Avs and the Presidents Trophy, the Broncos draft and a trade with Arenado Bryant
Hit a: The good news? It doesn’t look like the Colorado Avalanche will win their second consecutive President’s Cup for finishing with the most points in the NHL in the regular season. Everyone knows that winning this prize is pretty much a guarantee that you won’t win the prize that matters, the Lord Stanley Cup. So there is this.
The bad news is that the Avs — who looked like a juggernaut a few weeks ago and were running away with the points in the lead — have now lost four straight games for the first time in more than two calendar years. They seem to have lost their mojo. (Meanwhile, the hot-blooded Florida Panthers have passed Colorado for that points lead and the curse that comes with it.)
It’s been a long and grueling season for the talented Avalanche, and it’s understandable that he gets caught in the run up to the playoffs. But it really is a bad time to fall into a crisis of any kind. Perhaps the worst time, in fact.
Despite a stellar performance by goaltender Darcy Kemper (with some bad luck), Colorado’s fourth straight regulation loss came at the hands of the lowly Winnipeg Jets, when the tired and flat Avs left a 1- 0 in the third period turn into a 4 -1 setback. Losses in this four-game series also include a loss to expansion Seattle Kraken.
Momentum is a real and powerful thing. Right now, this Avs team doesn’t have one.
There are three games left on the schedule, including two at home. This would be the perfect time to put the switch back in the “on” position. Can they? They would do better.
No matter who the Avs meet in the first round of the playoffs — which is expected to begin a week from Monday — they’ll have a fight to fight. If the playoffs started now, the opponent would be the Dallas Stars, who have won two of the teams’ three meetings this season. The number eight seeds have knocked out the top seeds many times, including in 2017 when the eighth-seeded Nashville Predators swept the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks.
This. Could. Arrive.
The best way for something bad not to happen, and for this Colorado team to complete its mission and win the franchise’s third Stanley Cup (and the first in more than two decades) would be to make the playoffs. playoffs on some sort of hot streak, playing their best hockey, not their worst. Maybe they can gain momentum by winning the first round? It’s not a lock, but it hasn’t really been a problem for the Avs in recent years. They swept St. Louis last season. But whatever momentum they had after that, it didn’t last. What followed was a heartbreaking setback in Las Vegas, which happened after Colorado took a 2-0 series lead.
Lesson learned? We are about to find out. This is a team that is time now. There should be no more excuses.
Now may not be the time to panic, but the calendar says it’s time to worry.
Strike two: The Denver Broncos’ first selection in the upcoming NFL Draft will be in the second round (No. 64 overall, but you already knew that.) It’s a round with a mixed story here.
There was a time when this number two selection seemed bewitched. Names like Dwight Harrison, Kurt Knoff, William Gay and Andre Townsend don’t move the needle. Names like Shane Dronett, Allen Aldridge, Ian Gold and Tony Scheffler bring smiles and “Oh, I remember him”. They didn’t know the difference.
Mention the names of Tim Crowder, Rahim Moore, Eddie Royal and Robert Ayars, and Bronco fans are likely to shake their heads and be disappointed, even though these players have had great careers overall. Mention Brock Osweiler (2012) and you’ll probably get a blank stare. Mention Montee Ball (2013) and the word “bust” will almost come out of many mouths at once.
There were also big busts like Charles Smith, Clay Brown, Orlando McDaniel and Paul Toviessi (perhaps the biggest Broncos draft bust of all time).
Over the years, standout players like Barney Chavous, Rob Lytle, Vance Johnson and Clinton Portis have all been selected in the second round. So there are solid players like Gerald Perry, Mark Cooper, Doug Widell and Glyn Milburn. Tatum Bell was a good second-round pick. Zane Beadles too.
The late Darrent Williams, victim of a tragic shooting on New Year’s Eve 2006, was the second-round pick in 2005. Most believe he was destined for stardom as a defensive back, but we won’t know. never.
The Broncos’ recent history with second-round picks is pretty damn good, all things considered. Courtland Sutton (2018), Dalton Risner (2019), KJ Hamler (2020) and Javonte Williams (2021) all currently wear predominantly orange and are major contributors. This says a lot about the preliminary assessment process. Drew Lock was also a 2019 second-round pick of course, and he helped bring Russell Wilson to town. After spending four seasons in Denver, 2017 second-round pick DeMarcus Walker was a member of the Houston Texans last season and is now a free agent. Adam Gotsis also spent four seasons in Denver, and the last two in Jacksonville. Former CSU Ram Ty Sambrailo (2015) found his footing in Atlanta after spending two seasons as a Bronco (and the last two in Tennessee).
No other Broncos second-round picks remain active in the NFL.
Surprisingly, even though there are 34 members of the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame, none of them were chosen in the second round.
Players like Sutton and Javonte Williams hope to change that in the future. To do this, the team’s fortunes on the pitch need to improve a lot. Another solid second-round pick this year could help further that cause.
Strike three: The trade that sent Nolan Arenado to the St. Louis Cardinals will never be considered anything short of a disaster by anyone anywhere. Southpaw Austin Gomber could win 20 games and the Cy Young and Colorado Rockies still haven’t gotten enough of a return for the future Hall of Famer. That’s not even mentioning the $50 million cash advance sent to St. Louis with those eight golden gloves.
It was a terrible job, period. But in the end, there’s a weird symmetry here. Things can unfold to the satisfaction of everyone involved.
In 2013, the Rockies hoped to sign a young infielder from Las Vegas through the University of San Diego named Kris Bryant. Colorado had the third selection in the draft, and the projections had Bryant as the pick. But the Chicago Cubs – owners of the No. 2 pick – surprised everyone by nabbing Bryant. The Rockies went with Plan B, pitcher Jon Gray.
The Rockies drafted Arenado out of high school in 2009, but it was that same 2013 season that he made his big league debut and won the first in his collection of gold gloves. Bryant made his debut for the Cubs in 2015. The two played in the same position for the next several seasons (although Cubs manager Joe Maddon began moving Bryant on the field in 2019 when he recorded the percentage of lowest fielder among NL third baseman) and were considered rivals for “the best third baseman in MLB” at the time.
While Arenado collected Gold Gloves and Home Run titles in the National League, Bryant won the NL MVP award and a World Series ring in 2016.
Imagine if the two had been members of the Rockies? Almost arrived.
That’s clearly what Rockies owner Dick Monfort wanted. He coveted Bryant so much that as soon as it was mentioned that Arenado wanted to leave town, the only trade Monfort was going to agree to was a straight deal between Bryant and Nolan with the Cubs. But Chicago didn’t cooperate (maybe Arenado’s mega-deal scared them off?) and the decision that would have made sense never happened.
Instead, Nolan was traded to the Cubs’ arch-rival Cardinals before last season, and Bryant — in the final year of his contract — was sent to San Francisco before the trade deadline. He was in the last year of his contract.
Heading into 2022, the Cubs opted to start a rebuild with younger, cheaper prospects (and so far, so good on that score) while Monfort and the Rockies were finally able to bring in their man in the free agent market after clearing (most of) Nolan and Trevor Story’s salary is off the books.
So things seem to be working for everyone involved. Arenado got off to a flying start in St. Louis and is an early contender for NL Most Valuable Player this season. The Cubs are doing well with their new core of youngsters, and the Bryant era in Colorado is also well underway. In this case, the trade that didn’t happen still makes a lot more sense than the one that did.