Wild West: General Manager Ratings – Colorado
In part five of fifteen in our look at GM ratings in the West, next up is Hall of Famer Joe Sakic in Colorado. I've always been a fan of Sakic as he hails from Burnaby, BC like me and we played soccer against each other as kids (I like to think I helped his confidence in sport by letting Cliff Avenue trounce us each time we played). Enough about me and my contribution to his success, onward with a look at his time as a GM.
5: below average
7: above average
8: top ten
Bob Murray – Anaheim: 7.85
John Chayka – Arizona: 6.62
Brad Treliving – Calgary: 7.5
Stan Bowman – Chicago: 7.6
GM – Joe Sakic, hired September 19th, 2014
First category, winning:
Regular season record: 233 W 206 L 41 OTL 10 SOL: 0.521 Win %
Playoffs: The Avalanche missed the playoffs in their first three seasons with Sakic as GM and then made the playoffs in the two seasons before the current one. They were on pace to easily make it this year.
Best result: Second round playoff loss in 2018-19.
Sakic took over as GM after a season in 2013-14 that saw the Avalanche with 52 wins and 112 points, the most they'd had since 118 points and the Stanley Cup in 2000-01 when Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Patrick Roy, Rob Blake, Milan Hejduk, Adam Foote, Alex Tanguay, Chris Drury, and a 39-year-old Raymond Bourque were on the team.
Patrick Roy was technically the GM in 2013-14, but the club wanted him to focus on coaching more and this allowed Sakic to take over as GM the next year. Obviously, Roy was never on board with the arrangement completely as he resigned abruptly before the start of the 2016-17 season.
Sakic inherited a very talented, young nucleus that included Matt Duchene (22), Gabriel Landeskog (20), Ryan O'Reilly (22), Nathan Mackinnon (18), Paul Stastny (27), Erik Johnson (25), Tyson Barrie (22), and Semyon Varlamov (25). Expectations were very high for this team when Sakic came on board and the team has underperformed up until this current year. I would say that the team is one of the favorites to win this year if the season is completed.
Winning rating: 6.8 (trending up)
Sakic has drafted 36 players over five drafts, with six of the picks being in the first round and all six of those picks at 16th overall or higher.
In his first draft of 2015, the Avalanche picked Mikko Rantanen at 10th overall in the 1st round and he has arguably become a top-five pick from that draft, with Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Mitch Marner, Kyle Connor, Sebastion Aho, and perhaps Zach Werenski as the others in contention for that honor.
In 2016, they picked Tyson Jost at 10th overall, but the draft class was a little weaker than the prior year and the jury is still out on the 22-year-old Jost.
2017 saw Cale Makar taken with the 4th overall pick and he is probably the consensus rookie of the year this season. This was a very good pick as he, Miro Heiskanen, and Elias Pettersson are the three best from that draft class in my mind.
The team had three picks in the first rounds of 2018 and 2019, and picked Martin Kaut at 16th overall in 2018 and Bowen Byram at 4th overall and Alex Newhook at 16th overall in 2019. These three players are considered their best prospects.
Other prospects with potential high ceilings are Alex Beaucage (3rd round 78th overall pick in 2019), Conor Timmins (2nd round 32nd overall pick in 2017) and Justus Annunen (3rd round 64th overall pick in 2018).
Drafting score: 7.3
Trades made: 34
June 25th, 2015 – sent a 6th round 165th overall pick in 2016 (Oskar Steen) for Carl Soderberg – Basically Colorado acquired the rights to sign Soderberg who was becoming a UFA on July 1st, 2015. The Avalanche re-signed him to a five-year deal with a $4.75 million AAV.
June 26th, 2015 – sent Jamie McGinn and Ryan O'Reilly for Mikhail Grigorenko, Nikita Zadorov, J.T. Compher and a 2nd round 31st overall pick in 2015 (Jeremy Roy) – Colorado had bridged O'Reilly twice with two-year deals and suspected that they couldn't afford the deal he ended up getting in Buffalo. The trade doesn't look good for Sakic now, since Grigorenko and Zadorov are clearly not the players he thought they were getting. O'Reilly won the Conn Smythe last season with the Blues.
November 5th, 2017 – sent Matt Duchene for Andrew Hammond, Shane Bowers, Vladislav Kamenev, Samuel Girard, 1st round pick 4th overall in 2019 (Bowen Byram), 2nd round pick 58th overall in 2018 (Filip Hallander), and a 3rd round pick 63rd overall in 2019 (Matthew Stienburg) – Surprisingly, Samuel Girard is maybe the best player in this deal and Colorado has Bowen Byram as well. A probable steal.
February 26th, 2018 – sent Chris Bigras for Ryan Graves – Graves is having a very good season as the Avalanche's sixth defenseman and is a plus-40 while paired with Cale Makar more than anyone else (46.1 percent).
June 22nd, 2018 – sent a 2nd round 47th overall pick in 2018 (Kody Clark) for Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik – The key was Grubauer, who Colorado hoped might become their number one goalie. He has battled injuries but has played decently in Colorado. Still a good trade for Colorado as the Avs have him under contract until the end of 2021 at $3.33 million AAV. Orpik was acquired to be bought out so this cost the Avalanche some cash as well.
June 28th, 2019 – sent Scott Kosmachuk, a 2nd round (60th overall pick currently), and a 3rd round (72nd overall pick currently) for Andre Burakovsky. – Burakovsky is having a very good first season in Colorado with his ice time above 15 minutes per game and he has reached 20 goals and 25 assists. He had some very good linemates so his totals might come back down to earth a little next season. Still a good add by Sakic as Burakovsky is only 25-years old.
July 1st, 2019 – sent Tyson Barrie, Alexander Kerfoot, and a 6th round pick in 2020 (184th overall currently) for Nazem Kadri, Calle Rosen, and a 3rd round pick in 2020 (82nd overall currently) – Early faith in Cale Makar allowed Sakic the opportunity to get good value for impending UFA Barrie. The key to the deal's success is Kadri and having him signed till the end of 2022 at $4.5 million AAV. Kadri will need to stay healthy and disciplined, but is an important piece for Colorado.
Despite the return on the O'Reilly trade, Sakic has bounced back with the Duchene and Kadri deals as well as coming out marginally ahead in the other deals highlighted.
Trade score: 7.6
Sakic has made 113 signings, valued at over $497 million.
Since 2015, the Avalanche have bought out the last year of contracts for Brad Stuart, Francois Beauchemin and Brooks Orpik to the tune of $13.6 million in cap hit. Orpik being bought out was the price of his acquisition, but Stuart and Beauchemin were costly mistakes.
Just signing Nathan Mackinnon to a seven-year contract at $6.4 million AAV should give Sakic a perfect ten, but he has made some UFA splashes that haven't worked out.
Signing Mikko Rantanen for six years at a $9.25 million AAV is the most expensive contract to date for Sakic and has set the bar quite a bit higher in Colorado for the star players.
However, the team has plenty of cap space going into next season even with some RFAs to sign and should be in good shape to add some salary if needed. Gabriel Landeskog is the only core player in the short-term that will need to be addressed as he is set to become a UFA after 2020-21.
Signing Erik Johnson to a seven-year deal at $6 million AAV is overvalued as he has become an average top-six defenseman at 32 years old with three years remaining.
The Samuel Girard seven-year deal at $5 million AAV has the potential to be a very good value contract as he looks like a star in the making.
Sakic, to his credit, has avoided the July 1st free agent frenzy for the most part and has not given any player more than $4.5 million AAV.
Signings score: 8.5
Overall score 7.55
Through patience and continuing to build through the draft and some deft signings, the Avalanche are in a position to compete for the Stanley Cup for the next five or six years. I think Joe Sakic has proved he's among the best GMs in the West and is definitely trending up.
As always, thanks very much for reading and if you have any comments or suggestion please let me know below or follow me on Twitter @gampbler15.
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