After a season-long struggle, will Avalanche look to wheel and deal before trade deadline?
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Gabriel Landeskog has generally been the Colorado Avalanche’s poster boy since Sept. 4, 2012, when he was named the NHL’s then-youngest-ever captain after winning the Calder Trophy as the league’s Rookie of the Year.
He was 19 at the time, but certainly mature beyond his years. Today, at 24, Landeskog is trying to lead the NHL’s worst team while trying to avoid the significant trade rumors that has his name at the top of the list. Colorado general manager Joe Sakic told the Denver Post that everyone not named Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen or Tyson Jost could be moved, and a complete rebuild would almost certainly include new leadership.
But for now, Landeskog said he will continue to try to lead the Avs into a healthy direction and possibly avoid a major overhaul.
“It’s the best job in the world; it’s not hard at all (to come to the rink),” Landeskog said. “But obviously, it’s a business built off results and if you’re not getting results, you’re not doing your job right. We’re excited to come to the rink every day because you have to. If you’re not excited to come to the rink, it’s hard to get better. It’s like any job, you go through tough times, but have to fight your way through it.”
Landeskog is a left wing and considered a marketable power forward, a valuable NHL commodity. He’s in his prime, and moving him could fetch a prized young defenseman prospect and more – such as a high pick in the 2017 NHL Draft.
“Whether my name is floating around or not, I’m still approaching the game the same way,” Landeskog said. “And that is to spread energy, be a good teammate, work hard and try to get better every day. Me being in trade rumors, that’s nothing I can control.”
He also repeated something he has said many times of late: “I want to be an Avalanche, to stay an Avalanche and be in Denver for a long, long time.”
Landeskog is signed through 2020-21, with a $5.57 million annual cap hit. If he is traded, Landeskog will be missed by his teammates.
“He’s a great captain,” Avs goalie Calvin Pickard said. “I’ve been here for parts of three years now, and he’s awesome. He’s always happy, positive with everyone and he goes out and leads by example. That’s been no different this year.”
Said Landeskog: “I take a lot of pride in what I do and the way I lead this team. Obviously, you look at the results and it’s not nearly good enough. I understand management has to do what they have to do, but I’m coming to work trying to do my job to the best of my abilities. At this point, it’s all you can do.”
Losing breeds friction between teammates and Landeskog couldn’t prevent MacKinnon from chastising a teammate during a 3-2 loss to Nashville at the Pepsi Center on Jan. 14. Reacting, first-year Avs coach Jared Bednar appeared to bark at MacKinnon and then benched him for three or four shifts in the second period.
Bednar didn’t go into details of the exchange, but said “our culture is very important, to act and communicate the right way.”
“It’s important to me, whether we’re 20 games above .500 or 20 games below. The way we come to practice to compete against each other, what comes out of our mouths, how we address each other and how we’re going to dig in and fight for one another in games and being good teammates. You have to have that in order to win.”
Landeskog echoed those points.
“We all know what the standings look like at this point, but we just have to focus on the way we play and how we prepare ourselves and the way we try to change the culture in this room,” he said.
Photo/Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images
— Mike Chambers