Don’t do it, Joe Sakic. Resist the temptation. Don’t trade Gabe Landeskog.
A few weeks ago, I probably wouldn’t have said that. Trade ’em all, was my essential attitude regarding the current Colorado Avalanche roster. This underachieving, overpaid group could all hit the bricks as far as I was concerned.
That still applies to many players. But not Landeskog.
The captain has shown to me, and maybe to you too I’m guessing, what it takes to be a true leader. In the worst season of Avs history, and especially now with nothing really to play for, Landeskog could have easily just packed it in mentally. He could just go out there and go through the motions, just like some appear to be doing, and wait ’til next year. As a guy making nearly $5.6 million for this and the next four seasons, Landeskog could have said to himself, “Hey, I’m gonna get paid no matter what happens” and coasted along.
He hasn’t done that. Landeskog has been, if not the most, one of the most hard-working players on the ice every night since the March 1 trade deadline. He’s scored two goals in the five games since, two of which have been Avalanche victories. No, Wayne Gretzky’s scoring record is in no danger from Landeskog’s output here.
But the 24-year-old Swede has been working his tail off, and has gained more respect from his coaches and teammates in this time of adversity. He’s leading by example, not just from some locker-room speech. He could have felt sorry for himself, seeing his name in so many pre-deadline trade rumors, and grown resentful of the Avs and Sakic for not disavowing them. He didn’t do that.
And, though he won’t admit it publicly, it was a tough time for Landeskog in the run-up to the deadline. It was probably the worst time of his life, to tell the truth. We should all have it so rough as him, right? He’s 24, already a multi-millionaire, with cover-model good looks and lots of intelligence between the ears.
But no matter how much money or prestige one has, it doesn’t feel good if you think someone doesn’t want you anymore. As the captain of a hockey team, that feeling can be multiplied several more times.
I talked with Landeskog informally after Colorado’s victory Thursday night over the Devils. I believe he is genuine when he said he really wants to stay with the Avs and be a big solution to a turnaround. I think he’s learned a lot about himself in these last few weeks. Maybe things came a little too easily in his career and life in general leading up to this season. Maybe he knows now that nothing can be taken for granted, that the flower pot can be turned upside down very quickly in this game.
True character is revealed in times of adversity. You either quit and make excuses or you try to learn from it and be better. Landeskog, it seems to me anyway, has chosen the latter path.
And that’s why he should stick around a good while longer in Denver.