The Denver Post’s Mike Chambers on Wednesday answered questions from readers about the Colorado Avalanche and the NHL. Here are the highlights:
Thoughts on Gabe Landeskog‘s four-game suspension? I just wonder if it would be different for a Patrick Kane or Sidney Crosby because of who they are. Yes, Landy has previous offenses. But, he’s not considered a repeat offender.
Mike: Four games for 92? I don’t like it. Don’t like it at all — because the league says the CBA doesn’t recognize Landeskog’s two previous suspensions, so he’s NOT a repeat offender, but then the league gives him a four-game suspension that sure makes it seem like he’s recognized as a repeat offender. Hypocritical stuff there, I think. Now, Landeskog needs to keep his stick off a guy’s face and he definitely got himself in this trouble. Really no need to further touch Matthew Tkachuk the other night because he had already taken the player away from the play.
It seems like this team can’t quite get over the hump. It’s one step up (big win at Detroit) and then one step back (loss at home vs Calgary). What needs to change to get past the mediocrity?
Mike: I see a couple questions about inconsistency and I’ll answer them the same way: All teams seem inconsistent because the parity is so great in this league. Now, the Avalanche should have defeated Calgary on Saturday at home. Flames had played late in the night and lost an hour of travel and, although the Avs also played the day before, they were in bed before the Flames game ended in Dallas. And Calgary throws its backup goalie in there and he earns his first career NHL win. Should not have happened. The NHL gives you games like these and you have to capitalize. The Avs know this. Hopefully those two points won’t be the difference at the end of the year.
How much of the inconsistency with the team do you feel is due to the age of the players?
Mike: Again, it’s such a difficult league. Nothing like it used to be in the 1990s and even 2000s when the best teams were SO much better than the weak ones. To win in the NHL these days, you have to have great effort and get a good amount of the bounces. Goaltending helps too, eh?
Ever hear any more on why Denver Pioneers coach Jim Montgomery and St. Cloud State’s coach Bob Motzko had words? Probably had to do with the recruit swapping commitment to DU. Possibly, not completely following the gentleman’s agreement?
Mike: Ah, an NCAA question. I’m always up for those. And I’m certain I have this one dead-on: The recruit who changed his mind from St. Cloud to Denver certainly played into the hostility. In college football, happens all the time and it’s accepted. But when young hockey players commit to a team usually nobody else contacts them. It’s a gentlemen’s agreement. But it’s not illegal. With DU, you can’t blame the NCAA defending champion for going after the absolute best prospects available, because the Pioneers know they’re in position to sign them. If you’re St. Cloud State, perhaps you just lick your wound and try to put yourself in the same position instead of throwing a fit.
Another reason Montgomery and Motzko went at it was the game became heated and words were thrown from the ice to both benches. … It happens.
Do you think this is Duncan Siemiens’ last shot?
Mike: Siemens might not actually get a shot at playing in the NHL in this latest callup stint. He’s up because the Avs don’t want Bigras AND Mironov to serve as healthy scratches. They want those two guys to play, so they’ll do just that in San Antonio. They don’t care as much if Siemens plays or not. They waived him to begin the season. Right now he’s just depth for the NHL team. If the top six guys remain healthy he probably won’t play, and even if someone gets hurt I expect Bigras or Mironov to come back up. To answer your question, I don’t think the Avs will resign Siemens next summer.
On the Ian Cole rumors, do you know what the Penguins are asking in a trade for him? The only way I see value is if he signs a new deal with the team, would the Avs be interested in that? What would his value be to this team? (Odd to ask about value from a d-man potentially coming here).
Mike: I don’t know what they’re asking for. According to Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, D-man Ian Cole is on the market. If I’m Joe Sakic, I’m in the mix. The Avs began the year weak on D and remain weak on D. Unless they make a major move like Cole they will continue to be weak on D. But now Sakic has a ton of bargaining chips to improve his blue line NOW … Thanks to the Duchene trade, Sakic absolutely has what Pittsburgh may want to move Cole. That goes for any team with a solid veteran D.
Do you think Avs are going after Ian Cole?
Mike: Just answered that … I have not asked Joe Sakic that but there’s no reason to believe Sakic would not be interested in Cole, and have the bargaining chips thanks to winning the lottery with Duchene.
Did I mention how big the Avalanche won on the Duchene deal? I discussed that with Milan Hejduk in the podcast. Milan has agreed to be a monthly guest on “Traffic In Front of the Net” … I’m very excited about this partnership because I think you fans will love hearing from him.
Love your takes. Keep up the good work. Your prediction for the Avs making the playoffs this year? I’m a season ticket holder and am trying to keep my expectations in check, but it’s tough, the playoff hockey drought is killing me.
Mike: Appreciate that, brother … my takes are based on the questions I ask, the experts I talk to, having played the game and built my life around being a hockey guy. In today’s world, unfortunately, you can do none of that and still consider yourself a hockey writer. I’m glad you recognize the difference …. As for your question, I’m looking at selling my house and closing May 1 (my son graduates HS this spring and I want out of the ‘burbs) and live on my boat this summer. But I truly believe I could be super busy May 1 with an Avalanche second-round playoff run. Yes, they could be capable of making the playoffs if they can improve their D and have Varly stand on his head often. Offensively, this team is absolutely capable.
First quarter grades for Sakic and Jared Bednar for the 2018 season?
Mike: Interesting question, Matt, but I won’t completely address it. I’ve never played in the NHL and I’m not a coach, GM or scout (almost always former NHL players). So I won’t grade NHL players or coaches.
But I will say Sakic made up for a lot of mistakes with a huge win on Duchene trade and Bednar has command of the room.
Is there an update on when the Avs can expect Patrik Nemeth back?
Mike: Patrik Nemeth is out long-term with a lower-body injury … because he hasn’t skated in weeks and Bednar says there’s no update. Probably serious groin injury. Not good. Another BIG reason the Avs need to explore Cole and other veteran D who might become available.
Would the Avs make a trade for Evander Kane or try to sign him in unrestricted free agency?
Mike: I don’t think the Avs are interested in acquiring forwards at this time. They have so many young guys with nice potential and they’ve made some promises — believe me, Kerfoot and Toninato signed as UFAs here because the Avs said they want to rebuild this team down the middle with young centermen. As for July in UFA market, perhaps they’ll take a look at a guy like Kane. But not now.
Are the Avs finally taking a harder look at college free agents now? Seemed like for years other teams used this completely untapped resource (until recently) for the Avs. Also, maybe didn’t help Patrick Roy hated college hockey and was a big major juniors guy.
Mike: Patrick Roy and the Lacroixs — Pierre and son Eric — weren’t big on college hockey players. Eric Lacroix generally ran this team in the Greg Sherman GM days and then Roy joined Sakic and had much to say about it all. Yes, Sakic has become pro-NCAA, absolutely. I see it everywhere — the draft, UFA … but it’s relatively new to the organization because the Lacroixs and Roy were calling the shot for so long.
Biggest surprise of the season thus far? Vegas?
Mike: Alex Kerfoot … Oh, you mean teams. Yes, Vegas and Jersey. We have Devils in town Friday. Good young team. Another young team proving you can finish last in your conference and make the playoffs the following year. The Avs could be in the same mix.
Who do you think will/should be the No. 2 center now that Duchene is gone?
Mike: Kerfoot, which he is. He’s between natural centers Jost and Compher. Jost might someday be the Avs’ No. 1 or No. 2 center but Kerfoot is four years older and more developed right now. Makes sense having Soderberg as your 3 center and Toninato at 4. This team is deep down the middle, but still young.
In addition to the haul Sakic got in the Duchy trade, do you think it was also a bit of addition by subtraction? I read Erik Johnson‘s comments post trade and got a sense that perhaps the locker room was glad to have that personality jettisoned. Any insight on that?
Mike: I’m going ALL CAPS on this one, brother. YES, YES, YES, THERE WAS A DISGRUNTLED PLAYER IN THE ROOM WHO NEEDED TO GO. I COMMEND ERIK JOHNSON FOR SAYING WHAT HE DID. THEY ALL WANTED THE TRADE TO UNFOLD SO THEY COULD ALL SAY THEY’RE PULLING IN THE SAME DIRECTION. Trading Duchene was good riddance. Not trashing the player. I respect him and consider him a good person and friend.
Any chance the Avalanche claim Kyle Quincey off waivers instead of giving up assets for Cole?
Mike: I don’t think Quincey is the answer here. Did he just clear waivers or was just placed on waivers. I don’t have time to check right now but I still don’t think he’s an option here … Although he still has a place here and would love to come back.
How has Cale Makar been looking at the collegiate level? Is it looking like he could join the Avalanche in 2018 or is he more of a 2019 prospect?
Mike: Makar is UMass’s fifth-leading scorer with eight points (one goal) in 13 games. Is a plus-7 which is good for a 7-6 team. Hard to say whether he plays one or two years in college. Avs might prefer he plays a year in the AHL. With Sam Girard doing what he’s doing, folks should not compare Makar to him. Girard is a freak, playing in the NHL as a 19-year-old D.
Who on current roster you think is doing his last year as an Avalanche player?
Mike: Comeau, Bourque, Barberio, Bernier, Colborne and Hammond are UFA in July. I would resign Barberio. The others are probably gone, depending on if Spencer Martin is considered worthy of the No. 2 job behind Varlamov. Avs might use a buyout on Soderberg or Wilson. We’ll see.
Do you see any chance of a increase in Varlamov’s workload even though the Avs said it’s likely to be 50 games for the season?
Mike: If Varlamov is standing on his head and healthy he will play almost every game.
One of the pieces acquired in the Duchene trade is Andrew Hammond. Is he strictly an asset that could be moved for someone in need of a goaltender (Pittsburgh) or do the Avs have plans for him?
Mike: Depends on how they feel about Jonathan Bernier and Martin in net for next season. Hammond could make a nice trade piece, absolutely. With UFA option July 1, I would think he’s leaning toward staying back east (he still plays for Ottawa’s AHL team).
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