The Colorado Avalanche, by all measures, were one of the league’s most pleasant surprises. They pulled out of a miserable mid-season tailspin to knock the Arizona Coyotes out of what was set to potentially be that team’s first playoff berth in seven years, then ousted the Calgary Flames after the Pacific Division team looked like the set favorites.
They brought a surprising trio of forwards to the All Star Game, managing to pick up spots for all three of the members of their top line, as well. Yet as the league gathers in Las Vegas on Wednesday evening for the annual NHL Awards, the Avalanche will be one of the teams largely on the outside looking in.
Like all 30 additional clubs, the Avalanche have a Masterton Trophy nominee at the awards; Carl Soderberg gets the nod for Colorado after a miserable 2017-18 season was met with a much bigger bounce-back this time around.
But beyond that, they’re just along for the ride this year.
That may be a bit of a bummer, but it’s not the end of the world. For Avalanche fans, here’s a guide to who’s favored to win what — and who fans of the team might feel a twinge of nostalgia to see on the finalist list this year:
THE FAVORED WINNER: ELIAS PETTERSSON
THE OTHER FINALISTS: JORDAN BINNINGTON, RASMUS DAHLIN
It’s hard to see a single scenario in which Elias Pettersson doesn’t run away with the Calder. He’s the only uncontested player among the finalists, while Binnington’s games-played figures earned him some skepticism and Dahlin almost certainly ended up splitting some votes with fellow defender Miro Heiskanen.
For the Avalanche, this wasn’t likely to be a year they entered the Calder Race. Rantanen, Girard, and Compher all had good years, but are past their rookie seasons — and the team’s next wave of promising young players are coming, but they aren’t here yet.
THE FAVORED WINNER: RYAN O’REILLY
THE OTHER FINALISTS: PATRICE BERGERON, MARK STONE
There’s always a joke that Patrice Bergeron is the Selke winner no matter how he performed, but the number of voters who use analytics has jumped a bit in the last few years — so there’s a chance that Bergeron’s less-than-stellar year got him a reputation nod but not the bulk of the top votes.
For Avalanche fans, it may feel like a bit of a sting that O’Reilly is bringing home a Stanley Cup, a Conn Smythe, and possible a Selke all in the same year — but maybe, for some, all you want is to see the team’s former players be happy. Whatever the opinion, this is yet another award where the Avalanche could have a contender in the future — 2018 first rounder Martin Kaut told Mile High Hockey at the draft last year that he models his game after Bergeron — but once again, the team just isn’t quite there yet.
THE FAVORED WINNER: MARK GIORDANO
THE OTHER FINALISTS: VICTOR HEDMAN, BRENT BURNS
It was only a matter of time before Mark Giordano got the attention he deserved — and he finally got his due this year after making up for some of the league’s most inconsistent goaltending en route to a dominant regular season campaign for Calgary. Putting up 74 points, managing good defensive metrics, and doing all of that in front of whatever the hell Mike Smith was doing is worth paying attention to.
Once again, the Avalanche fell a little short of offering up any defenders that managed to wow enough to break into the elite tier.
THE FAVORED WINNER: ANDREI VASILEVSKIY
THE OTHER FINALISTS: BEN BISHOP, ROBIN LEHNER
It’s hard to pick the best goaltender this year, because there are two starkly different situations presented in the voting.
Vasilevskiy played the most games by far of the finalists, but suffered the most adverse consequences from doing so. The other two had much better stats, but played on true tandems — which is interesting when considering how the league is viewing the idea of a tandem and the value they’re putting in it.
It’s not the year that earns the Avalanche a Vezina, especially after the inconsistency from Grubauer and Varlamov all year. But for the team’s future, this bodes well; as the league starts to normalize the idea of proper goaltender management, it ups the chance that the team will see their own split crease looked upon favorably.
THE FAVORED WINNER: NIKITA KUCHEROV
THE OTHER FINALISTS: SIDNEY CROSBY, CONNOR MCDAVID
It’s hard to see anyone but Kucherov taking home the win this year, especially since voting took place before the Great Playoff Sweep that befell Tampa in the first round.
That being said, it’s a bit of a bummer to see the playoff-less McDavid snag a nod while MacKinnon and Rantanen fell out of favor at the end — but ultimately, it makes sense given the way the team’s top line faded at the end of the season a bit. For the Avalanche, it takes more to get the league’s attention — and this year, that’s likely what happened at the end.
It’s going to be tough watching none of the team’s elite top line considered, but sometimes that’s just how it goes.
THE OTHER AWARDS
The Jack Adams: Barry Trotz, Jon Cooper, Craig Berube
The Ted Lindsay: Patrick Kane, Nikita Kucherov, Connor McDavid
GM Of The Year: Doug Armstrong, Don Sweeney, Don Waddell
The Lady Byng: Aleksander Barkov, Sean Monahan, Ryan O’Reilly