Colorado Avalanche’s Stanley Cup comes after patient rebuild from GM Joe Sakic

Much of the Avalanche’s Stanley Cup championship revolves around how GM Joe Sakic “hung on to his guns” with a roster build that “took a little longer to get through but ended up pulling through,” according to THE ATHLETIC’s Pierre LeBrun . Sakic’s “patient rebuild,” finishing bottom in 16/17 with 48 points, was “not without its setbacks and frustration.” This 16/17 season was “tough for Sakic”. He said it “got to the point where he wondered why he was doing this GM thing.” Sakic said on January 21: “Are there any mornings when you get up and you’re like, ‘Oh my god, honestly?’ And in the back of your mind you’re also wondering if ownership could make that decision for me anyway and you wouldn’t blame them for where we were.” Being Avalanche GM was “never Sakic’s intention”. He was named the team’s senior adviser and assistant governor in March 2011, and there was “no indication that he ever seriously considered leading the team on a day-to-day basis.” But just over two years later, on May ’13, Sakic was named Exec Dir of Hockey Operations and took on “more of a day-to-day role at the helm of the organization,” and on September ’14 he was named GM (THEATHLETIC.com, 27.6).

SAKICS REWARDESPN’s Zuben Mehenti said Sakic was “the star of both” Avalanche teams as a player who won the Stanley Cup and now “built the third” championship team (SportsCenter, ESPN, 6/27). NHL Network’s Mike Johnson said Sakic was “rewarded for his patience” by sticking with his coach Jared Bednar through multiple losing seasons. Johnson said that when Sakic was named GM, “many people wondered if he would commit enough to take the time and invest the energy it takes to be a full-time GM” in the NHL (“NHL Tonight,” NHL Network, 6/26). In Denver, Kyle Fredrickson writes that Sakic “enhanced the team’s cup chances through clever trades and free decisions”. Newer signings like RW Valeri Nichushkin, LW Artturi Lehkonen, D. Devon Toews and goaltender Darcy Kuemper were “crucial to the team’s title push” (DENVER POST, 6/27).

REBUILD LESSONS: ABC’s Steve Levy said the Avalanche’s Stanley Cup win was a “good lesson for everyone in the league” because “you hear about these conversions.” The Avalanche “were dead bottom overall five years ago.” ABC’s Mark Messier: “It’s going back to ownership for me. You have ownership that thinks you hired the right people, you suffer setbacks, you grow together as a team, as individuals (and) you put building blocks there along the way.” Messier said, “That’s the prototypical path ‘ that an organization goes through to build a contender and believe ‘to the point where they eventually become Stanley Cup champions’. Levy noted that it was a “good run for the Kroenkes” after the Rams won the Super Bowl. ABC’s Ray Ferraro said Sakic “just assembled a fun, physical, fast-moving group” of players on the roster. ABC’s Chris Chelios said the “credit” goes to Sakic, a “good guy, an ex-player that players can look up to, when he talks, they listen and to surround themselves with such a great team” (“Avalanche Lightning,” ABC, 6/26).

DOMINANT SEASON: SPORTSNET’s Luke Fox wrote what a “blessing it is for the trajectory of the sport to see a pinching, rushing, controlling, relentless group of puck movers parading around the home ice with Lord Stanley’s Cup.” The ” The Avalanche’s aligned vision and diverse talent ‘queuer’ culminated in one of the ‘most dominant campaigns in history’. The team’s 72 wins in ’21-22 “tie a league record” (SPORTSNET.ca, 26.6).

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