An Intriguing Approach
There are eight teams still competing for the Stanley Cup, and precisely none of them operate on the model now being proposed by the new-look Colorado Avalanche.
Then again, it's hard to explain precisely what the Colorado model is, or how it will work.
What we do know is that of the remaining eight, none are run by Hall of Fame centremen with no previous experience or coached by Vezina Trophy winning goalies straight out of junior hockey with expanded powers beyond just minding the bench.
And the eight other NHL clubs that qualified for post-season play before being eliminated in the first round? Nope, they aren't using the buddy system the Avs are going with, the we-won-championships-together-so-we-must-know-how-to-run-a-team approach.
That's not to say, one supposes, it all won't work brilliantly in Denver with Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy (nobody mentions GM Greg Sherman any more, so why bother?).
This notion that Sakic and Roy were great players so they will be a great executive/coach tandem is certainly exciting.
It has little or no basis is reality or modern NHL history, but it's exciting. Given that a team that was once both a perennial contender and a strong draw in its hometown is now neither, the excitement part is undoubtedly important. Tickets must be solid, merchandise must be peddled.
Certainly, Roy's junior resume stands for something. Just not very much. Coaches don't come right out of the junior ranks and win Stanley Cups, and the fact Roy was owner and GM of the Quebec Remparts doesn't change that. Brent Sutter, with a better junior resume than Roy, couldn't cut it in the NHL. Peter DeBoer had to gain NHL experience in Florida before it clicked in New Jersey.
That Sakic and Roy have also agreed to fuzzify the lines of authority - again, Sherman's in there somewhere - decreases the potential of this actually working.
The best thing that can be said is that Sakic and Roy aren't starting from zero. They have Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly (albeit on a lousy contract), plus they've invested heavily in defenceman Erik Johnson, the first overall pick of the 2006 that cost them Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart in a deal with the Blues.
As well, Sakic and Roy have the first pick in next month's entry draft. If they're smart they'll either a) grab Nathan MacKinnon and run or b) trade down for multiple picks and prospects.
Sure, they can also take Seth Jones, who looks poised to enjoy a 15-year NHL career. He's tall, he's a great skater, he's very skilled and he plays without an edge.
He sounds like the aforementioned Johnson. Or Victor Hedman. Which isn't bad, but isn't great, or as great as the Avs need it to be.
The two reasons cited most often behind the thinking that Colorado will take Jones - he's a defenceman, which they need, and he grew up in Denver - are both relatively immaterial if the objective is to make the best hockey decision.
First, you draft the best player, not for position. That's Hockey 101. Second, who cares where he grew up?
This is a huge decision, and right now, it's hard to say who will be making it in Denver. Surely not Sherman. But Roy's job description comes with a say in hockey ops. Sakic hardly seems like the "I'm in charge here" kind of guy.
Throw in the influence of Pierre Lacroix, and you have something roughly similar to what the Leafs tried to run with when it was the four-headed monster Ken Dryden, Mike Smith, Anders Hedberg and Bill Watters.
Exciting, yes. And we'll stop there.