Kiszla: Team meeting? Check. Rousing 7-1 victory? Check. Next on Avs’ agenda: Trade for Rangers center Kevin Hayes. – The Denver Post
Only the most desperate of hockey teams are desperate enough to hold a team meeting. Behind closed doors, Avalanche players aired out the stink of the past six weeks, then went out and humpty-dumptied the Los Angeles Kings 7-1.
But you want to know about that meeting? It was to count blessings, as much as air grievances. The Avalanche understands this team probably deserves to be buried in the Western Conference standings. But some how, some way, Colorado wakes up with 34 regular-season game remaining, firmly in the playoff race. How lucky should the Avs feel about that?
“Count your blessings and roll up your sleeves and get to work and take advantage of it,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said Saturday.
So let’s broach a tough subject, and do it in the warm afterglow of a trouncing of the Kings, instead of in the middle of the recent dark and stormy trip through Canada, during which the team’s playoff aspirations threatened to disappear in a snow bank.
The Avalanche, lacking a little in both grit and talent, needs to make a deal. Get busy, Joe Sakic. How bad do you really want this team to make the playoffs?
With the NHL trade deadline looming next month, New York Rangers center Kevin Hayes sits atop the wish list of every playoff contender that’s shopping for scoring.
Let’s see if Sakic can be the general manager to get the deal for Hayes done. Yes, it can happen without mortgaging the team’s future. And, yes, it needs to happen, because the continued growth of Colorado’s young core requires the experience that only playoff hockey can provide.
“We had a big meeting (Friday). We talked about a lot of things and we kind of aired some things out. We talked about a reset and starting fresh,” Avs captain Gabe Landeskog said. “You look in the standings, and in my opinion, it’s a miracle that we’re still where we’re at. We’re fortunate to still be in a playoff spot. So we’ve got to chalk it up to a bad stretch of hockey and kind of move on.”
When fourth-liner Sheldon Dries put an exclamation point on a six-goal explosion during the second period by swatting a puck out of mid-air, maybe secondary scoring was not among the primary concerns for 18,043 spectators raising the roof of the Pepsi Center. Beer tastes better with biscuits by the half dozen in the basket.
While two seats in the arena were reserved for Rangers scouts, did anyone see Tyson Jost in the building? The recent banishment to the minor leagues of a young Colorado center who has lost his mojo was a not-so-subtle reminder how the lack of offensive depth poses a grave danger to the three-headed monster of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Landeskog.
“We all want to see that hunger back in our game,” Landeskog said. “We want to see that urgency and that fight and that sandpaper we need to play with to be tough to beat.”
Hayes, who has produced 10 goals and 23 assists for the Rangers, doesn’t have the talent to change the course of hockey history. But he might bring the sandpaper grit Colorado so desperately needs. A solid two-way player, the 26-year-old native of Dorchester, Mass., also gets down and dirty on the penalty kill. At 6-foot-5 and 216 pounds, Hayes is a good dude to have on your side when the postseason intensity amps up.
Sound like Sakic’s kind of player to you?
The Avalanche isn’t about to trade its lottery ticket in the Jack Hughes draft sweepstakes for Hayes or any other NHL veteran available in trade. But, if so inclined, Sakic could offer a top draft choice to the Rangers without surrendering the first-round pick he obtained from Ottawa in the Matt Duchene deal.
Yes, Hayes only makes sense if Colorado wants to sign him to a long-term contract as part of the team’s maturation process toward Stanley Cup contention in the years ahead. The more crucial question in my mind: Would Colorado also need to surrender a top defensive prospect to acquire Hayes, and is he worth the possible heartburn Sakic might suffer by seeing Conor Timmins blossom at the blue line for another NHL organization?
Despite their growing pains, these Avs could still make noise in the playoffs. But, first, there’s the little business of qualifying for the playoffs. This team could use some more manpower. Let’s make a deal.
Hey, Joe: Roll up your sleeves. Get to work.