Welcome to the final installment of "The Hatred" trilogy of blogs. In this part I'll cover signings he made his last three years, and answer the question at hand.
No notable UFA signings
Lacroix was never known for his big UFA splashes, and the 2002 offseason is representative of that. A healthy Forsberg for 2003 would be like adding a new player to the team - as it turns out, the best player in the NHL.
Signed UFA's Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne
The signing off these two superstars are the only blockbuster signings in Lacroix's entire tenure as GM. Unfortunately for all of us, they backfired due to injuries. Still, the team was awesome the first 30 games. The first game of the season, a 5-0 shut-out of Chicago, was about as perfect as it gets; Kariya scored the first goal of the season (assisted by Selanne) and added two assists. Sakic had a goal and two assists, Forsberg had three assists, and Aebischer registered a shutout. Good times.
2004 & 2005 Offseason
With the whole lockout business, it's no surprise at the number of UFA's Lacroix signed. The times had changes, so his signing habits changed too.
Before I cover the trades, it must be pointed out that Lacroix made a horrible move by giving Rob Blake and Joe Sakic huge signing bonuses. Both players made over 6.3 million, a ridiculous figure considering the cap for the 2005-2006 NHL season was only 39 million dollars.
Now on to the actual signings: On a whole, he did a bang up job. Laperriere and McLean both exceeded everyone expectations, especially offensively because they both scored 40+ points. Laperriere was, and still is, a huge fan favorite among Avalanche fans for his character play; you could say he was a great signing. Laaksonen was an okay signing; 34 points is pretty good production for a guy who was on the 3rd or 4th line most nights.
As you'll probably notice, Vincent Damphousse was signed as well, but never played a game for the Avalanche. The reason for this is that he signed at the end of the 2004 season, but opted to retire during the lockout.
Moving on to the signings that took place during the 2005 non-season, Brunette obviously stands out as great value. He signed for peanuts and ended up being the top LW for three seasons. Turgeon was a pretty good signing, too. His shoulder was tore up in the playoffs (and towards the end of the 2007 season), but you can't really fault the guy when he was healthy. 46 points in 62 games is solid production for a guy who had scored only 40 in 76 games the previous season.
I'm sure I'll get some (alot) crap for this next statement, but the Brisebois signing was a good one. Sure, his defense was atrocious at times, but he scored his career high in points (38) with us, and having a guy like him on the 3rd defense pairing (although it was 2nd alot of the time...) was a good thing because he moves the puck well. I also seem to remember our power play being pretty good back then; yeah, I'm not blind enough to think he was the "key" to it all, but having he and Clark on the point for the 2nd pp unit helped (as they combined for 30 pp points).
For a letter grade, I'll give him a B+. Would have been an A- if not for those bonuses.
Over the last three blogs I've laid it all on the table, but what does it all mean? Okay, so he traded Drury for Morris. Who cares? The record is what's most important, and his record over the final three seasons as GM was: 125-71-26-24.
That's a good record. In fact, the only teams with a better record in the same span were the Detroit Red Wings, New Jersey Devils, Dallas Stars, Ottawa Senators and Philadelphia Flyers.
Does a good record dating back 3 years ago mean he's qualified to be President and having an active role in player management? Yes, yes, infinitely yes.
Sure, his tight lipped godfather like persona can get a tad annoying at times. But a style of business shouldn't have any weight on the quality of the business man if his business is successful. For 10 years, no one was more successful that Pierre Lacroix.
There are two very common knocks on Pierre Lacroix:
a. His success is from the Lindros trade and acquiring a team that had just gone through a rebuild.
This is a fair statement. Lacroix was given a team with Sakic, Forsberg, Nolan, Deadmarsh, Foote, and more. He had a load of talent to work with.
Lacroix was given the tools, but he made the tool box himself. In other words, he was given a good team and made it into a great team. His trades for Roy, Lemieux, and Ozolinsh reshaped the team, and he did it once more half a decade later by trading for Ray Bourque and Rob Blake.
Not anyone can take a bunch of talent and turn it into a winner. Proof of that is the San Jose Sharks, or the Nashville Predators and Buffalo Sabres a few years ago. Things are a little different in a salary cap world, but back in 1996 the Avalanche weren't exactly rolling around in dough.
b. He sticks withing the organization too much (aka his "inner circle").
True again. I'm not sure he has once hired someone for a managing position outside of the organization.
I disagree that this is con, though. The Colorado Avalanche are a business. In business, you work hard and pay your dues with the hopes of moving up some day. Therefore, Lacroix promotes from within "the Avalanche family". The hiring of GM Giguere back fired badly, but he's had lots of success promoting from within - most obviously coming in the form of Hartley and Crawford, both AHL coaches who led the Avalanche to the Stanley Cup.
Those are my thoughts on the situation. If you disagree, cool - just remember to tell me why (without insulting my intelligence, please).
Hopefully that wasn't too long of a read, but it's looking like it's quite lengthy at first glance.