career. The strangest part, for me, was staking out the back of the arena in Brooklyn, looking around for him before exiting the building. There was a game going on inside the arena, but I wasn't paying any attention at all to it. It was all about finding Dutchy. When a player is traded, the team that had him basically tells reporters: "He's another team's property now, call them if you want to talk to him." So, Duchene wasn't going to be presented to us by the Avs for any parting words. I and a couple other reporters went on the lookout together to get him, and that's where I shot this video of him walking to a waiting car to whisk him away.
I think so. I think he's shown he can play well with good players, and make those around him better. He won't be as good a faceoff guy as Duchene - few are - and he doesn't have the elite skill Duchene does. But he has very good skill and very good speed, and I think he plays a tougher, better defensive game than Duchene. I'm a little suspect at how well Nail Yakupov will do now, though. I think he and Dutchy had pretty good chemistry together, and I worry that some of Yak's freelancing "artistry" will suffer with a more meat-and-potatoes center like Compher. This is assuming they play together, of course.
I really like Compher as a player, and I think he's going to take this opportunity and run with it.
Do you feel that Duchene was upset that he wasn’t going to be top-dog anymore once MacKinnon was drafted and that’s one of the main reasons why he wanted out?
No. While I do think Duchene wanted to be a captain/leader in the room, I don't think he ever had a problem with having Nathan MacKinnon as a teammate. If anything, Duchene wanted more guys like that to play with. I just think Duchene was upset/hurt/shocked by trade rumors that started in Nov., 2015, and things just kind of deteriorated from there.
Both sides needed a change, and Sunday night, we finally got it.
STUFF I'VE READ RECENTLY THAT'S GOOD
Want to know exactly what fancy-stat hockey analytics terms really mean? BSN's own Andi Duroux has a thorough Part I start here.
Want to know what Peter Forsberg thinks of the Duchene trade? Here you go.
I like oral history pieces, and this one on the "Miracle on Manchester" is good.
ONE QUIRKY THING ABOUT DATER
I will go out of my way to avoid having people hold doors for me. It taps too much into my guilt complex, where I feel I'm indebted to someone and I don't like feeling like that. Plus, I'm not too keen on the little small talk that sometimes ensues. Also, I feel like I have to rush to get to the door, to keep the other person from waiting, and I don't like that either. So, if I'm approaching a door and someone is just ahead of me, I'll wait for them to fully go through and walk away before opening the door myself.
Got a question for Adrian? Email him at Dater@bsndenver.com