Craig Billington, Avalanche assistant GM, still hard at work during NHL “pause”

Work rarely stops for an NHL executive, particularly an assistant general manager who oversees the club’s minor-league system.

Craig Billington is that top-to-bottom workaholic in Colorado, overseeing all player-personnel moves with the Colorado Eagles and reporting to Avalanche GM Joe Sakic.

During the NHL’s “pause” because of the coronavirus pandemic, Billington is still a busy guy — and feeling fortunate that he can devote so much time on building for the future. He and Sakic, along with co-assistant GM Chris MacFarland (who works directly with the Avs), are approaching their five-year anniversary together.

“We’re not going to the rink, and the games, and meeting the coaches, the players, but we still do have the advancement of our R&D and where we want this to go, and progressing it,” Billington, an Avalanche backup goalie from 1996-99, said in a phone interview. “So now we can spend 100 percent of our time on that, which is really rare. You don’t get to spend 100 percent on just a certain area. It’s usually spread out over a number of items.”

Since the Avalanche and Eagles staffs announced March 16 that they would work remotely, Billington and the Eagles have re-signed four current players and added an undrafted free agent from Minnesota State for 2020-21. Billington said he has weekly conference calls with the Avs/Eagles executive team, plus various coaches. Currently, the main discussions include the postponed NHL draft, summer development camp and rookie showcase roster in California this fall.

Of course, the calls usually begin with the latest word on when or if the NHL/AHL seasons might resume. Both the Avalanche (42-20-8) and the Eagles (34-18-4) are comfortably in playoff position and hoping they can complete the season.

“I really like the team up there with the Eagles. So the goal is to try to retain as much as we can for next season — not knowing when this season (might restart),” Billington said. “We’re planning on about six different contingencies, but that’s the world we’re in right now.”

Clearly, the NHL and its top affiliate league aren’t in a position to choose when they can resume play. And Billington doesn’t even want to guess.

“It’s all based on the health board and what they are recommending,” he said. “I check both Canada and the U.S. and see what their health boards are saying. The NHL and the American League have had updates but those are directly from the health boards, which is what it should be right now.”

Source: Read Full Article