Is it risky for Colorado Avalanche to chase a big name?


The Avalanche aren’t messing around.

Colorado has decimated the NHL so far this season, sitting atop the standings with 91 points. It has a ridiculous nucleus of talented players. So much so that it’s hard to pick the MVP of the Avalanche.

I’d contend it’s Cale Makar. Others believe it’s Nathan MacKinnon. Nazem Kadri is currently eighth in the NHL scoring race. And I haven’t even mentioned Gabe Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen or goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who’s posted back-to-back shutouts.

Bottom line: the Avalanche are loaded. Yet GM Joe Sakic has made several tweaks, adding defenseman Josh Manson and forward Nico Sturm via trades with the Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild, respectively.

Sakic only gave up one roster player in return. Tyson Jost, along with his $2 million AAV, was shipped out to clear cap space and open a roster spot for Sturm, who can provide shutdown minutes for the Avalanche. Manson also adds grit to the defensive corps.

I’m always surprised when top teams start shuffling their roster around so close to the end of the season. I understand the desire to upgrade whenever possible, but chemistry is so important. Making a few relatively minor moves like Sakic just pulled off isn’t a big deal in that regard. Sturm and Manson should fit right in. They’re both depth players on a team like Colorado.

But I keep hearing rumblings that the Avalanche aren’t finished, that Sakic still might take a big swing, hoping to land the final piece of the puzzle that could lead his team to a Stanley Cup.

And that’s where I have reservations. There’s no question a player like Claude Giroux could add value. But does he get lost in the shuffle with the Avalanche? Do players that have been a big part of the season so far take a backseat? How would they respond? Can the lines and power-play units be reconfigured in a way that’s harmonious?

This is why a team’s internal communication is so important. Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar knows the pulse of his locker room better than anyone. And that’s why I think it’s important for Sakic to seek out and trust the opinion of his bench boss.

I admire Sakic’s willingness to be aggressive. Trading for Manson and Sturm made sense. But a blockbuster would make me nervous. Colorado has a good thing going. I’m intrigued to see what happens next.

It was just one game. But Erik Kallgren gave Maple Leafs fans something to cheer for.

Toronto’s struggles in goal have been real. Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek have had a collectively terrible 2022 so far. Campbell is out for at least the next week with a rib injury. And Mrazek has been so poor lately that Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe was forced to play a rookie goaltender against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night.

Enter Toronto’s Erik Kallgren — who in his first NHL start posted a 35-shot shutout against the Dallas Stars. It wasn’t a fluke. Kallgren has nice mechanics and looked under control from start to finish. To me, Kallgren is a very typical Swedish goaltender. He’s detailed and structured – the result of strong goalie coaching from a young age.

It’s cultural. Sweden has goalie coaches for their youth organizations clear through the pro ranks. In North America, receiving quality goalie coaching usually means that parents have to fork over tens of thousands of dollars. The profit motive is very real.

But training talk aside, Kallgren was able to perform when the Maple Leafs needed it most. Toronto had been bleeding goals against. Bad ones. Hearing the fans cheer Kallgren at the end of the game was a big moment.

Who knows if the 25-year old former Arizona Coyotes draftee will be able to keep it up. It was his first NHL start. But he passed the eye test, which is so important given the visually obvious struggles of Campbell and Mrazek.

The Arizona Coyotes are ruining the Arizona Coyotes’ plan.

Doesn’t this feel a little like the classic baseball movie “Major League,” where the owner is trying to tank but the players won’t let it happen? The Coyotes have scored 35 goals in their last six games and gone 5-1-0. And not long ago, Arizona beat the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 on home ice.

Seriously, what is going on? Up until Feb. 4, the Coyotes were dead last in NHL offensive production. They were averaging just 2.28 goals for per game. In just under two weeks, Arizona has leapfrogged to 27th in that category.

There may be a lottery system in place for the NHL Draft, but you can bet Arizona and Montreal want to finish in the basement. They want to give themselves the best chance at picking first overall. And in that regard, Tuesday’s game between the Canadiens and Coyotes had something of a macabre feel to it. But one team had to win.

It’s pretty easy to look at players like Nick Schmaltz and Clayton Keller, who have been crushing it lately. Schmaltz has 27 points in his last 17 games, a number buoyed by his seven-point outburst against the Ottawa Senators on Mar. 5. Trailing just behind is Keller, who’s racked up 25 points in the same amount of games.

But I think the true catalyst of the Coyotes’ resurgence has been defenseman Jakob Chychrun. In his first 32 games of the 2021-22 season, Chychrun had only eight points. In the 15 games since, he’s tallied 13, all at even strength. 

Trade rumors have been swirling in regards to the talented blueliner. Chychrun was playing his best hockey until suffering a lower-body injury on Mar. 12 against the Boston Bruins. But I don’t see it hurting his trade value. Chychrun has three years left on his contract at a very friendly $4.6 million cap hit. He’s only 23 years old. Should Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong choose to move him, the return on Chychrun would be massive.


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