Should the Colorado Avalanche bench the vets and call up the young prospects to finish the NHL season?
The argument goes like this: The Avs can’t make the playoffs and the current roster isn’t getting any better. Therefore, we should bench, scratch or demote the current NHL depth players and bring up prospects, mostly from the San Antonio Rampage, to see what they can do in the NHL and get them some experience.
The depth players that most arm-chair GMs are looking to replace are:
Soderberg, Comeau, Beauchemin, Mitchell, Colborne, Tyutin and Wiercioch.
Your lists may vary a bit, but this is the gist of it.
By the numbers, the Avs have iced one of the worst teams in the NHL, in the last 3 decades.
Here’s my take and, for the record, I haven’t always been on board with bringing the youth and prospects up from the AHL just yet. Just because the current NHL roster is tanking doesn’t mean that the NHL ice time would be a good thing for young prospects. Not unless you think getting smoked every night doesn’t have an effect on a young players confidence. While I still believe that bringing the youth up has some risk involved, I think the damage being done to the members of the Avs who will be sticking around for next season, might be worse. If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that confidence is indeed a game changer.
But, not calling the youth up now, might be a greater evil to the likes of Rantanen, Landy, Dutchy (if he stays), Picks, EJ, Barrie… the core, as it were.
So, with regards to the remainder of the season, I ask, to what end? A phrase often used by stoics of old and like most things stoic, a really good question if you dig down far enough. You could also use the 5 whys method to try and get to the bottom things. Both are powerful models to get to the core of things so long as you can find real answers. And, answers are indeed what I seek.
I want to know, in the context of the Colorado Avalanche, what now? To what end? What do they do with the remainder of this season? A season that is over.
Sadly the answer to those questions, from my perspective, in the later half of the 2016-2017 season has been to quit. Plain and simple, players are not showing up ready to play NHL caliber hockey and there is a distinct lack of heart on the team. With the exception of the waiver claims and the few AHL call-ups who have a hunger to stay, players are just not competing. Many of them know what comes next for them when the season ends – which is, absolutely nothing to do with the Colorado Avalanche. Either by their choosing or the Avs doing. I’d so far as to wager that for many if not all, it’s a mutual feeling.
So again I ask, to what end, Avs? What are you playing for now? What is left to prove? Is there any pride left in those beaten and bruised hearts? Does anyone even care at this point?
Do note that that was five questions aimed at getting to the heart of the problem, which sadly has not worked. So let’s revert back to the stoic philosophy and see if a different approach will yield better answers?
A stoic might ask, “what is in your control?”
Well, we know, that there is no getting into the playoffs this season, that is firmly out of everyone’s control and has been for a while now. But, the next game is still something that any Avs player can have a tangible impact on. And while it might seem highly improbable to think that one person’s effort could make a significant difference, to the point that it could win a game, it’s not that improbable at all. A real effort, with real heart, even in the face of losing and failure can spark the play of the people around you. But it’s not likely to come from those bruised and battered players we talked about earlier. They’re all too far gone. Humans are their worst enemies at times and we humans get in ruts. We keep doing the same thing, even when it fails every time. That is btw, the definition of insanity, as well. We simply can’t expect the effort of Matt Duchene to win the hearts of his teammates. Even when he gives the effort, he can’t get the others to follow suit, because they expect him to be a superstar.
But what they wouldn’t expect is that kind of heart and effort from a call-up. From an AHL player looking to make a case for breaking into the NHL and finding a forever home. The young players with a true hunger for hockey can win the hearts of the older guys to give it a late season push, not for the playoffs, but for pride and because it’s the right thing to do.
We’ve tanked as much as a team can tank, to get Nolan Patrick. We can now win games and reclaim whatever pride is left in the locker room. But, we need someone with the audacity to do it. Someone to take the ice with the intention of winning, and not just trying not to lose. We need a bold character who will go all out, even though they don’t have too. We need a player who isn’t trying to be too careful, to increase their chances of getting into training camp next year. It’s a big ask, really it is. Nobody wants to mess it all up now when they are so close to finally making it – maybe next year. So, it’s also on management to say, go for it, take chances, show us what you’ve got, beyond skill. Show us heart. Or as Beauchemin said in his practice squad speech, “show us that you care.”
It’s probably romantic to think that those conversations actually take place in a locker room, but if they don’t they should. How else can you explain so much talent, with so much failure? It’s not skill, it’s not ability, it’s mental. It is desire. It is hunger. It’s heart.
I say all of that, to say, That’s why the Avs should, at this point, embrace the youth movement. Start sitting vets, or anyone who isn’t bringing the love, and replace them with youthful hunger.
Last thought and credit where credit is due. Rene Bourque when health has been an older player who is playing with the heart and desire of a young AHL player trying to make the team. And, for good reason. He was out of the league and had to prove himself again, just like a young AHL player. True, he had a slump before getting concussed and eventually being out of the lineup. But, since returning the lineup with recharged batteries and a clear brain, he’s been the spark the Avs need. Honorable mentions to JT Compher, who has also brought some hunger, heart, and desire to the team.
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