At this point to the season, I think itís become clear what one remaining weakness of the Avalanche is, and one that needs to be addressed if it wants any shot at making and/or going deep into the playoffs: the power play.
Specifically, the Burgundy and Blue lack a point man with great PP quarterback abilities, one with a huge slap shot that makes the D back off and creates more garbage rebound goals for the forwards in front. The Avs currently have the 14th best PP in the league, at 18.4 percent. Not horrible, but not good enough, now is it?
The guy with the hardest slap shot on the Avs on D is probably Kyle Quincey, but lately he hasnít even been on the first PP team. Usually, itís been Kyle Cumiskey and John Liles, with Wojtek Wolski sometimes manning another point.
Cumiskey and Liles prefer to pass the puck instead of shoot it, and neither has a booming slapper that scares the opponent. Liles has been better of late, and Cumiskey has had something of a step-up year in his career development. But I just canít see either guy effectively leading the power play the way, say, a Sheldon Souray could.
This is why I think the Avs should make a serious pitch for Souray, the Edmonton veteran. Yes, I know Souray is having a bad year and has had some off-ice drama as well. I know heís 33 and a bit slow and doesnít make a great pass out of his own zone. But I do know he still has one of the most feared slap shots in the game, and he can really play a mean, physical game down low. The Avs could use another guy like that, too.
Souray has a no-trade deal and a cap hit at $5.4 million, with two more years left on a deal that will pay $4.5 million each yeear. Guess who also has two years left on his deal, with a cap hit of $4.1 million and $9.75 million due him over the next two years? That would be Liles.
Therefore, I submit that the Avs should offer Liles to the Oilers, straight up. The Avs would have the cap room to afford Sourayís contract, and they get what they most need at the moment. The Oilers get rid of a guy who wants out of Edmonton anyway, and get a younger D-man at a lesser cap hit. What, they canít sell that to their fans, a guy with some proven track who is still young and may blossom with a change of scenery? Yes, I realize that Liles has a limited no-trade contract (which was really foolish of the Avs to agree to), and Iím going to guess that Edmonton isnít on his list of allowable teams to be traded to. But I almost never pay attention to no-trade contracts for players. Because, if a team makes it known it doesnít want you anymore, but you veto any trade, you donít think life isnít going to be made miserable for that guy? Thatís why players usually waive the no-trade when a team comes to them. I mean, does Liles really want to become the next Tom Preissing around here?
Now, Edmonton probably just wants to unload Sourayís salary for a draft pick or two, without taking on a lot of salary in return. But in todayís NHL, such deals are so much harder to make, with the salary cap. Deals have to be much closer to a dollars-for-dollars proposition than they used to be.
We all know that Liles was a healthy scratch a couple games late last month. It just seems that the Avs have lost a little patience with him. Maybe a change of scenery is what would be best for his career right now. Heís a stand-up guy, a real character guy. But this is a business.
If Liles isnít good enough for the Oilers, maybe I throw in a draft pick, but nothing better than a third-rounder. Letís face it, there are risks in taking on a Souray, and his market value is such that nobody should overpay. But I think heíd work out well here. Besides, the Avs have two young offensive D-men on the way, who could be playing here as early as next year: Boston Universityís Kevin Shattenkirk and Colby Cohen. They also have Stefan Elliott, the Ď09 second-round pick, in junior who is having a Norris Trophy type season in the WHL. They effectively replace a guy like Liles in a couple years anyway, and maybe Souray rejuvenates his career here in the meantime.
Think about it, Avs and Oilers. My phone is on for further consultation