Over the past 10 days, 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. Then came the rivals in Detroit with a potentially biased response.
Now, we get perspective of someone who covers the Pittsburgh Penguins. Kaitlyn Dividock (@kaitdivi) is a writer for Pensburgh and you’re going to be hard pressed to find someone who knows more about Pennsylvanian sports than her. She gets to cheer for Sidney Crosby - the older super star from the Cole Harbour. Now we can get her perspective on Sid’s good buddy Nathan MacKinnon and his crew.
How impressive was last year’s playoff run by the Avalanche from someone without a rooting interest?
The most impressive part had to be witnessing the Avs’ 180-degree turn around from being a bottom-dwelling team sucking barnacles off the underside of the league rankings just two seasons ago to taking the adversity in stride, bouncing back instantly despite people writing them off, and making the playoffs two years in a row. After dispatching the highly touted Calgary Flames from the opening round seemingly with ease, they then shocked everyone again by almost upsetting a very experienced San Jose Sharks team in the second round. For what it’s worth, I did pick them to douse the Flames in Round 1.
I just wasn’t as high up on Calgary as others seemed to be, even with them being the top-seed in the west, but it didn’t take away how striking that series win was. As someone who lives on the east coast during the hockey season, I don’t get to catch many Avs’ games unless they take place in my neck of the woods. And as a fan with zero rooting interest for the Western Conference, they were extremely fun to watch as well. I’m considering dubbing Colorado my official west coast team.
The Avs had some significant turnover this summer, how would you rate their offseason?
I really, really liked the offseason moves the Avs made. Every decision made them a better team. Their draft class is unreal talented, though maybe a little raw, and Cale Makar (even though he joined the team in late 2018-19 after UMass got bounced from the Frozen Four) has a legitimate shot at winning the Calder this year.
What especially piqued my interest was Joe Sakic going out to get Nazem Kadri, Joonas Donskoi, and Andre Burakovsky to supplement the Avs’ already strong top-nine setup. Sakic even managed to sign Bellmare too, adding even more pep to their step. Colorado has a crazy amount of forward depth, and it had them potentially matriculate into a team that can deploy four dangerous lines every night. This is important given the fact that Colorado’s Achilles’ heel last season was not being able to adequately provide enough talent around its top line so that it didn’t always have to rely on them to score.
On the flip side, I think losing Tyson Barrie will probably sting a bit, even with the team drafting Bowen Byram fourth overall, so I’ll be interested to see how the Avs’ defense fares in a tough conference. Ian Cole is still a question mark too, and coming a Penguins fan, Ian Cole and his gritty, swiss-army style rules. The defensive depth may suffer because of his absence, as Bednar still needs to figure out the bottom defensive pairings.
Should Mikko Rantanen being unsigned worry Avs fans?
Yes. Rantanen has yet to join the team in training camp, and that’s a huge concern given that the top line of him, Landeskog, and MacKinnon are straight magic together out on the ice. Given that the Mitch Marner drama finally came to a conclusion, I think we’re going to see an onslaught of RFAs getting contracts. We already saw it with Boston and Charlie McAvoy. I expect Rantanen to ultimately join the Avs during the regular season, but it’s tough to say if it will end up being straight away, as holdouts are becoming more common. He seems to love Colorado, and he has reportedly mentioned that he wants a deal that lasts somewhere around five years, but the concerning part is the reports stating that the Avs didn’t make Rantanen an offer in the offseason and that Rantanen turned down all the ones they offered as the 2018-19 regular season wound down.
How do you think the Avalanche will do this season?
Colorado is on the fast track to becoming an absolute powerhouse. The prospect pool is outrageous, the Avs’ core is littered with elite talent, and it’s just a matter of time before they go back to being one of the top teams in the league — if they aren’t there already. They’re going to make the playoffs, and they’ll probably get pretty far once again. They may even get to the Western Conference Championship. But am I ready to crown them 2020 Stanley Cup champions just yet? Not quite. The east is still damn good, and missing one of their top playmakers via contract negotiations, even if it’s for a short amount of time, will hurt a bit. Once Rantanen signs however, it will do wonders, and the Avs’ full roster getting games underneath their belts over the course of the regular season will bode well with all the new additions jelling with the regulars. The future is bright. I just hope half Colorado’s fanbase can actually watch their team on TV while they roll through the west.
Final thoughts about the Avs:
For the past two seasons, I’ve drafted Rantanen to my fantasy team and he’s been a damn workhorse for me. I would like to draft him again, so someone over there in Denver tell Joe Sakic to get that deal done already. There’s an authentic, mini version of the Stanley Cup on the line.