AVALANCHE

Joe Sakic is one win away from surpassing John Elway’s achievements

Jun 24, 2022, 6:33 AM
Joe Sakic...
(Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Joe Sakic is one win away from becoming a three-time Stanley Cup champion. Sakic has two as a player and this year (if the Avs win) will be his first as an executive.

One more win in the series with the Lightning and Sakic will sit next to John Elway atop the list of Colorado Sports icons. Sakic and Elway have both had success as executives, but there is one area where Sakic has outperformed Elway.

While there are parallels in their front office careers, Sakic and Elway are separate in one way. Sakic is a more resilient executive than Elway.

As players, Elway and Sakic each brought Colorado sports two championships. As a member of the front office, Elway has had more to celebrate.

Elway was able to bring the Broncos back to glory with a win in Super Bowl 50. Now just one win away, Sakic is primed to match Elway’s trophy count.

Both Sakic and Elway used high draft picks to bring in cornerstone players in Von Miller and Nathan MacKinnon. They made tough calls to move on from head coaches John Fox and Patrick Roy after both had initial success. Eventually, they led their teams back to the top of their sports competing for Stanley Cups and Super Bowls.

However, their paths do differ in the timing of their achievements. Elway’s success as an executive was much more immediate than Sakic’s.

Elway returned to the Broncos in 2011 as an executive. Elway’s first five years yielded five straight AFC West championships, signing Peyton Manning, two Super Bowl appearances and a Super Bowl championship. After that initial success, the Broncos went through a terrible stretch from 2016-20, however. Elway struggled to rebuild the Broncos and stepped down from his role as general manager following the 2020 season.

Sakic’s front office success was much more gradual. Initially, Sakic was brought in an advisory role prior to the 2011-12 season. After two years he was elevated to executive vice president of hockey operations, giving him final say on all hockey-related matters. In this role, Sakic drafted MacKinnon No. 1 overall (even though many felt he should draft Seth Jones) and hired Patrick Roy as head coach. These moves paid off, as the Avalanche returned to the postseason in 2013-14 ending a three-year playoff drought.

The Avalanche were upset by the Wild in the first round of the playoffs in 2014, but it appeared they were on the rise in the NHL. To the disappointment of Avalanche fans, this was not the case, however, as the Avalanche would miss the playoffs the following three seasons.

Eventually Sakic parted ways with Roy and hired Jared Bednar as head coach. The hire worked, as Bednar has led the Avalanche to the playoffs in five out of his six seasons as head coach.

At times, it was shaky under Sakic. Many fans felt the Avalanche were underachieving. The team moved on from stars Paul Stastny, Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly, without having much team success with any of them.

Just when It felt like it couldn’t get worse, the Avalanche started to turn it around. They pulled off an upset in the first round of the 2018-19 playoffs defeating the top-seeded Calgary Flames. Since then, the Avalanche have emerged as one of the most-talented teams in the NHL.

What at times seemed hopeless has become one of the most exciting runs for Colorado sports fans.

After collapsing last season in round two of the playoffs to the Vegas Golden Knights, the Avalanche did not fold heading into 2021-22 and are now playing in the Stanley Cup Final. This is similar to the Broncos bouncing back in 2013 and 2015 after embarrassing playoff exits in 2012 and 2014.

Both Sakic and Elway were able to have talented roster rebound from postseason heartbreak, but Elway was unable to rebuild a winner and that is where Sakic excelled. While having overwhelming success in the first half of his run in the front office, Elway faltered in his latter years.

That’s where Sakic and Elway two differ. Sakic didn’t get desperate during the tough seasons that followed the 2014 playoffs. More impressively, Sakic was able to rebuild under the NHL’s strict salary cap rules. Conversely, as the Broncos declined, Elway seemed to get more reckless and “in the moment” with personnel decisions.

Without John Elway and Joe Sakic, Colorado would have exactly zero championships in professional sports. The fans of Colorado are fortunate to have these two icons.

If the Avs hoist the Cup, we’ll have six total championships in Denver. They will all be tied to these two people.

While both have been effective as players and executives, it is Sakic’s ability to recover from the tough times that makes him the better of the two in the front office.

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Joe Sakic is one win away from surpassing John Elway’s achievements