Everything Else

For the final time this year, we pick up our torch, arm ourselves, and head into the depths where Anthrax Jones lives. 

Look, ain’t no one complaining about 87 points. But your large adult son Mikko Rantanen‘s pace did drop off in February and March from the ridiculous pace he was on. Anything to be read from that or just flattening out of luck a bit?

On a team as deep as a puddle in the Sahara Desert, I’m not sure it wasn’t just a matter of time before other teams threw their entire checking efforts at MacRanteskog. The Avs have ten players with at least 10 goals apiece, so the “LACK OF DEPTH, HUH” crowd has an argument, but that argument falls apart when you consider that five of the ten have either 10 or 11 goals, and none of Colin Wilson‘s 10 count anyway. It’s not the 1983 Islanders, kids. It also doesn’t help that Rantanen has spent 54 minutes in the box almost entirely due to careless stick fouls, including a punishing late-game high sticking penalty last Friday that cost the Avs at least one point to human sewage drain Corey Perry and the corpse of the Ducks.

*deep breath*

That said, Rantanen’s game is still maturing, and it’s very evident that he still hasn’t put it all together yet. When he does, you’re going to need to spend two weeks training in Siberia with “Hearts On Fire” playing on continuous loop in order to shut him down. We’re getting there.

On the other side of the coin, Phillip Grubauer is on a real heater in March. Is this enough for the Avs to feel comfortable letting Varlamov walk in the summer and giving the job to Grubs?

I think the plan all along was to let Varlamov go at the end of this season, whether Grubauer came around or not. I think Jared Bednar is playing this perfectly: Grubauer is the short-term future of the Colorado net, with a chance to become the long-term future, and he should be getting the majority of the carries down the stretch in what’s still really a “practice year” for this generation of Avs. Grubauer has shown he has the ability to carry a team for stretches in Washington and now Colorado, which is essentially the same playbook Varlamov followed. The potential difference for Grubauer will be whether or not Bednar is able to build a coherent system around him, and the jury remains out on that one.

We asked you about him last year, but it still feels like the Avs are tapping their foot and looking at their watch when it comes to Tyson Jost

By March of 2021, I could see myself looking at a stat line of 10 goals and 20 assists for Jost and be willing to admit yeah, this is just the player he is. I’m not there yet though, because every time I’m ready to accept that he’s probably not going to break out in any meaningful way, he shows me something good that lures me back in. The Avs sent him to the AHL over All Star break, and when he came back, he was a different player: more assertive, less tentative, and it made a visible difference in his overall game. My biggest concern with Jost isn’t his skill level or his hockey IQ, it’s the way he seems to struggle with the physical aspect of the game. At 5’11” 190, hes not the smallest player, but he seems vulnerable to guys who play him hard. He’s not shy about contact, but he more often than not finds himself on his ass when he engages. That’s not something that can be coached or taught, and maybe it’s something he can work on during summer training, but maybe it’s just not in his makeup.

Are they getting in? Does it really matter? What’s the way forward here?

It doesn’t really matter. If they make it, great! That’s more playoff experience for guys like Rantanen, Jost, Sam Girard, and Illinois legend JT Compher, guys who got a taste of it last season and seemed to improve as the Nashville series progressed. Plus, it would be our first chance to see Rockstar Makar in an Avs uniform, and it would be cool to see how he performs under an immediate spotlight.

If they don’t make it? Another potential high pick to add to Ottawa’s pick, which is absolutely going to turn into Jack Hughes or Kappo Kakko because god hates Ottawa’s fans and loves dark comedy. I’ve kept a level head this season, whether it was the early hot streak or the mid-season slumpmother, because the target all along has been 2019-2020.

And if we’re still in this position at this time next season, your boy is gonna be having a cow.

 

Game #74 and #75 Preview Suite

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Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

We seem to be getting these wrong more and more. We’re told that’s what happens as you get older. We’ll still rage against the dying of the light.

When Joe Sakic was hired as GM of the Avalanche, it seemed a desperate ploy to try and earn goodwill with a fanbase that had watched its team slip into irrelevancy. Here was a name they all knew, centering (literally) the memories of glory from the past, and could be used as a shield by Snake Kroenke for at least a little while from everyone realizing he had sunk the team into the Earth. A shiny bauble, as it were.

When Patrick Roy was foisted upon Sakic at the same time, or perhaps he was actually Sakic’s choice (but we doubt it), it only turned the chuckle into a guffaw. The Avs and their fans thought they had the last laugh when Semyon Varlamov PDO’d their way to a division title in 2014, only to watch it crumble in the first round. And the Avs were nowhere after. And even their two most famous alums could no longer delude the fans into thinking this team was going anywhere afterwards.

But when Sakic was given the full reins, he quickly dispatched Roy and went outside the box to hire Jared Bednar. He took the lumps of a historically bad 2016-2017 season, collected the picks and prospects, and now has the Avs poised for something bigger here. Cale Makar arrives either this spring or next season. Thanks to Matt Duchene, the Avs are holding the Senators pick, which is looking like it can’t be any lower than #2. So that’s Jack Huges or Kaapo Kakko joining Nathan MacKinnon and crew next year as well. That’s not even mentioning Samuel Girard or Vladislav Kamenev, whom Sakic heisted out of Nashville. Suddenly things look pretty set.

It’s bad enough that Sakic and fellow GM Steve Yzerman tormented us as players. Now they’ve proven to be more than capable in the front office, and one has created a direct competitor in Denver while Yzerman looks set to revitalize, or try, the Auld Enemy in Detroit. Some curses never get exorcised. We thought we’d suffered enough, but Sakic has come to pile on that Game 4, double-overtime goal in 1996.

Asshole.

Game #74 and #75 Preview Suite

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Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

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It has not been a great year for coaches that were hired from outside the usual network of NHL coaches. David Hakstol in Philadelphia got a pink slip. He took his GM with him. Jim Montgomery in Dallas doesn’t have his team in the playoff picture, and now his owner is airing out the team in public. Jeremy Colliton here in Chicago got off to just about the worst start imaginable, and could see the GM that hired him punted into the wind by season’s end, leaving him in limbo. For new hires, the Oilers went as old boy network as you can get with Ken Hitchcock. Joel Quenneville is rumored to be heading to eastern PA. It’s rough if you’re the new guy.

The success story is Jared Bednar, who has the Avs third in the Central and at least clinging to the heels of the Predators and Jets. We took at his accomplishments at the end of last year. Our conclusion then was that while he was smart/talented enough to not get in the way, he basically was riding along with Nathan MacKinnon‘s MVP-worthy season just like everyone else on the team was.

Has that changed this season?

It’s hard to look at Mikko Rantanen going from a struggling rookie, to 80 points, to the pinball numbers he’s putting up now and say that Bednar has nothing to do with it. Sure, MacKinnon is doing the work but they’re being put in position to do that. Converting Gabriel LaxativeLog back to a skilled winger from the sewer monster that Patrick Roy was intent on making him also can’t have been done without any of Bednar’s influence.

The Avs’ metrics haven’t improved that much, however. And that’s partly process. They’re below water, though just a tick, in CF% and xGF%. But it’s improved slightly from last season. At least things are arching correctly. Bednar seems like he’s ready to hand the starting goalie job to Phillip Grubauer, which can be a tricky thing for a team. It helps that Semyon Varlamov is on his way out after the season anyway.

As far as other young players that the Avs need, Tyson Jost and Alex Kerfoot haven’t really taken off as of yet. Samuel Girard looks like a piece though. J.T. Compher is headed for a career season at 23, though his 23% shooting-percentage might have more to do with it than any player-whispering from Bednar.

The Avs special teams aren’t witness to any great change either. The PK is worse, and the power play is just about the same. That’s usually an indication of coaching as well.

Still, the record is the record, and this could be the second straight season that the Avs surpass expectations. Patrick Roy wasn’t able to produce this kind of season out MacKinnon and SapsuckerFrog consistently, and Bednar has. That’s not to be discounted. Stability is always preferable. Look at the Stars, who have had three coaches in three years in the same division and can’t seem to keep their tires from spinning in the mud. There might be a lesson in there for the Hawks, whether they fire Stan Bowman or not.

 

Game #41 Preview Suite

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We’ve never liked Joe Sakic. Oh sure, all-time great player. The center the Hawks could never have, the player Jeremy Roenick could never be. But it was always him standing in the Hawks’ way in the mid-90s. He who scored that goal in Game 4 in ’96 that prevented the Hawks from taking a 3-1 lead (while Chris Chelios’s leg was numbed by his own team’s doctor). He had 65 points in 55 games against the Hawks. It felt like it was 174.

So we rejoiced when he was hired as GM of the Avs in 2013. Surely this was just a move to placate an eroding fanbase, give them a name they recognize and would give the most amount of leash because how would anyone in Denver ever be mad at Joe Sakic? Another rock-headed former player being used to insulate an ownership no one really cared for.

It all started so promisingly, as the entire franchise bent to the will of Patrick Roy, a vapid bullhorn come to life. They goofed one division crown, and then tried to chase that for three more seasons. They signed Jarome Iginla, which they didn’t have a need for. They signed Francois Beauchemin because Roy wanted a big, bruising d-man while ignoring he couldn’t catch anyone. They jerked around Tyson Barrie. It was going so swimmingly to keep the Avs in the toilet for eternity. The dream was almost real.

Then Sakic fired Roy, or at least got him to quit, which is just as good. He went outside the Old Boys Network to hire Jared Bednar. They didn’t flinch when they had a historically bad season last year. All the while, he drafted Rantanen, Greer, Jost, Makar. They traded Ryan O’Reilly and got J.T. Compher. They finally cashed in on Matt Duchene and got a huge haul out of it. They’ve straightened out Gabriel Landeskog, and put something in Nathan MacKinnon’s food. What the fuck is going on here?

And now the Avs look set to rise out of the muck. No longer will they be an after-thought with weird colors. Can you imagine how obnoxious this will get when the Denver hipsters catch on? It’s going to be awful.

Your ass used to be beautiful, Joe. And now you’ve gone back to our nemesis. History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.

 

Game #79 Preview

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And no, that’s to referring to cashing out the last of the bowl on a trip to Vail while Tyler and The Bros aren’t paying attention.

Late last night Mike Chambers of the Denver Post reported that Blackhawks assistant coach Kevin Dineen interviewed with Joe Sakic and Avs brass for upwards of three-and-a-half hours, and is a finalist for the job vacated by intractable asswipe Patrick Roy along with Bob Boughner. And potentially losing Dineen behind the Hawks’ bench would be decidedly bad for the organ-I-zation on a lot of fronts.

Everything Else

Well, this isn’t good news for the Central Division.

Today Patrick Roy, the anchor that had been holding out, when not outright destroying, at least a decently talented Avalanche squad, resigned as coach as half-GM or whatever it was they labeled him. I’d like to think he lost a power struggle with Joe Sakic, mostly because Sakic might have one clue where St. Patrick didn’t have any.

What this means for this year of course hinges on who the Avs hire and what he does. The Avs aren’t loaded or anything, but this isn’t a completely helpless roster either. It comes with pretty good center depth if Matt Duchene is moved back to center, which he obviously should be. MacKinnon-Dutch-Soderberg-Grigorenko is not the worst start.

Everything Else

Yes, we made the mistake of letting Anthrax out of his cage. It happens from time to time. Ryan was kind enough to share a space with Thrax, which is more than 99% of the populace is willing to do. From tomorrow night’s program:

Since the Avs shutout the Hawks here last time, they’ve gone 5-2-1 which means they’re 10-4-1 since December 1st. Is this real or just a spike of good fortune?

Murphy: This is real. Despite their defensive shortcomings (especially with Erik Johnson out a couple of weeks), the Avalanche were never as bad as they were in November when they were trying to integrate a big chunk of new players onto the roster and losing an improbable amount of close games. Carl Soderberg, Blake Comeau, Francois Beauchemin, and Andreas Martinsen are now making important contributions on a nightly basis and have added a supplementary presence the core group badly needed. What we’ve seen since December is a market correction. Many of us predicted a borderline playoff team at the beginning of the year, and that’s right where they are now 41 games in.

Anthrax: When I was in high school, I got a puppy. Cutest little guy in the world, sweet face, big brown eyes. Problem with this dog was, he was impossible to train. Deuces dropped all over the house, pissing in the corner of the living room, it was awful. Then, finally, one day, it’s like something clicked! The dog is waiting by the door to go outside, I let him out, he goes out and drops corona-corona in the yard, like a Good Boy. I was thrilled! The next day, I woke up, and I couldn’t find my car keys. Do you see where this is going? The dog ate my car keys. Surgery for the dog, the dumbass.

Are the Avs gonna eat my car keys? Probably. I’m gullible though, so I have hope.

Everything Else

avalanches vs oldschool

Game Time: 7:30PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, TVA, SN1, SNO, WGN-AM 720
The Banquet Beer: Mile High Hockey

Amid the blowing snow propelled by wind carrying sub-zero chills, the Hawks will host the Colorado Avalanche for the first time this season on the west side. And though the Avs have predictably and hilariously fallen squarely on their stupid asses this season as basically everyone thought they would, they have still always been problematic for the Hawks even when they have sucked to (mile) high heaven.

Everything Else

Hawk Wrestler vs. AU7UN

FACEOFF: 8pm Central (about 6-beer o’clock for most of us)

TV/RADIO: CSN, WGN 720

SO BUTTONS: Mile High Hockey

Perhaps the Avs are being weighed down by everyone in the hockey world’s “I told you so’s”, but it has not been a very kind season to the Snow Drifts Of Denver. And we can’t say that it hasn’t been hugely satisfying to watch. Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic couldn’t wait to tell us how they had the system beat, and now it’s beating them over the head. Delicious.

Everything Else

Hawk Wrestler vs. AU7UN

FACEOFF: 8pm Central (about 6-beer o’clock for most of us)

TV/RADIO: CSN, WGN 720

SO BUTTONS: Mile High Hockey

Perhaps the Avs are being weighed down by everyone in the hockey world’s “I told you so’s”, but it has not been a very kind season to the Snow Drifts Of Denver. And we can’t say that it hasn’t been hugely satisfying to watch. Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic couldn’t wait to tell us how they had the system beat, and now it’s beating them over the head. Delicious.