Joe Sakic named Avs GM, sad ballad of Greg Sherman continues

(Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports)
(Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports)

Greg Sherman began the summer as the Avalanche’s general manager-in-name-only, as Joe Sakic ran the player personnel show along with coach/VP of hockey operations/egoist Patrick Roy.

The man who used to pull the trigger on trades was demoted, internally, to being their capologist.

Now, Sherman and his red Swingline stapler have been moved all the way to the basement of Innitech. Quietly, the Avalanche added “general manager” to the job title of Sakic and added the word “assistant” to that of Sherman.

It’s a formality, of course, as Sakic has been running the show since his triumphant return to the team in May 2013 to, as the Avalanche say, “oversee all hockey-related decisions.”

But as Colorado enters this season as a defending division champion with a 112-point season in Roy’s maiden voyage, Sherman’s demotion begs the question:

How much credit should the former general manager get for this success?

Adrian Dater took the contrarian route this summer (you know, for once) and defended Sherman’s biggest, boldest moves:

* The July 2011 trade of a first-round pick and a conditional second-round pick to the Washington Capitals for Semyon Varlamov remains a contentious move. Yes, Varlamov entered elite status last season, but would that ever happened without Roy and Francois Allaire coming aboard under Sakic?

(Then there’s the continued debate over whether the Avalanche could have just offer-sheeted Varlamov and avoided losing the first-round pick.)

* Also in 2011, Sherman made that infamous trade with the St. Louis Blues, sending Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart to St. Louis for Erik Johnson and Jay McClement. It was panned by many, including Paul Stastny’s father. You know, newly signed St. Louis Blue Paul Stastny …

Johnson had a strong season under Roy, but the Avalanche could certainly use Shattenkirk’s puck-moving and offensive spark on their still too-sparse blueline.

He made some other smaller moves, some of which were chronicled here. As usual, it’s a mix of missteps, small victories and bad luck – see Peter Mueller’s concussions, for example. 

Looking back, Sherman deserves credit for using his trigger finger as often as he did, understanding the financial constraints that were placed on the team during its “transition” years.

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But transition years live or die on the strength of good drafting: While his first draft in 2009 produced NHLers Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly, Stefan Elliott and Tyson Barrie, his subsequent drafts produced slam-dunks in Nathan MacKinnon and Gabe Landeskog and not much else yet.

Sherman’s been with the Avalanche organization for 13 years, and has worked for the Kroenkes for 19 years. He’s obviously a good company man. He wasn’t a good general manager, and no, it’s not a coincidence that the Avalanche turned the corner with the Sakic/Roy duo in place.

Some teams win with the remnants of a previous regime, and Sherman put some pieces in place in Denver. But if you want to give Sherman credit for the current incarnation of the Avalanche, then credit him for building teams that earned first and second overall picks to obtain franchise cornerstones, and teams that were underwhelming enough to necessitate the Joe Sakic takeover.

Hopefully this is the last descent down the Avalanche mountain for Sherman. Well, until Roy decided he wants to be an alternate governor, too.