A once-great team in full decline? That hurts, ESPN.com?s NHL power rankings. That hurts a lot. Ouch.
It?s been a year or two or seven since The Decline began, but this is no less than a new frontier for Avalanche fans. It?s uncharted water. And worse, there is no Magellan in Colorado?s minor league system.
There?s not even a Sir Francis Drake. And while Pierre Lacroix was Amerigo Vespucci in 1995, it seems like a thousand years have passed since the Avs were on the map.
Maybe it?s more to do with being in Kansas?so very far away from The Can?that makes Colorado?s prospects look so bleak. But I?ll forget the prospects for a second, and remember that none of the first-liners scored 60 points in 80 games last year.
There will be no rivalry games this year, nor even a hint of competitiveness?maybe not even 20 wins. The Avs are old, and not in that Chelios-is-the-hockey-Favre kind of way that leads one to believe a winning season can happen.
No, the Avs are scary-old.
Adam Foote should be coaching this team, not trying to get six more months of hockey out of his mummy-legs.
Milan Hejduk is among the few elite proven scorers in the game, but has been a zombie since the lockout. He climbed out of the crypt in 2006-07, but at this point, I?d contend the Avs would be better off with Will Smith and that dog from ?I am Legend.?
(By the way, if that movie had been such an unprecedentedly overwhelming success to the point everybody involved HAD to be given an Oscar, Will Smith would have taken home ?Best Supporting Actor.? I think. I don?t know for sure. I quit paying attention after the dog died.)
Point is, if Undead Hejduk can be traded to a contender for two prospects (or a pick and a prospect) he should be moved as soon as possible. For his sake and for ours.
(Note: Hejduk recently signed a 1-year contract with a no-trade clause. So if my beard looks like it was partially torn out by the roots and super-glued back together, please don?t ask why. For your sake and for mine.)
Don?t let me get started on Darcy Tucker. The best compliment I?ve got to offer involves comparing the dude to a vampire for all the wrong reasons.
(Count Darcy Tucker should consider not being able to see his own reflection a MAJOR perk.)
The bottom line for the Avs is, they need productive seasons from their young players and asking the young?uns to compete for ice time with the likes of Ruslan Salei and Brett Clark is not the right move to make.
Accept it, Avalanche fan. Your team will be terrible this year. And the sooner you realize just how terrible your team can be, the better.
Because one of the oddest things about professional sports is the fact all the pro leagues agree to hand the worst teams the highest draft picks.
If the NHL were the CBO, wouldn?t someone on FOX be screaming about socialism in sports!?
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Look, I?m not trying to suggest the Avs or any other pro team ought to be trying to game the system. All I?d ask Pierre Lacroix to do is, take an honest look at where you are, admit that you are nowhere close to where you want to be and plot a course toward the destination you seek.
He has to dump player salaries and invest heavily in youth scouting and minor league coaching staffs. Even if he has to fool Avs fans into thinking he?s trying to build an over-achiever (let?s call this ?pulling a Joe Dumars? in honor of the Allen Iverson trade last year) he needs to get move his base away from the idea that winning, in itself, is the sole definition of success.
Building a winner is the art of having success over time.
And the truth is, Lacroix has been through the ?building a winner? phase before, with the Quebec Nordiques before they moved south to escape the painful one-dollar-for-two exchange rate that doomed so many teams in the early 90s.
I just hope the Colorado fans will be continue to support their team during the process. The exchange rate becoming what it is, heading back to Quebec might start looking like a real tempting prospect before long.
Get young, Pierre, and get young fast. There?s no time (but lots of games) to lose.