The Colorado Avalanche are a tire fire.
How bad are they? They allowed the Canucks to get a win on the road on Wednesday night. It was Vancouver’s sixth win in 23 road games this season.
How bad are they? They’re the worst team in the NHL. By a lot. Their 13-31-2 record puts them eight points behind the Arizona Coyotes, who are second worst in the NHL standings.
How bad are they? They’re on pace for 50 points this season. That’s 19 points fewer than the worst team in the NHL had last season. That’s worse than any team had when half the league was tanking for Connor McDavid.
In fact, 50 points would be the lowest point total amassed by any NHL team in a non-lockout shortened season since the expansion Atlanta Thrashers in 1999-2000.
The Avs are bad, and they’ve been bad for a while. At season’s end, they’ll have missed the playoffs in six of the last seven seasons. Eventually, teams like Colorado have to do something. And Matt Duchene knows it.
“I’m open to [being traded],” Duchene told the Denver Post on Wednesday. “When I say open to it, I know it’s part of the business, and it’s something that might happen. I’m not hiding from it. I’m not running away. I’m not banging my head. I understand it’s part of what we deal with as pro athletes.”
That’s not exactly a ‘I’m going down with the ship’ kind of quote.
Want another one?
“I’m a member of the Avalanche today,” he said. “Who knows what tomorrow holds?”
Let’s start the bidding…
Desperate teams like the Avs need to make a move. Often, without leverage, they make the wrong move.
Take the Edmonton Oilers, for example.
The Oilers were desperate for goaltending help in January of 2014. Eventually they gave up on Devan Dubnyk, a first round pick of theirs that they had been so patient with previously.
In return, they got fourth liner Matt Hendricks. One year later Dubnyk became a bonafide #1 goalie in the Vezina Trophy conversation.
In place of Dubnyk, Edmonton played Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth in their net.
This past offseason, eventually enough was enough, and the Oilers bit the bullet and traded star winger Taylor Hall for defenceman Adam Larsson, who ranks just fourth in ice time among d-men on his new team this season.
All this is to say that the Avalanche could be ripe for the picking.
Duchene, the third pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, turned 26 this month. He’s no longer a prospect, but he’s still got a lot of prime years left in him.
The young centre has 29 points (15-14-29) in 41 games this season, ranking second on Colorado. But if you’ve followed Duchene’s career, you know he’s capable of so much more.
That’s something that hasn’t been lost on Hockey Canada, who picked him for the 2014 Olympics as well as the 2016 World Cup.
Duchene’s career-year came in 2013-14 when he put up 70 points in 71 games. In his career, he has 406 points in 536 games.
He’s a legitimate #1 centre with speed and talent. If that sounds like exactly what the Canucks need, it’s because it is.
Duchene and Bo Horvat would provide the Canucks with the kind of one-two punch up the middle that you could win a Stanley Cup with in the future. If Thatcher Demko and Olli Juolevi develop into stars at their position, they could have the building blocks this franchise needs.
So what would it take to get the young centre? A lot.
There won’t be a shortage of teams interested in Duchene. He has two years left on his contract after this season at a reasonable cap hit of $6 million.
Vancouver, though, appears to have exactly what Colorado needs.
The Avalanche have a load of young talent up front. Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog are two players that make the idea of losing Duchene seem less daunting.
What the Avs need, are defencemen.
And guess who has a glut of defencemen to offer!
If the Avs want an established defenceman with youth on his side, the Canucks have 27-year-old Chris Tanev. If they want someone with more youth, aggressiveness, and leadership to his game, say hello to 25-year-old Erik Gudbranson.
Smooth skating, big smiling Ben Hutton is 24.
Nikita Tyamkin and Troy Stecher both have a lot to offer, and they’re just 22.
The sky is the limit for Olli Juolevi, and he’s just 18.
Depending on Colorado’s preference, you have to think one of these defencemen could wet their appetite in a potential Duchene trade. None of them will get a deal done on their own, of course, and that’s where it gets interesting for GM Jim Benning.
Would Tanev plus a first round pick (potentially a mid-round pick in not a deep draft) be enough to make their ears perk up? If the answer is yes, you have to think about pulling the trigger.
The Canucks are a team in transition, who shouldn’t unload picks with great frequency. But with a player like Duchene, you need to make an exception. First line centres don’t get traded very often, especially 26-year-old centres with resumes like Duchene’s.
If the Avs are ready to move him, the Canucks should come calling.