Last week we started previewing the 2019-20 Colorado Avalanche season from the perspective of fans in other markets. We started with a report from someone who covers the Tampa Bay Lightning and followed it up with a Toronto Maple Leafs fan who gave us perspective on the big Kadri trade.
Now we get the perspective of someone who cheers for a team that’s hated by most Avs fans. Out third contributor is Jamie Zadow (@jamiezadow) who covers the Detroit Red Wings for Winging It in Motown.
How impressive was last year’s playoff run by the Avalanche from someone without a rooting interest?
Being an avid Red Wings fan and contributor for Winging it in Motown, the obvious thing to say would be that I wasn’t that impressed by the Avalanche at all last season because the blood is still boiling from that late 90’s to early 2000’s rivalry.
However, many people wrote off the Avs in the first round last year against the “high powered” Flames and it was evident the higher seed had glaring issues in net between David Rittich and Mike Smith. The Flames were no match for the Avs’ speed up front and perhaps the more impressive thing about that series was Phillip Grubauer’s performance after starting just 37 regular season games.
Hanging with the Sharks for seven games definitely opened some eyes considering the veteran core that they are able to dress each night -- Thornton, Pavelski, Burns, Karlsson, etc. -- and again, Grubauer proved strong in that series too.
The Avs had some significant turnover this summer, how would you rate their offseason?
Honestly, the biggest loss for the Avs might be on the blueline with the departure of Tyson Barrie considering he averaged the second highest TOI/GP of the Avs defensemen (behind Erik Johnson). The question here is can Cale Makar fill that role and log those big minutes in his absence?
I look at the addition of Nazem Kadri as a wash with the departure of Carl Soderberg, so I don’t think the team fell behind any there. One interesting note about the Kadri deal: The FAN 590 in Toronto recently had former Leafs forward Darcy Tucker on their show and he weighed in on the transition from Toronto to Colorado for his career. To paraphrase, Tucker basically said that moving to a smaller hockey market like that ruined his career as the motivation just wasn’t there anymore. We’ll see if that holds true for Kadri as well?
Andre Burakovsky might be the likeliest of players primed for a breakout as he gets a fresh start in Colorado. He never eclipsed more than 38 points during his five seasons in Washington, but he was moved up and down the lineup and often found himself stuck in a bottom six role -- it will be interesting to see how the Avs plan to use him this year.
One note about the draft, I think the Avs’ front office got a gem with Bowen Byram. I was definitely hoping he would fall to the Wings at the sixth spot, but my dreams were quickly crushed when Joe Sakic scooped him up. Byram was all world in the WHL and his game should translate nicely to the NHL.
Overall, I give their offseason a B+.
Should Mikko Rantanen being unsigned worry Avs fans?
Anytime one of your best players is holding out this close to the season, it’s a cause for concern. After Mitch Marner just got his big payday, I wonder how much Sakic is willing to go to? Signing Rantanen to an absurd contract will only complicate negotiations on MacKinnon’s next deal. Ultimately, I think Rantanen has a deal coming soon after Marner was the first domino to fall, but at what cost?
How do you think the Avalanche will do this season?
The Central Division might be the toughest in the entire NHL and the Avs finish in fifth last year, managing to grab the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference. I think they will be a playoff team once again, but how they manage Grubauer’s workload having never played more than half a season in his career, will determine their place in the standings.
The Blues might get caught with a Stanley Cup hangover and I’m starting to wonder if the Jets are regressing a little bit since their Western Conference Finals appearance in 2018. That being said, the Stars have some nice young pieces and also added Joe Pavelski this summer, plus the Predators are the Predators and will be tough to dethrone in that division. I see the Avs finishing anywhere between third to fifth again this season.
Final thoughts about the Avs:
The future is bright in Colorado and Sakic seems to have this ship steering in the right direction. However, if this team wants to make more noise in the postseason, they will need better secondary scoring. Their top line of (Gabriel) Landeskog, MacKinnon and Rantanen combined for 261 points last year and the next forward had 49 points (Soderberg). Kadri will need to produce 50+ on the scoresheet this year if they want progress and like I said earlier, Barrie and his 59 points will be sorely missed.