Colorado Avalanche Must Take the Long Road in Rebuild

Photo Credit: Brandon Andreasen

Nobody wants to hear this, but the Colorado Avalanche are about to launch into another rebuild. It appeared that the Avalanche were almost ready to make the turn into consistent, competitive hockey after the 2013-2014 season but it was not to be. Instead, Colorado finds itself in the same place it was almost a decade ago. With this in mind, the Colorado Avalanche must keep their eyes firmly set on the path and do it the right way, this time around.

Admit It

As most 12-step programs will tell you, admitting you have a problem is the first and most important step to success. For the Avalanche, they need to admit that they attempted to take short cuts for far too long and hurt the team’s future in the process.

It’s also time to admit that the team has managed their assets poorly for a long time. From taking an inexplicably long time to sign prospects that are clearly going to be a part of the team’s future to their entry-level contracts, to extending Brad Stuart before he had ever played a game for the Avalanche. Giving Francois Beauchemin and Jarome Iginla extra years on contract that include no-trade/no-movement clauses.

There are plenty more examples we could go through, but to do so is unnecessary. The Avalanche must admit to themselves that their “way” was not the right way and look for better examples to follow. The “Avalanche way” no longer exists; it’s a thing of the past and the Avalanche must let it go if they hope to ever become a competitive team again. So admit it, and commit to the right way to do things.

Accept the Process

We have now admitted that things haven’t worked out the way they were initially planned, so the team needs to start from scratch. One thing that this means for the team and fans is that restarting will be a painful process. The team will likely be bad for a few more years, but as long as the team manages to make appropriate decisions for the roster going forward, it can at least become losing with a purpose. Additionally, even if things don’t go as poorly as they could, the team needs to accept that this process is a long one that cannot be circumvented. Do not go throwing away draft picks to rent players at the trade deadline. Do not sign aging free agents to contracts longer than two years. Build the pipeline and take the time to do it right.

Get Young…Now

Joe Sakic has already said this is a priority for the team, though not enough happened to help that at the trade deadline. That being said, he didn’t have to do anything major at the deadline and didn’t. There are a number of players that will be coming off the books for the Avalanche that are 32 years or older, and they should be given their walking papers immediately. John Mitchell, Fedor Tyutin, and Rene Bourque all have no place left on the Avalanche and are in fact hurting the team by their presence as it keeps younger players from getting a shot. Cody Goloubef will also be a UFA and is the only of the group under 30, but he still doesn’t need to be a part of the Avalanche going forward.

It’s time to commit to the young players in this system and getting them the experience that they need to be successful is incredibly important. This, however, does not mean that you just throw guys in there. The communication between the minor league coaches and front office and the Avalanche coaches and front office must be constant. It will need to be a delicate balance of having enough veterans to fill out the roster but not so many it becomes impossible for you to give some of the younger players a chance. At the moment, this is a line the Avalanche do not walk very well.

Acquire Draft Picks…All of Them

This is one of the things that made the trade deadline such a disappointment for the Avalanche. One of the best ways to help your system rebuild is to acquire as many draft picks as humanly possible so you improve your odds of finding players you can develop into roster players. While this didn’t happen at the trade deadline, the Avalanche will have a few opportunities to move some players at, or before the draft to accomplish this.

DEVELOP

This is perhaps the area where the Avalanche have failed the most in the last decade. They must work as a partnership with their minor league affiliates and communicate better. It’s not enough to sign prospects and put them into the system and then just say “poof, develop!” It doesn’t work that way. Coaches throughout the system must work together to be on the same page. The Avalanche have failed miserably at putting the necessary people in place to develop their players, failed at communicating with coaches throughout the system, and have failed at getting players into the lineup with more than just injury call ups.

The Avalanche fans and organization have a long road ahead of them. It’s one that is going to involve a lot of difficult self-reflection and probably a lot of losing. It won’t be an enjoyable one, but as long as the team approaches it the right way and makes the right moves, everybody will enjoy the payoff at the end.

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