For the second consecutive season, Nathan MacKinnon's NHL season ended earlier than expected because of an injury. Before the March 18th game at the Calgary Flames, MacKinnon had earned 52 points on the year through 21 goals and 31 assists. Unfortunately, a fluke knee-bump off a face-off in the 3rd period caused enough damage for Nate to be sidelined the rest of the season, and his presence was missed.
The Avs only won 2 games out of the remaining 10 following that game. Now MacKinnon's absence isn't 100% responsible for the .200 closing winning percentage, but he undoubtedly was missed by the team. And in this edition of BOLD PREDICTION time, I'm going to go out on a limb and say the Avalanche would have won at least ONE more game with MacKinnon in the lineup. Yes, this article is expected to be hot off the presses.
Whatever you say about MacKinnon, if not for him, the Avalanche would be the team to have gone the longest without a hat trick in the NHL by a lot. He had one last season against Tampa, and he had one in San Jose back in December against the Sharks. Two straight years with a hat trick against a team who made it to the Stanley Cup Final that season. Not bad!
But MacKinnon entered this season with most people out there calling his 14-15 campaign a sophomore slump. There's no doubt he was better this season, but his rookie year back in 13-14 remains his most impressive of his three tries. It's not like Nate has become a bust; he's still one of the most promising young players in hockey and many rebuilding teams would love to have MacKinnon to build their roster around.
That said, MacKinnon is a restricted free agent this summer. With the hints GM Joe Sakic dropped about being unhappy with the core, which MacKinnon undoubtedly makes up along with Duchene and Landeskog, some people have said MacKinnon won't be back and the Avs will try to finish the rebuild without him. Poppycock. MacKinnon is going to get a new deal this summer and be in burgundy and blue for a long time coming. You don't let someone so young and so talented walk so early, not when we've seen some of the things he can do.