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.
This time I spoke with someone who covers another Canadian team. Scott Matla (@scottmatla) of Habs Eye on the Prize is a key contributor to SB Nation’s biggest hockey site and knows a heck of a lot about hockey - almost as much as he knows about beer.
How impressive was last year’s playoff run by the Avalanche from someone without a rooting interest?
Originally I had picked the Flames to be the likely winners in the Western Conference, even with their goaltending issues, and the Avs pulling off what they did made me take notice immediately. They not only beat a very good Calgary team, they also put a dangerous Sharks squad on the ropes as well in the next round. It’s the kind of playoff run a young team can use to build on going forward, and I expect they’ll do just that.
The Avs had some significant turnover this summer, how would you rate their offseason?
Losing Tyson Barrie is a tough pill for any team to swallow, it’s made a lot easier by the dramatic emergence of Cale Maker and the arrival of Bowen Byram. This also doesn’t include Connor Timmins who is still developing as well, and the loss is very much softened by Nazem Kadri’s arrival in the Barrie trade. Then to add Joonas Donskoi and Andre Burakovsky for next to nothing it’s a very solid summer of business from Joe Sakic.
Of course getting Mikko Rantanen signed before the preseason began would have been another huge boost as well.
Should Mikko Rantanen being unsigned worry Avs fans?
With Mitch Marner signed and setting the market and Colorado having over fifteen million dollars in cap space, it really shouldn’t at all. I can’t see the season starting without Rantanen in the opening night lineup, even if it’s a short term deal the two sides come together on.
How do you think the Avalanche will do this season?
I think the Avalanche have to be early competitors for the divisional crown, with only Nashville and Dallas putting any pressure on them. The Wild are an abject disaster thanks to Paul Fenton’s disastrous 18 month reign, I don’t fully buy that the Blues can do what they did last year, and the Jets currently have no end in sight with their RFA issues with Patrik Laine/Kyle Connor. This doesn’t even factor in the issues on Winnipeg’s defensive group, which is thinner than before thanks to Dustin Byfuglien stepping away for personal reasons right now.
For the other sides the Blackhawks still feel like a one line team and a defense that also isn’t great, and then they made it worse by trading one of their top prospects for a struggling AHL player in Alex Nylander.
In short, they’re a playoff team, and should battle for the division title if all goes well for them.
Final thoughts about the Avs:
What a turnaround for a club that was spiraling like an out of control plane just a few years ago, it can’t be understated just how important it was to scrub the Patrick Roy off of the team and let Joe Sakic actually do his job. They’re a team on the rise, and if they can manage their cap space well with so many young stars on the team they could very easily become the next Western Conference powerhouse.
Just if they do make the playoffs this year, hopefully Nazem Kadri gets to see more than three games of it for once.