DENVER • Joe Sakic has known for while that Chris MacFarland was his replacement.
Sakic, who has been the Colorado Avalanche’s general manager since 2014, was named the team’s President of Hockey Operations while MacFarland — formerly the assistant general manager — was promoted to the organization’s GM. It’s a move Sakic talked to owners Stan and Josh Kroenke about two years ago. And one he mentioned to MacFarland ahead of the 2021-22 season, which ended in a Stanley Cup championship.
“Chris has been ready for quite awhile now, in my opinion,” Sakic said Monday. “He’s ready for this. He’s been ready for this a number of years. He deserves this opportunity. And I think from my end, it was an easy decision. You have someone you trust so much and someone who works so hard and is dedicated and helped create this thing — why let there be an opportunity for him to go somewhere else and then you’re looking for a replacement when we had the perfect candidate right here all along.”
Sakic, 53, was the first GM in franchise history to win the Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award, which he was rewarded after this past season. He is the first individual in NHL history to win a Stanley Cup as a captain and GM with the same organization.
While Sakic won’t be the general manager anymore, he said he will still be very involved in the Avalanche’s future.
“Chris is the general manager. He will be doing the day-to-day duties and working on building this roster with the staff,” Sakic said. “Outside of that, I don’t think it will change much for me… I’m still a part of it. I’m not going anywhere.”
For MacFarland, this opportunity is one he’s been waiting for his entire career.
The 52-year-old has been the assistant GM since 2015. Prior to his time in Colorado, he was a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ front office for 16 years. He worked at both the professional and amateur level, helping with player contract negotiations, salary cap management and arbitration, collective bargaining agreement administration, budgeting and team scheduling issues. He’s become one of the most well-respected executives in the NHL, interviewing for several GM jobs in recent years.
MacFarland said that while he doesn’t have the playing background of Sakic, who is in the Hockey Hall of Fame, he prides himself on studying the game and building relationships with players and coaches. And he’s well aware of the shoes he has to fill.
“The Avs logo is Joe Sakic,” MacFarland said. “A world-class human being and a truly terrific leader… The thing about Joe is, we went through that tough year five years ago and we slowly started to chip away at it and the way he led and the way he continues to lead, it doesn’t change. He’s so consistent.
“It’s truly an honor to step into the GM chair and to continue to work with Joe and remain a part of this organization with him.”
Both men have played major roles in the Avalanche’s recent success, helping them win the 2022 Stanley Cup. MacFarland has served as Sakic’s right-hand man during that success — the man behind the scenes who often goes unrecognized.
Now, it’s his show. And what a time to take over, with free agency starting Wednesday and the Avalanche hoping to defend the Stanley Cup in 2022-23.
The Avalanche, though, are confident the success will continue under MacFarland’s leadership.
“It’s well deserved,” Sakic said. “A tremendous person, tremendous worker, meant so much for the franchise and myself. We’ve gone through a lot the last 5-6 years and have a championship together and we just wanted to keep this thing rolling.”