Mile High Hockey Roundtable: Will the Avs Make the Playoffs?

Doug Pensinger

In our second edition of Roundtable, the MHH writers debate whether or not the Avs have a shot at securing a post-season slot.

In the previous Roundtable edition, Cole D Hamilton, Mike @ MHH, and myself crossed our fingers for Nathan MacKinnon to be selected 1st overall in the 2013 NHL Draft. And we got our wishes.

This time, the crew gives their take on whether or not the addition of star-in-the-making MacKinnon - alongside a new coaching staff that can do no worse than the Sacco regime - is enough to carry the Avs into the playoffs.

Are the unaddressed holes in the defense still too large? Is Varlamov ready to assume true #1 status? Can the Avs realistically make the jump?

Today's Roundtable debates.

The Avs have what it takes

Cheryl Bradley:
"I think we're going to see a team much like the 2009-2010 team. On paper, there's no way they should have been decent, much less make the playoffs, but their talent surprised everyone. Most teams couldn't keep up with their speed. The speed up front has only gotten better with Duchene's ridiculous off-season belief that he needs to get faster than 22 mph and MacKinnon's legendary wheels that make even Patrick Roy giggle with joy. Even though it looks as if Hunwick won't be playing in Denver, there are still some guys on the back end that can move. Barrie, who started to make that leap last year, is only going to get better. I also think Elliott is going to find that guy from two seasons ago and solidify his place on the team. No, the D isn't going to be stellar. However, I believe it will lend itself to jumping into the play more, especially the kids, something for which other teams won't be prepared. St. Louis will give the Avs fits, but I honestly think Colorado will have the numbers of Dallas, Winnipeg, and Nashville. Minny is an enigma. Not quite sure what team will show up this season: the lucky one, the "lol, you spent how much on two players?" one, or the one that is pretty good under the surface. Thus, I say squeak into the playoffs and suffer a 4-2 defeat in the first round."

Cole D Hamilton:
"I think the Avs are going to surprise other teams this year and squeak into one of the playoffs between the 6-8 spots. The shortened 2013 campaign was about as bad as it could have been for the Avs. They played a bigger percentage of games in the Northwest Division than ever (where they have struggled under Sacco), they didn't play against the Eastern Conference (where they do well) and they had fewer games against Chicago, St. Louis and Los Angeles (who the Avs match up well against). The Avs lost their top scorer in 2012 to a contract dispute, their second place scorer and captain to a concussion and a 20 goal scoring winger over the course of the first four games. Take a young inexperienced team, remove two of the biggest leaders from 2012 and put them on a losing streak in a shortened season with stale coaching and management that is desperate on its last ropes.... Sorry, but I don't believe that is a representative sample of what this team is now, or how they should have performed last year. There isn't a whole lot of room for error in a 48 game season and once the Avs struggled, the young team with a seemingly dispassionate coach didn't have the resiliency to fight back.

"Now the Avalanche get to walk away from 6 losses a year against the Canucks, they get to play more games against the Eastern Conference, they get a fresh start with no contract holdouts, and a new, passionate coaching staff. The Avs aren't going to overtake Chicago or St. Louis for the division title, but there is no reason they can't beat out Dallas, Winnipeg and even Minnesota for a playoff spot. Nashville is the wildcard in the division, if they can figure out how to score any goals, or if the Avs can figure our how to prevent them, they should be battling each-other for a divisional playoff spot right up to the end of the season."

Sandie Gauthier:
"I cannot remember the last time off season moves made so thrilled. It's no secret that I have loved Tanguay since he put a skate on the ice wearing an Avs jersey. In fact, I was a fan of his before that moment ever happened. I haven't seen him back in Avs gear yet, but that hasn't stopped me from being pumped about it. Tanguay learned what it took to win the Cup early in his career. In that move the Avs also traded away Shane O'Brien, although the Avs are incredibly weak on defines I think this move will actually make them stronger. Forgetting his contract, the loss of David Jones would undoubtedly hurt if it wasn't for how strong the Avalanche offence is.

"The Avalanche will also "get back" Steve Downie who was injured much of last season. I truly believe that the loss had an impact on the Avalanche. Another player injury that heavily impacted the Avs was Ryan Wilson. Wilson only managed to play 12 games last season. The Avalanche also added Andre Benoit to the team, although he isn't flashy, isn't expected to put up points, he doesn't frequently get flustered and make mistakes nor does he spend a lot of time in the penalty box. However, he hasn't played a whole season in the NHL yet.

"Patrick Roy has stated that he expects Nathan MacKinnon to play right out of training camp. As much as I loathe to place high expectations on a rookie, I could see him having an impact on the third line. Patrick Roy has released the top three lines he expects to start with:

Ryan O'Reilly - Matt Duchene - P.A. Parenteau
Gabriel Landeskog - Paul Stastny - Alex Tanguay
Jamie McGinn - Nathan MacKinnon - Steve Downie

"These have me excited about the possibility of what could be an excellent forward core. I don't have as much faith in the defensive prowess of the Avalanche. Back in net for the Avalanche will be Giguere and Varlamov. The biggest change in this position will be that they will have a dedicated goalie coach to help Varly beyond what Jiggy has been able to do for him. I think the biggest change in the locker room though will come from the past-Avalanche players. Joe Sakic, Adam Foote and Patrick Roy. These men know what it takes to win, and hate to lose. In fact it might be more appropriate to say that Roy loathes losing.

"It's always difficult to say if you think a team has what it takes to make the playoffs. Possibilities of trades and injuries are there. The new system that Roy is sure to put in place is an unknown. I think the Avs make the playoffs. By one point. I think they won't make it past the first round."

The unknown of the new Central Division

Andi D:
"I think this is how the new playoff format works: the top three teams from each division get in, but the last two spots go to the clubs with the highest points in the conference. That means that the remaining 4 Central teams will be competing with the remaining 4 Pacific teams for the last two spots in the Western Conference playoffs.

"In the Central, I think CHI and STL are in no problem. Spot 3 is a toss-up between MIN, WPG, DAL and us if a lot of things go right. In the Pacific, there's VAN, ANA, LAK, and SJS who are probably going to make it, which leaves the final spot to MIN, WPG, DAL, COL, or PHX. (I still think EDM, CGY, and NSH will struggle next year).

"If the Avs fix the D, everyone stays relatively healthy, the forwards find chemistry, Varly stands on his head, and Roy provides a new coach standings bump, then the Avs have a shot. The chances of all those things happening are pretty slim though. I don't think we're to the point where we can beat out the other wildcard teams just yet, so no, I don't think we'll make the playoffs."

SteveHouse:
"This is a weird division, anything could happen. The Avs could end up seventh or they could beat out Dallas, Winnipeg, Minnesota, and Nashville. My gut says no. I don't think this team has improved enough as a roster to get there. Maybe with proper usage of players they will be better, or player development, but until I see evidence that this team is .3 standing points per game better, my money is on nah."

Not a chance in hell

Mike @ MHH:
"No. I fail to see how any meaningful changes on the blueline (we're still playing guys over their skill level, we're still slotting guys into roles that may not fit their skill set) other than scheme will turn DOA in the old west to playoff in the new central. Not sure how a rookie gets sheltered as a 3rd line center while maximizing SOS. Not sure how Varly will look behind a more explosive (supposedly) team. Less pressure or hung out to dry more?

"I see the Avs better than Dallas, but worse than Minny, St. Louis, Chicago, and probably Nashville. Maybe they are better than Winny? Could go either way."

My take?

Let's be real here: nobody outside of Colorado believes we are a playoff team. And they are not without reason: Our defense is among the worst league-wide and our supposed #1 goaltender has yet to translate his elite athleticism into elite consistency.

But for me it's not about our slim chances. It's about the variables. Tyson Barrie has shown he can step it up. Erik Johnson has improved each year. Semyon Varlamov is given high praise by TheGoalieGuild for a reason. And most exciting of all, Nathan MacKinnon has arrived.

Yes, it will take a lot to go in our favor. But, in theory, it can happen. There is simply too much talent for the Avs to be yet another lottery team. That is why I'm going into the season fully expecting our team to make the playoffs, regardless of what anybody says. And you should too. Because if not now, when?

Your turn. Do you think the Avs are playoff bound?

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