The 2016-17 season has been an abject disaster for the Colorado Avalanche. Former head coach Patrick Roy bolted just weeks before the season began, leaving them little time to find his eventual replacement in Jared Bednar. With so little time to prepare for the season, it’s difficult to grade Bednar on anything but a lenient curve.
That doesn’t make the disappointment of another lost season any less soul-crushing, though. Colorado has an exciting young core — names like Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, and Nathan MacKinnon punctuate a roster dotted with talent. Even so, three years of bad results will temper even the most promising of nucleuses.
The Anaheim Ducks, on the other hand, are overflowing with young talent, particularly on the back end. With the expansion draft fast approaching, general manager Bob Murray faces the prospect of the newly-dubbed Las Vegas Golden Knights cutting into his stable of blueliners at virtually no cost. The league’s construction of the expansion draft, forcing teams to protect either three defensemen or any combination of eight skaters, hasn’t made his life any easier.
At some point, Colorado general manager Joe Sakic will address his team’s lack of depth. With a plethora of good young forwards, the natural inclination would be to conclude that one of Landeskog, Duchene or MacKinnon are as good as gone by season’s end. The Avalanche’s torrid season has done nothing to abate that line of thinking.
The Ducks, meanwhile, are no closer to a solution for their impending expansion conundrum. With an aging core up front, the idea that Anaheim would seek to make a deal with Colorado makes too much sense. Both teams would address obvious needs, with the Ducks also avoiding the dreaded possibility of losing a really good player for nothing.
Who the players involved would be, however, is anyone’s guess.
Cam Fowler’s name has regularly come up in rumors, yet the Ducks seem extremely high on him at the moment given his strong early-season play.
Landeskog’s name has also swirled around, but it’s difficult to envision an old-school guy like Sakic parting ways with his rugged captain.
Anaheim remains $3 million over the cap and has to find a way to balance the books. That means they’d have to be offloading significant salary for any deal to move forward.
Both clubs have precisely opposite roster needs, and the same could be said for the way their seasons have gone. The Avalanche find themselves firmly in the Nolan Patrick sweepstakes, while the Ducks find themselves defending the top spot in the Pacific Division. As divergent as their paths may be, their future feels inexorably tied. Their meeting on Thursday night ought to be a look into that not-so-distant future.
Colorado Avalanche at Anaheim Ducks
Honda Center – 7:00 p.m. PST
TV Broadcast Channels: PT25, Altitude
Radio Broadcast Channels: AM 830, AM 950
Colorado Avalanche: 13-28-1, 42 points
Road Record: 8-12-0
Key Injuries: Erik Johnson, Semyon Varlamov
Mikko Rantanen – Nathan MacKinnon – Rene Bourque
Gabriel Landeskog – Matt Duchene – Matthew Nieto
Blake Comeau – Carl Soderberg – Jarome Iginla
Joe Colborne – John Mitchell – Mikhail Grigorenko
Fedor Tyutin – Tyson Barrie
Cody Goloubef – Nikita Zadorov
Francois Beauchemin – Eric Gelinas
Anaheim Ducks: 25-13-9, 59 points
Home Record: 15-5-3
Hot Players: Rickard Rakell, John Gibson
Key Injuries: Simon Despres (LTIR), Nate Thompson (LTIR), Clayton Stoner (upper body, 4-6 weeks)
Andrew Cogliano-Ryan Kesler-Jakob Silfverberg
Rickard Rakell-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry
Nick Ritchie-Antoine Vermette-Ondrej Kase
Joseph Cramarossa-Logan Shaw-Jared Boll
Cam Fowler-Sami Vatanen
Hampus Lindholm-Josh Manson
Korbinian Holzer-Kevin Bieksa
1) It’s been a long season for Matt Duchene, and Denver Post reporter Terry Frei neatly captured the human side of those struggles in his latest piece, which is absolutely worth your time.
2) As much as the trade rumors surrounding the Avalanche have centered around their young forwards, it may be a goaltender who gets moved first. As he tends to do in his ’30 Thoughts’ column, Elliotte Friedman dropped somewhat of a bombshell, reporting that the Avs are on the market for a goaltender.
3) The Ducks did get some love in Friedman’s column, albeit in a far less specific way than rumor mill enthusiasts might like. He confirmed Sportsnet’s Eric Engels’ report that the Montreal Canadiens have been in conversation with the Ducks, a report that goes back all the way to last summer’s draft. With Habs’ general manager Marc Bergevin recently expressing that he was on the market for a puck-moving defenseman, the voices linking Fowler to Montreal will only get louder.
Main takeaway from @KnucklesNilan30 convo with Bergevin on @TSN690MTL is that if he can add a top centre or young, puck-moving D,he will 1/2
— Eric Engels (@EricEngels) January 17, 2017
4) Things aren’t so bad for Anaheim up front. Yes, their core is aging, but they do have some interesting young forwards like Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie that are already making important contributions in a third line role. And then you have the 23-year old Rickard Rakell, who’s been nothing short of magical this season thanks to his 19 goals in 36 games. The Orange County Register’s Eric Stephens had a nice write-up on the Ducks’ breakout player.
Ducks forward Rickard Rakell is "definitely the guy that's going to take over this team one day." https://t.co/Bejm7l5fLN
— Eric Stephens (@icemancometh) January 19, 2017
Anaheim has been dominant in the month of January and coming off an emotional overtime win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday, their momentum feels palpable. Given their low-event, tight-checking game, however, it never feels as though they’re necessarily crushing teams. Even so, the Avalanche managed to get shut out by backup Jonathan Bernier in their last meeting, leaving one to wonder if Thursday night’s affair will be at all competitive.