The Colorado Avalanche continue to power through their wild roller coaster start to the season. Not only did they win two of three games this past week, the Avalanche finally wrangled a trade for forward Matt Duchene. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly breaks down the highlights - and lowlights – from the rollicking past week.
1. The Matt Duchene trade saga is finally over! Woohoo! It’s been a long time coming. Kudos to all three teams involved in the trade as they seem to have worked out a deal where every team believes they improved. All three teams believe they scored - so does this trade qualify as a hat trick?
2. Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic deserves some recognition for his ability to acquire seven pieces in exchange for a disgruntled player who becomes a free agent in less than two years. He withstood the weekly media assaults on his competency, held firm, and walked away with quality assets to build the team over the long haul. Stick taps aren’t enough – perhaps a case of his favorite celebratory drink?
3. Sportsnet, on NHL Network, covered the trade by stating that one can’t do better than what Sakic did. And declaring “Stunned…people around the league are stunned by what Joe Sakic got for Matt Duchene.” Seven pieces for one guy. If this trade doesn’t silence the “fire Sakic’ crowd, nothing will. For everyone else, isn’t it great to see the Avalanche handling the business of hockey successfully?
4. On to actual hockey – Alternate captain Nathan MacKinnon had a stellar week. He scored a goal, added five assists and hit the net in the shootout against the Philadelphia Flyers. That’s a six-point week plus he helped propel the team to a shootout win. MacKinnon must have gotten tired of hearing how he needs to step up. But darned, if that’s how he handles adversity, maybe he needs a little more challenge?
5. The Avalanche won two of their three games, including finding a way to win in a shootout on the road in Philadelphia. If the Duchene trade hadn’t happened in the middle of the first period against the New York Islanders, and if the team hadn’t ended up down an entire forward line, they may have even gotten another point or two. Either way, the Avalanche currently are in third place in the Central Division. Yes, you read that right. Enjoy!
6. In the “not-the-same-team-as-last-year” category - After the game against the Carolina Hurricanes, coach Bednar called the Carl Soderberg-Blake Comeau-Matt Nieto line “exceptional” and complimented them for playing the “right way” most consistently, good on both sides of the rink and trustworthy. Coming from Bednar, that’s effusive praise. Okay, those of you who saw that coming, raise your hands. Yeah, I thought not. Good job proving everyone wrong! May you rub everyone’s noses in your success!
7. Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie lead the Avalanche in points, at 14 apiece. Captain Gabriel Landeskog,Mikko Rantanen and Alexander Kerfoot are tied for first place in actual goals, with five tallies each. Maybe Landeskog will reward them by letting them skip the pickled herring while in Sweden and let them eat crepes!
8. Special teams for the Avalanche were kind of a wash. The Avalanche allowed three power-play goals against them on 10 chances while they scored three power-play goals in nine opportunities and Comeau notched a short-handed goal. Hey, it’s better than being a scoreless sieve.
9. Colorado ranks eighth in average goals scored per game, in a tie with the Los Angeles Kings, averaging 3.36 goal per match. Now, if only they allow fewer goals against, as they currently rank eighth there as well with – wait for it – 3.36 goals allowed per game. Hey, at least it’s not a deficit.
10. Don’t look now, but the Avalanche actually won an offsides challenge and their goal counted! The Caroline Hurricanes challenged Landeskog's goal putting the Avalanche up 4-2 claiming Rantanen’s skates were past the blue line entering the offensive zone. Not only did the goal count after the review, but Carolina then went on the penalty kill where Rantanen essentially put the game away with a power play goal sending Colorado to a 5-3 lead. Keep those gift baskets going to the officials – they might be working!
11. Goaltender Semyon Varlamov showed he could play at an elite level in the Carolina game, stopping 57 of 60 shots on goal and earning a .950 save percentage. It’s early in the season, and there’s room to improve on rebound control, but one can see flashes of playoff Varlamov returning. That’s good news all the way around.
12. Congratulations to Carl Soderberg who flew back to Denver for the birth of his child! It's unknown if he will be able to join up with the team in Sweden, but they sure could use him. He's off to an exciting start this season.
13. After the Duchene trade, everyone seemed relieved the drama was over. Duchene left to play for a team who nearly made the Stanley Cup finals last year and the Avalanche have a group pulling together in the same direction. This appears to be the rare win-win situation. As if to highlight the newfound team unity, MacKinnon scored the team’s first goal after the trade, assisted by Landeskog and Johnson. Unified leadery-ness is a good thing.
1. After news broke of Duchene getting traded, it came out that he had requested a trade around Christmas of last year, and was actually unhappy as an Avalanche player for two years. Two years, people. While he said all the right things after the trade, one has to wonder what was going on for those two years. That’s not just bad, that’s heartbreaking.
2. The Avalanche received quality assets in the Duchene trade, but none of the new players will be able to immediately step in and fill his spot on the team. Duchene had earned 10 points this season (4 goals, 6 assists) and would be in a three-way tie for fourth place on the team in scoring as well as leading the team in face-offs. There will be a hole, which is not good. However, some of the young guys already on the team may be able to pick up the slack, especially as some return to the lineup from injuries. The likes of J.T. Compher, Alexander Kerfoot, and Tyson Jost may have the opportunity to show their stuff, which is really the silver lining.
1. Both Captain Gabriel Landeskog and Alternate Erik Johnson expressed a commitment to winning with the players who want to be part of the Avalanche after Duchene was traded, seeming relieved the drama was over. It’s eerily reminiscent of when a young Joe Sakic – then of the Quebec Nordiques – commented on Eric Lindros’ holdout, saying he wanted to play with people who wanted to be there (with the Nordiques) and play the game. Sakic was tired of hearing about Lindros’ holdout and it appears current Avalanche players were tired of hearing about a Duchene trade. The comments revealed while waiting for a good haul was wise asset management, the team paid a price for the delay. And that’s ugly.
2. Injuries continue to create issues for the Avalanche. Already running a short bench going into the Islanders game, Comeau took a puck to the ear in the first period, Patrik Nemeth got injured again and Anton Lindholm was scratched because he broke his jaw in the game the night before. Add the loss of Duchene to the trade and the Avalanche were left with three lines of forwards instead of their usual four and rotating defensive pairs. The good news – Comeau was at practice this morning as was J.T. Compher. Matt Nieto and Rocco Grimaldi have recovered from their illnesses, Tyson Jost finally showed up in a no-contact jersey and the Avalanche’s newly acquired defenseman Samuel Girard joined the team in Sweden. While the Avalanche lines look like something of a roulette wheel, the team has been able to power through. The injuries have – and continue to be – an ugly issue – yet the team has been able to overcome. Keep your fingers crossed or pull out your lucky charm. Whatever works, people.
WHAT TO WATCH
1. The Avalanche will be facing off against the Ottawa Senators – and, yes, former teammate Matt Duchene Friday, Nov. 10 at noon MST in Sweden at the Ericsson Globe in Stockholm.
2. On Saturday, Nov. 11, at 11 am MST, the same two teams will meet up again, same location, as part of the NHL’s Global Series.
3. Newly acquired defenseman Samuel Girard will likely play in Sweden. Keep an eye out for who he gets paired with and how much time on ice he gets.
4. Hopefully, more Avalanche players will be returning from injuries. Line changes and forward combinations, in particular, are likely to shift so there’s a chance to see if someone can become a breakout star.
Tune in next week for the latest update on all things Avalanche - same bat time, same bat channel!