I chatted with Mile High Hockey’s Ethan Fisher ahead of tonight’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. You can see my answers here and his answer’s to my questions below.
1) The Avalanche claimed Matt Nieto on waivers a little more than a week ago. How's the Long Beach native fitting in?
Ethan: Nieto has already become one of the Avalanche's best forwards. A lot of that comes from the fact Colorado just has absolutely no forward depth, but Nieto has been a welcomed addition. He got his first goal in burgundy and blue on Tuesday night against Chicago. Prior to that, he was a much needed fresh breath of competency and skill. Behind MacKinnon, Duchene, Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen, I think you could make the case Nieto is the fifth best forward Colorado has at the moment.
2) I saw the Avalanche play the Flames in person about a month ago and ... this seems like a Colorado team in serious need of a rebuild. What's the sentiment around the fanbase right now?
Ethan: Avs fans are as angry as I've ever seen them. Read the comments to losing Facebook posts and tweets. The team just gets ripped to shreds. There's lots of differing opinions on where the team's at. My opinion, along with most MHH commenters, reasonably sane Avs fans, and most importantly GM Joe Sakic is as follows: MacKinnon, Rantanen, and Nikita Zadorov are pretty much untouchable. The team will build around them going forward. Ideally, you keep Duchene and Landeskog UNLESS Sakic receives an offer that's too good to be true. From the Sharks for instance, if you wanted Landeskog, in return we would ask for a first round draft pick this summer and Timo Meier.
Matt and Gabe have been good to this team and quite loyal. We'd like for them to stay and be a part of a successful team in Denver going forward. But ultimately, with or without them, we're hoping for someone like Nolan Patrick to join the club, unload dead weight players like Iginla, Beauchemin, and a couple others, bring up guys like AJ Greer and JT Compher from San Antonio, get young, and see what that brings us in 17-18.
3) What do you consider the true core of the Avalanche right now?
Ethan: I suppose I kind of gave this away in the previous question, but MacKinnon is undoubtedly the one core player. He's super young and unbelievably talented. Rantanen has shown very promising flashes all season and is probably the team's smartest player, and yet this is first full season in the NHL. I don't know if that says more about him or how bad every other player seems to be, but that's where we're at. Zadorov has been our best piece of the package in the Ryan O'Reilly deal. Dude is a freaking truck, has some qualities of a first pair defenseman, and hopefully becomes a true Top 2 d-man in a year or two. It's weird to keep Duchene and Landeskog out of this right now, but ultimately I just have to see what happens or doesn't happen at the trade deadline. If they stick around, hell yeah they're part of the core! It's just hard to label them right now.