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LeBrun sees ‘moment of reckoning’ arriving soon for Sakic on Avalanche

(Russell Lansford/Icon Sportswire)

With only two wins in the past 12 starts, the 11-18-1 Colorado Avalanche remain mired in the basement of the National Hockey League standings.

Any team stuck in last place obviously has multiple issues facing it moving forward, but clearly something has to be done to improve this team’s on-ice product.

No team in the league has scored fewer goals, but that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. Well, either that or the goal totals are the tip of the Titanic and the iceberg is quickly approaching.

It’s all a matter of perspective.

“I think the moment of reckoning is going to arrive here soon for Joe Sakic in terms of – he’s got to figure out whether he blows this up or not,” indicated NHL Insider Pierre LeBrun during a Monday appearance on Vancouver’s TSN 1040. “I’m not saying he will, but they’ve seen enough now to know that the team that surprisingly won the division a few years back is really the aberration, as opposed to what’s happened since, right.”

“And what I find interesting is that when Patrick Roy stepped down, Patrick Roy got criticized so heavily last year – and a bit the year before too, but – about coaching the wrong way, about being the anti-analytics guy. And ‘This guy’s not a good coach.’ And when he left, a lot of the narrative last summer was ‘Well, now watch. They’ll be a lot better with him gone.’ Okay. I think they’re worse.

“I’m not completely getting Patrick Roy off the hook here, but clearly there was more at play than just who’s behind the bench. And what at play is they have a terrible blueline after one or two players. You mentioned their offensive stars. Well, they’re not going to be very offensive if they don’t get the puck. So they’re just spending too much time in their own zone. Their transition game is affected by their lack of talent on the back end. They get bottled up and they’re just not allowing MacKinnon and Duchene and the rest of those guys that they do have to do their thing. Not often enough.

“What they have now doesn’t work.”

The need for the Avalanche to upgrade its blueline has been a recurring theme for a number of seasons now, but the difficulty of accomplishing that task for any franchise has been demonstrated month after month across the league.

Most teams are looking to add a Top-4 blueliner, but the supply is so devastatingly low that the prices are almost always flat-out exorbitant. Factor in the specifics of the type of puck-mover to which LeBrun alluded and that price climbs even higher.

But let’s at least entertain the notion, for the moment, of the Avalanche ‘blowing it up.’

What would that mean?

“It’s a good question,” wondered LeBrun. “Easier said than done. Certainly mid-season I don’t know how you can really do that. But I think off-season there are some hard, hard decisions to be made here.

“And I think you have to ask yourself this – are we still doing this thing around Landeskog and Duchene, etc. Is this still our group. Is this still our core. No question MacKinnon is untouchable. He’s a young superstar. But what about the other stars. I mean, they’ve been here awhile now. Is this working.

“I think if you’re Joe Sakic, you have to ask yourself that question here over the next few weeks in terms of what your next big move is. And maybe his answer is that he still believes in the core and doesn’t want to touch it. That may be. But I know when I talk to a few other team executives around the NHL, they’re wondering the same thing as me – is the shoe going to drop there in Colorado.

“So I would suggest to you that not only ahead of March 1 at the trade deadline, but also the month of June, which is really the new crazy month in our league because of the cap, keep an eye on the Avalanche. They could be a very, very interesting team.”

Indeed.

Last week, while on NHL Network, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman addressed Jarome Iginla’s potential future with the Avalanche. It seems the possibility is more likely this year that the veteran winger would be willing to waive his no-move clause to be dealt to a team with a chance at the Cup this season.

Iginla, 39, is in the final year of his three-year, $16 million contract.

Friedman also offered this tidbit on Wednesday of last week though:

“The other thing too I would like to say about the Avalanche is when they got clobbered in Montreal last weekend, there were a lot of questions about whether or not they would do a fire sale or rip apart their core. First of all, I think it’s never a good idea to react that way to a loss like that. Secondly, I’ve always been kind of informed that the Avalanche’s plans were they have $17 million coming off their cap at the end of this year, and they were going to do what it took with that kind of freedom to try add at least one defenseman, but hopefully two. I still do think that’s their plan, though I’m sure they’re getting lots of calls asking them if they feel any differently.”

Source: TSN 1040, NHL Network

For reference: Covering the Insiders

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