We have now reached the point in the Colorado Avalanche season where gallows humor may be the only way to survive the remaining 18 games, along with a healthy dose of beer, spirits, pancakes, popcorn or whatever else might soothe the experience.
1. The Avalanche finally called up hot forward prospect J.T. Compher. While he is still adjusting to the NHL, he brings energy and grit every time he’s been on the ice, which is refreshing. Now, don’t ask why they paired him with Blake Comeau and John Mitchell in his last game. It’s a mystery. Maybe they are trying to dis-incentivize aggressive play?
2. Colorado traded future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla to the Los Angeles Kings for a conditional 2018 fourth round pick (which looks unlikely to materialize). Still, considering many were suggesting the Avalanche should trade him “for a bag of pucks”, the trade can be considered a win. Iginla will play for a team fighting for a playoff spot and the Avalanche opened up a roster slot for a young forward to fill. There have been worse trades in the history of this franchise. Cough, Drury to the Calgary Flames, cough, cough.
3.The Avalanche signed two of their draft prospects to entry-level contracts, and the signings became public BEFORE the deadline. Both defenseman Nicolas Meloche and forward Jean-Chrisophe Beaudin compete in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and their rights would have expired on June 1. Historically, news of Colorado’s draft signings normally trickle out around the deadline. Maybe the early release heralds a new era of transparency by the organization. Hahahahahaha! Right, right, something about when pigs fly and such. Never mind.
If you want to know more about the players, BSN editor A.J. Haefele wrote a good piece on them Monday.
4. General Manager Joe Sakic resisted the temptation to trade a core player like Matt Duchene for scraps. The trade rumors floating around a potential Duchene deal did not bode well for acquiring a comparable return, and, despite the noise demanding some kind of change, Sakic refrained from making a bad deal. Sometimes the best deal is the one not made. Kudos!
5. The Avalanche traded physical forward Andreas Martinsen, 26, to the Montreal Canadiens for Sven Andrighetto, 23. Andrighetto is a smaller forward noted for his speed and aggressive play, more in keeping with Coach Bednar’s system. Martinsen will be playing for a playoff team who acquired some other physical players to prepare for the postseason. It’s a win-win trade and something to feel good about.
6. There are some good things happening for the Avalanche ECHL affiliate, the Colorado Eagles. They put together a 17 game franchise-record win streak, going through February without a loss. While the streak is over, the Eagles are in first place in the Mountain division and own the second best point record in the ECHL. A road trip to Loveland may be warranted for those interested in watching some exciting hockey.
7. Also in the “future looks bright” category – the top ranked DU Pioneers are in first place going into their postseason with defensive prospect and team Captain Will Butcher leading the way. The Avalanche will have to wait for DU’s season to end before they can sign Butcher, whose rights expire June 1.
First round draft pick Tyson Jost continues to impress as his University of North Dakota team goes into the post season ranked 14th. There should be some exciting college hockey to keep an eye on.
8. Matt Duchene continues to dominate in the face off circle, even though he’s not doing as well scoring. While he has gone goal-less in the last seven games, he’s second in the NHL for faceoff wins, winning 62.1%.
1. Apparently, no one considered the third and fourth line players on the team with the worst NHL record worth acquiring at the trade deadline. Shocking! Stunned. Outraged. Not really.
2. With the Avalanche waiting until after the trade deadline to call up Compher, they are now limited to only three more player recalls for the rest of the season. So while many would like to call-up a mass of players from the San Antonio Rampage, NHL regulations will prevent a wholesale change.
3. Even with the recall of J.T. Compher, Colorado continues to run with only 22 players on the roster. IF they had called up Compher – or any other Rampage player - prior to the trade deadline, then the Avalanche would still have the opportunity to recall four players instead of three. But, hey, why start managing the roster in a way that makes sense now? What with Colorado’s stellar record of roster moves, what could possibly go wrong? Guess it’s time for more rum.
4. Calling Nathan MacKinnon! Where has he been lately? He last scored a goal on Feb. 4. And while he added six assists since then, his faceoff percentage has fallen to below .500. When this year’s John Mitchell (53.9%) and Carl Soderberg (52.1%) own better faceoff win records than MacKinnon, Colorado really has entered the Twilight Zone. Of course, the faceoff statistic is only helpful if the team converts those wins into points, which hasn’t happened this season. So maybe the slump isn’t such a big deal after all.
5. Maybe it’s time to start buying some glasses or contacts for the officiating crew. In Sunday’s nights game, an Avalanche player was called for a penalty when a Blues player lost his edge and fell. Meanwhile there was no call whatsoever when the Blues players mugged Matt Duchene by his jersey or when an Avalanche player, without the puck, got his bell rung. Are they a great team? No. But the rules of the game should not change based on a team’s record. Right now, Colorado couldn’t even BUY a fair call. Gift baskets of Schlitz for all officials, since it certainly can’t hurt at this point.
1. Forward Blake Comeau made a poor choice on a breakaway opportunity. Video of the play made the rounds of all kinds of NHL media mocking the play and the Avalanche’s poor season. It makes one want to say – “These aren’t the Avalanche players you are looking for…move along.”
2. Ummm…not to beg the question…but….begging the question- what were defenseman Francois Beauchemin and Fedor Tyutin both doing on the ice with less than 40 seconds remaining in Sunday night’s game? They were both having “off” nights and at least partially responsible for two St. Louis Blues’ goals.
While Beauchemin can’t be waived due to his no-move contract, he could at least be benched in favor of a Rampage defender for a game or two. What can it hurt?
3 .Does it seem ugly to anyone else that the Avalanche Public Relations department failed to issue a news release upon signing their two 2015 prospects to their first NHL contracts? Have they been so overwhelmed with good news lately that this didn’t seem worthy of notice? While the Avalanche included the news buried on the eighth page of today’s game notes, both Cap Friendly and the Canadian press had released the information 16 hours earlier. One would think the Avalanche would want to promote every single piece of good news possible at this juncture. But, hey, having it in the game notes is something, I guess, maybe.
THOUGHTS TO PONDER
1. Overlooked but noteworthy - the Colorado Avalanche have continued to get younger throughout the season. While they started in a three-way tie for the fourth oldest NHL team, they are now the 11th youngest team. They decreased their average age by over a year and a half throughout the season, currently trailing the youngest team – the Columbus Blue Jackets- by less than a year. While there haven’t been many call-ups from San Antonio, the Avalanche have been following Sakic’s goals to make the team younger. Just in stealth mode, apparently.
2. Colorado made a couple of AHL trades, sending the San Antonio captain Joe Whitney to the Tucson Roadrunners (the Arizona Coyotes affiliate) for 24-year-old left wing Brendan Ranford and shuffling Cody Corbett off to the Washington Capitals for goaltender Joel Cannata. They also “loaned” Mike Sislo to the Toronto Marlies in exchange for Colin Smith. Make of that what you will.
3. While many have expressed outrage regarding how few moves the Avalanche made at the trade deadline, there are some key considerations that seem to be overlooked.
First, there were very few trades made and almost no blockbuster deals. The trade deadline has continued to lose momentum in the salary cap era. The financial limitations hamper negotiations so there are fewer opportunities for player movement.
Second, the expansion draft placed a damper on big name trades as teams appeared reluctant to upset their plans protecting certain players from the upcoming draft.
Third, the Avalanche waived both John Mitchell and Eric Gelinas TWICE without either being claimed by other teams. The lack of interest in simple waiver claims should signal the rest of the league is not interested in bottom tier players from the league’s worst team. Can anyone blame them? It’s not like poor player performance would go unnoticed by NHL scouts. Frustrated Avalanche followers should consider themselves vindicated.
Now let's quickly move through the stages of grieving imaginary trade awesomeness and focus on something more positive - like imaginary draft awesomeness. Sigh.
1. As mentioned above, the Avalanche called up center J.T. Compher from San Antonio after the trade deadline.
2. Disappointingly, Compher was the ONLY AHL player recalled. Hopefully, Colorado will be bringing up a couple more players from San Antonio. It’s not like the current Avalanche players are melting the ice with their hot play. Unless one considers their play more of a hot mess. Either way, a change would be good.
WHAT TO WATCH
1. The Avalanche will host three home games this week, including tonight’s 7 pm MST start against the Carolina Hurricanes before taking their show on the road for a Monday night matchup against the Arizona Coyotes.
2. Will Colorado start to make room for a couple of San Antonio players? If they want to call up more than one, they will need to make a roster move (barring injury) to open up a slot. Might they waive one of their current players?