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Here’s why Avs fans should be optimistic

May 10, 2013, 5:13 PM EDT

Matt Duchene AP

Joe Sakic is in charge now

How he’ll do in his new role ‘in charge of all hockey-related decisions’ remains to be seen; not all ex-NHL stars have been successful in management. But the fact Sakic believes ownership is “committed to this franchise and want us to get back to where we used to be” says something. Remember, Sakic didn’t need to take this job. That ownership, which has been accused of neglecting the hockey part of its sports-business empire, cared enough to pursue him may also say something about its desire to start filling the rink again. Because the only way that’s going to happen is with more wins. That said, don’t expect Sakic to get a blank checkbook. New team president Josh Kroenke — the son of owner Stan Kroenke — said today the Avs wouldn’t be spending just to spend.

Young talent down the middle

Sakic stated a bit of the obvious today when he said the key to winning is having great players. But it still needed to be said. A team can have a great owner, great GM and great coach, but if the players aren’t there, there’s no hope. Fortunately, the Avs have two very good young centers in Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly, and no championship team lacks talent down the middle. In fact, that’s often where it starts. Whether Paul Stastny fits into their plans going forward will be worth watching. The 27-year-old has one year remaining on his contract, with a cap hit of $6.6 million. His production the last few seasons hasn’t been worth the price.

The first overall pick in the 2013 draft

What do this year’s three Hart Trophy finalists all have in common? All were chosen first overall. The Avs’ first pick will likely be used to select Portland Winterhawks defenseman Seth Jones. Not only is Jones thought by many to be the best player available, Colorado’s back end was a major issue again in 2013. Too many scoring chances were surrendered and not enough offense was generated. Jones might not be able to turn things around right away; however, when you consider the impact puck-moving blue-liners like Erik Karlsson and PK Subban have made at a young age, it might not take long. (Yes, we realize Erik Johnson went first overall. They don’t all turn into superstars, but a lot of them do.)

A new coach on the way

It’s pretty clear there was some dysfunction in Colorado under recently fired Joe Sacco’s watch. Before he hires a new bench boss, Sakic would be wise to find out what really was going on, and who was to blame. Maybe Sakic needs to ship out some players. (We doubt Jean-Sebastien Giguere would mind sharing his thoughts.) Two questions Sakic will need to ask and answer before he picks his coach: What kind of style should the Avs play? Does the team need a fresh voice (think Adam Oates), or does it need a steady, experienced hand (think Ken Hitchcock)?

  1. hockeyflow33 - May 10, 2013 at 6:09 PM

    How much of Stastny’s decline can be attributed to the team’s overall lack of talent?

    • DTF31 - May 10, 2013 at 6:21 PM

      Maybe, but he just isn’t playing the same any more. Its a weird thing to quantify but whatever it was that stirred his mojo isn’t stirring right now. I wouldn’t say he’s injured necessarily, but he almost looks “uncomfortable” playing hockey.

    • govtminion - May 10, 2013 at 7:05 PM

      With guys like Landeskog, Duchene, O’Reilly, Varlamov, etc. playing alongside him, Stastny has as good of a set of young forwards with him as any in the league. It would be one thing if he were on a team like Calgary or Dallas, but if the talent around him is a problem in Denver, I don’t know how to help him at this point.

    • andidee15 - May 11, 2013 at 12:48 AM

      It’s possible that spending most of his ice time 200 feet away from the opposition’s net over the past couple years may have something to do with it too.

      He got easy minutes as a young player, but now that he’s the veteran and needs to take on harder matchups, his point totals have dropped. He still had a lack-luster season, but part of that was due to being misused and his linemates having awful years as well.

      I’d personally like to see the Avs stick with Duchene and O’Reilly, but if/when Stastny gets a 2nd line role somewhere, he’s going to bounce back like crazy.

    • hockeyflow33 - May 11, 2013 at 1:04 AM

      I like that I was thumbed down for an actual question.

      I don’t think I saw any Avalanche games this year so I would assume his production dip wasn’t due to a sudden loss of skill but more attributable to the team he plays on. I was curious what people who saw him thought, my mistake for asking I suppose.

      • jernster21 - May 11, 2013 at 11:36 AM

        Stastny centers McGinn and Jones primarily – Jones had an absolutely horrific season – both he and McGinn had been healthy scratches this season, and Jones for more than one game. Stastny was still 3rd in points on the team even though the numbers weren’t exactly impressive. When Stastny plays well he’s a solid two way center who CAN play well in his own end and is also good on faceoffs, so it’s not all about points with him. Duchene was awful defensively in previous seasons but really took a huge step forward this season. Point is, Stastny is mostly a setup man – he needs to be surrounded by people who can bury the puck – when he can draw defenseman to him and dish it off to guys who can bury on a regular basis, it creates room for him to score as well, and he’s generally still good for 15-20 goals even if they aren’t glamorous.

        With that said, he’s going into the last year of a contract that has been a headache for this team for the last 5 years. I’m not sure I see him getting resigned unless it’s for significantly less than what he’s making now and I think he’ll get more on the open market than what the Avs are willing to offer, so don’t be surprised if he’s moved next year. With Duchene, O’Reilly and Mitchell down the middle he has become expendable for other needs.

  2. pitpenguinsrulez - May 10, 2013 at 6:20 PM

    I always liked Joe Sakic when he played. I never once had an issue with him. I was glad to see him and the Avs help Bourque get his long awaited Stanley Cup in 2001 vs. Jersey.

  3. photographybygraham - May 10, 2013 at 8:59 PM

    I’ve gotta think that someone like Guy Boucher would be a good fit here.

  4. polegojim - May 10, 2013 at 9:17 PM

    Ok… I’m a pessimist on anything AVS… call me when his decisions become productive.

    At this point, he starts with zero credit as an ops guy, just like Elway.

    Elway has proven his value… Joe must do so.. and FAST.

    I’ll judge him immediately by his Head Coach choice… better not be a Granato/Sacco type.

    Hitch… I’d buy that one for sure.

  5. cranespy - May 11, 2013 at 9:00 AM

    Ted Nolan…..

  6. cranespy - May 11, 2013 at 9:01 AM

    Bring back Marc Crawford…..

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