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Patrick Roy/Joe Sakic GM Review: Year 1

AJ Haefele Avatar
June 4, 2015

 

As we approach the NHL Draft and Free Agency, it seemed a good time to turn back the clock and take a look at the moves that have been made by the current hierarchy of Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic, whose job titles betray the conflicting responsibilities they share. While Sakic is the Executive Vice President, General Manager, andAlternate Governor, Roy has final say on all transactions the team makes as the Vice President of Hockey Operations, making them a partnership if there ever was one.

It’s important to note that this is not a review of Patrick Roy as Head Coach, simply a breakdown of the decisions made by Roy and Sakic as the collective faces of the front office.

The only moves that were excluded from the list were moves meant entirely for the minor league clubs and the draft because it’s simply too soon to accurately assess how the Avs have performed on draft day beyond the drafting of Nathan MacKinnon.

It’s unclear when exactly Sakic assumed direct control over former GM Greg Sherman so the moves being graded begin after Patrick Roy was hired on May 23, 2013. The grades are an average of the 6 BSN Avalanche writers, who graded the moves separately.

June 5, 2013 – Signed Patrick Bordeleau to 3-year extension – D+

It’s hard to be too critical of signing a fan-favorite and a player who had the potential to be the best at his job for a mere $1M per season but it was more of the term that caused the problem here. Signing fourth line players, and especially designated face-punchers, for any extended period of time has shown time and time again to be poor management. This isn’t a criticism of Bordeleau the player but rather the overvalue of the role by the front office.

June 27, 2013 – Traded Shane O’Brien/David Jones to CGY for Cory Sarich and Alex Tanguay – A

This was a slam dunk in every way. The Avalanche saved money, got out from the onerous David Jones contract, replaced a talented hockey player with no concept of how to be a professional with a veteran defensemen nearing the end of the line who embodied professionalism, and brought back a fan favorite in Alex Tanguay. The key pieces were Jones and Tanguay and Tanguay’s 55 points last season is more than what Jones has produced in a season and a half’s worth of games for Calgary.

July 5, 2013 – Signed Nick Holden to 2-year deal – B-

The Avs took a flier on then-26-year old Holden after he failed to crack a deep blue line in Columbus, giving him a two-year contract for $600K per season. Holden took a while to acclimate to Colorado but once he did, blew up with a 10-goal, 25-point season. He followed it up with a drop in points and spotty defensive play this past season but improved enough in the second half of the season to warrant optimism moving forward.

Considering the expectations when he arrived (there were none), this was a solid but unspectacular move.

July 5, 2013 – Signed Nate Guenin to 1-year deal – C-

The second of a trio of a defensemen signed that day, the Avs brought in career AHL defenseman Nate Guenin to presumably bolster their blue line in Lake Erie. Then he made the team out of camp, became a stalwart in Patrick Roy’s lineup, and his consistently poor performance drew ire from the fans almost immediately. In a vacuum, signing Guenin wasn’t a terrible decision; it was Roy’s usage of Guenin that made it such a problem.

July 5, 2013 – Signed Andre Benoit to 1-year deal – B-

The last and most forgotten of the three defenders signed on July 5, 2013, Benoit’s tenure in Colorado will be nothing more than a quiet footnote in the team’s history but he was definitely an underrated player in his time in Colorado. A positive possession player who managed the quietest 28-point season from a defenseman you’ll ever find, Benoit was a very good complementary player on the blue line.

July 18, 2013 – Signed Matt Duchene to 5-year extension – A+

Coming off a season in which Duchene would score at nearly a point-per-game pace, it appeared he was turning the corner and developing into one of the game’s more dangerous forwards. Signing the electric forward for 5-years at just $6M per season is still considered a bit of a steal. You can’t complain about this decision.

August 15, 2013 – Signed Gabriel Landeskog to 7-year extension – A+

Similarly, you can’t complain about signing your captain and your top winger long-term, especially at just under $5.6M per season. Another slam dunk by the front office.

September 22, 2013 – Claimed F Marc-Andre Cliche off waivers – C-

Acquiring a player for free is the main reason this move isn’t considered worse. In a vacuum, claiming Cliche off waivers itself wasn’t the problem. The Avalanche acquired a 13th or 14th forward for the cost of…nothing. As soon as he started consistently seeing ice time, though, it became clear why he was waived in the first place.

October 31, 2013 – Traded Steve Downie to PHI for Max Talbot – C

A controversial move, this trade signaled the team was still making moves with regards to the locker room. Downie was undoubtedly the more talented player but his volatile personality had worn out its welcome in Colorado’s locker room and the calming, veteran presence of Talbot was a big component of the trade. That said, when you make a straight player-for-player trade and give up the clearly more talented player, it’s questionable at best.

January 7, 2014 – Re-signed Nate Guenin to 2-year extension – D-

This is when the Avalanche started getting themselves into trouble. While the money, at just $800,000 per season, was negligible, their assessment of a player who was getting crushed almost nightly showed a preference for things like “hitting other players” over other important factors like “quality of defense played.” This is a failure of the front office to properly assess its own talent.

January 30, 2014 – Re-signed Semyon Varlamov to 5-year extension – A+

At the time this contract was announced, it carried quite a bit of risk with it. While Varlamov was having a Vezina-level season, he was only halfway through his first truly great season. Having seen how he followed it up, it’s hard not to feel great about this contract as the Avalanche are getting top 10 production from their starting goaltender.

February 27, 2014 – Re-signed Marc-Andre Cliche to 2-year extension – D-

Much like the Guenin extension, this contract signaled the Avalanche were far too comfortable with their own bad players and was the second contract given out to a fourth line player in the first year together. Simply put, watching Cliche and believing him to be an NHL-caliber player is a total failure in talent evaluation.

March 5, 2014 – Traded 2014 2nd round pick to CGY for Reto Berra – D

Second round picks are increasingly valuable these days as teams have discovered the value of quality talent on entry-level contracts and giving one of those away for a goaltender who had done nothing but get lit up in North America was mind-boggling. To this day, this trade doesn’t make sense. The Avs overpaid in every way possible.

March 5, 2014 – Signed D Cody Corbett – B

Corbett was in the middle of finishing his junior career with a bang and represented a very good depth signing at a cheap cost. There’s nothing about this contract that is troublesome.

March 14, 2014 – Re-signed John Mitchell to 3-year extension – A-

As much as I’ve mentioned signing fourth line players to multi-year deals is a bad decision, the choice to keep Mitchell around for three more seasons was a very good one. An underrated talent who is best suited for a third-line center role, Mitchell has occasionally filled in on the top lines in a pinch. His versatility and depth scoring at under $2M per season make this one of the best value contracts signed by this front office to date.

March 14, 2014 – Re-signed Reto Berra to 3-year extension – F

The exact opposite of the Mitchell contract, the Berra extension represents one of the two worst value contracts signed by this front office. Reto Berra was given a 3-year extension before proving he could even play and this contract would make him the 9th-highest paid backup goaltender in the NHL at the time. Were it not for his out-of-nowhere excellent couple of starts to end the season, Berra’s first year in Colorado would’ve been a colossal failure. As it is, it still stands as one of the worst moves by this front office.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for review of Year 2!

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