Sakic’s late-season deals paying off as Avs lead series 2-0

Jun 3, 2022, 3:08 AM | Updated: 3:09 pm
FILE - Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic speaks with the media as he arrives for the fun...

FILE - Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic speaks with the media as he arrives for the funeral service for former Montreal Canadiens NHL hockey player Guy Lafleur, Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in Montreal. The goals by Artturi Lehkonen and Josh Manson in Game 2 against Edmonton on June 2, only illustrated the impactful deadline deals orchestrated by Sakic, who turned an already deep team into an even more lethal one. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

(Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

DENVER (AP) — The stat sheet won’t reflect this: Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic actually had a pair of assists on those two goals scored in a 15-second window.

The goal spurt by Artturi Lehkonen and Josh Manson in Game 2’s 4-0 win against Edmonton only illustrated the impactful trade deadline deals orchestrated by Sakic. So far in the postseason, five of the team’s 10 game-winning goals have been courtesy of their newest additions.

Sakic has steadily built this squad into a mirror image of the championship teams the Hall of Famer played on with Colorado — fast-flying forwards and dynamic defensemen who are capable of playing any style necessary. The Avalanche are up 2-0 on the Oilers in the Western Conference finals with the series heading to Edmonton for Game 3 on Saturday.

“One of the best in the business,” Edmonton front-office executive Ken Holland said of his GM counterpart before the series.

The Great One praised Sakic, too.

“If you look at Colorado’s organization, Joe Sakic’s done a really nice job of carefully building that team over the last four or five years,” Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky said. “He’s added, really, some nice pieces.”

Those late moves are coming through in all sorts of ways. Like Lehkonen, who was brought in from Montreal and has five goals in these playoffs. Or Manson, the defenseman acquired from Anaheim who scored the OT winner to open the St. Louis series. Or forward Andrew Cogliano, picked up in a deal with San Jose, who didn’t score over 18 games with Colorado in the regular season but has two goals — both of the game-winning variety — in the postseason.

Sakic had to mortgage a portion of the future for a chance to win now. But it’s all coming together as the Avs advanced to their first conference finals since his playing days in 2002.

“We feel that we addressed the needs that we needed to address,” Sakic said. “You can never have enough depth. Everybody’s contributing.”

Since stepping into his role in 2013, Sakic has worked with two head coaches (Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy and now Jared Bednar). He’s seen some lean years (a 48-point showing in ’16-17) and experienced some frustrations (three straight second-round playoff exits). But it’s led the Avalanche to this point — a chance at capturing their first Stanley Cup title since 2001.

Cogliano counts himself fortunate to be a late addition.

“Very special for me to be traded to a team like this, the caliber that we have and to come in and add something — be a piece of the puzzle,” Cogliano said.

On top of Sakic’s recent deadline deals, there have been his offseason maneuverings. He picked up forward Nazem Kadri in a 2019 trade with Toronto, and acquired defenseman Devon Toews as part of a deal with the New York Islanders in ’20. He also traded for goaltender Darcy Kuemper last summer.

Kadri had a three-assist performance in Game 2 against Edmonton and Toews has helped keep in check Oilers standouts Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Evander Kane. Kuemper picked up a career-best 37 wins in the regular season, but is dealing with an upper-body injury in this series, with Pavel Francouz filling in. Francouz recorded a 24-save shutout Thursday.

Then there’s Sakic’s draft picks: His first being star forward Nathan MacKinnon with the No. 1 pick in 2013, and later Mikko Rantanen (10th overall, 2015), along with defenseman Cale Makar (fourth overall, 2017).

Sakic has stayed true to his course, too, even after last season when the team earned the Presidents’ Trophy for the best record, only to lose to Vegas in the second round.

A step back that’s led to a big step forward.

“It’s such a fine-line league that you just have to stick with it,” Holland said. “That’s what Joe’s done.”

Sakic prefers to work outside the spotlight and go about his business of building a winner. His approach is similar to that of his mentor, the late Pierre Lacroix, who was the architect behind the two Avalanche Stanley Cup championships featuring Sakic.

Like those teams, this is an Avalanche squad not completely reliant on the top-line players. The offense can come from anywhere.

The blueline is deep, too, with Makar, Toews, Manson, Bowen Byram and veterans Erik Johnson and Jack Johnson (who was brought in on a professional tryout in October).

“Your best players still have to be your best if you want a chance to hoist the Stanley Cup,” Sakic said. “But you also need those (others) contributing and taking some of the pressure off of them.”


AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this report.


More AP NHL: and

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Field hockey players of a local club attend a training session, in Karachi, Pakistan, Sunday, Nov. ...
Associated Press

Sports pitch for level playing field in cricket-mad Pakistan

ISLAMABAD (AP) — On Islamabad’s outskirts, burly men bind together in a scrum on a rugby pitch that has seen better days. The sign bearing the club’s name is worn. The floodlights are too costly to use, given high electricity prices and the paltry $135 total that the club earns in membership fees every month. […]
1 day ago
NASCAR Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr. (19) poses for a photo with the championship trophy after...
Associated Press

Truex wins NASCAR’s sloppy return to Los Angeles Coliseum

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Martin Truex Jr. won NASCAR’s return to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for its season-opening exhibition race — a sloppy Sunday night extravaganza in which the Wiz Khalifa halftime show might have been the most entertaining part of the event. Truex took the lead with 25 laps to go in the […]
1 day ago
Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) reacts in the second half of an NBA basketball game against ...
Associated Press

Morant says friend banned from arena over Pacers dispute

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant tweeted Sunday that a friend of his has been banned from games at FedExForum for a year as a result of a confrontation between his supporters and members of the Indiana Pacers organization a week earlier. The NBA confirmed that unnamed individuals have been banned from […]
1 day ago
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (1) goes up for a dunk during the first half of an NBA...
Associated Press

Timberwolves cruise to 128-98 win against Jokic-less Nuggets

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — D’Angelo Russell had 14 of his 18 points in the first quarter and added 10 assists, Anthony Edwards scored 20 and the Minnesota Timberwolves cruised to a 128-98 win Sunday night against the Denver Nuggets, who were missing two-time MVP Nikola Jokic and three other starters on the second night of a […]
1 day ago
New Orleans Pelicans head coach Willie Green signals in the first half of an NBA basketball game ag...
Associated Press

Murphy scores season-high 30, Pelicans top Kings 136-104

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Trey Murphy III highlighted his season-high 30-point performance with six 3-pointers — a couple from well behind the arc — and the New Orleans Pelicans overcame the absence of several starters to beat the Sacramento Kings 136-104 on Sunday night. “Just got to keep shooting, no matter if you hitting or […]
1 day ago
Philadelphia 76ers guard Shake Milton (18) drives against New York Knicks guard Quentin Grimes (6) ...
Associated Press

Knicks rally from 21 points down, beat 76ers 108-97

NEW YORK (AP) — Julius Randle had 24 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, Jalen Brunson scored 21 points and the New York Knicks overcame an early 21-point deficit to beat the Philadelphia 76ers 108-97 on Sunday night. Evan Fournier came off the bench to add 17 points for the Knicks, who were playing a […]
1 day ago
Sakic’s late-season deals paying off as Avs lead series 2-0