With the start of the regular season games now less than a week away it’s time to wrap-up the offseason and look ahead to the 2019-20 Colorado Avalanche season.
First and foremost how much of a disaster is the Mikko Rantanen situation and when does it get resolved?
Jackie: While a deal can always come together quickly, the fact that at this point due to time needed to get immigration paperwork in order Rantanen will very likely miss regular season games is a complete failure by both parties. It’s a shame because all parties lose, especially the fans who still can’t watch the team on local television and are blacked out from every other legal alternative. Even if he can’t show up right away the season opener is a pressure point and either gets done around then or both parties are dug in for the long haul at any cost.
Hardev: It’s not a disaster until he misses games. Someone will cave. It will get done.
Arielle: Every additional day makes it slightly more of a disaster. At this point, he will almost certainly miss opening night, if not the first week or so of games, and that’s when it becomes a full disaster. It looks bad for everyone, but it also just hurts the team. They’re going to get asked about it daily until it resolves, and the Avs are also missing an important member of the lineup when they were hoping to start the season firing on all cylinders.
Tom: This situation could have been resolved by know if KSE were willing to pay signing bonus money. Sebastian Aho took a blow market AAV in the form of an offer sheet because he wanted the big signing bonus the Canadiens were offering him. Colorado’s unwillingness to pay their players a signing bonus hasn’t been an issue in the past few years, though this summer it’s a big reason why Artemi Panarin wouldn’t seriously consider their offer and it’s there reason Rantanen isn’t signed. If the team isn’t willing to give him a big chunk of the money up front, they’re going to need to raise the AAV near $10m on a long-term contract - something they haven’t been willing to do yet.
Luke: Flat out missing games is unacceptable. By the sounds of it they were close in the beginning of September to a deal but the Avs waited and didn’t close. Then Mitch Marner signed and it spiraled out of control. I'm always on the side of pay your stars, don't mess around, just pay them. You have Mack, Makar, Landy and Grubauer coming up soon and they are taking note of how this negotiation goes. Not saying their negotiations will go like this, but it's something to take note of. But it's time to get it done. I do think he will sign a long term deal before the season starts, but with players in Europe are having visa/passport issues, we might not see him till mid October. Final prediction: 7 yrs at 9.6 aav (35m bonus)
With the final roster not set until early next week any predictions on surprises, either cuts or making the opening night roster?
Hardev: Are we worried about Nikita Zadorov not making the team, because I think he might not make the team. Or at least make the team but become a part of an early-season trade.
Tom: I really think Jayson Megna is going to make the team. the former Vancouver Canuck has been really good in the preseason and plays a style that fits into the Avs’ system perfectly. He’d also be an extra right-shooting forward in the bottom-6, which is something the team could use.
Luke: Timmins-Rosen 3rd defensive pairing opening night. Book it. I also think with Mikko not here, Wilson again hurt, Greer will sneak into the 4th line. And just cut Nichushkin, Bowers, Greer, Megna and Kaut have shown better, it's time to cut bait.
Jackie: Valeri Nichushkin is a roster lock, he is on a one-way contract and he hasn’t performed poorly enough to make them reconsider. The Avalanche are very likely deciding between defaulting to keeping Mark Barberio and Ryan Graves just to avoid exposing them to waivers versus moving forward with Conor Timmins and Calle Rosen to begin the season. A good showing in the final preseason game might force the latter and I think Timmins makes the opening night roster.
What are the expectations for this year’s Avalanche squad and what do they need to do to meet those expectations?
Jackie: Consistency above all else should be the goal. I know many are looking at the Western Conference finals as the next step but this is a team that hasn’t grabbed one of the Central Division playoff seeds yet. If they can even out more of those highs and lows over the season and position themselves as a perennial divisional playoff team then they can take that step toward contender status.
Hardev: I want to see how dynamic the defense can and will be. Speed, skill, tenacity. I want to see that develop and become the team’s identity. Well, second to the literal boogeyman at center on the first line.
Arielle: This team needs to show that they can meet the high level of play that is expected of a division contender. Offensively and defensively, they need to be ready to play each night, and avoid some of the careless errors that have gotten them in trouble before. Playing smart and knowing that they have more attention on them this year should be enough to get them to the next level.
Tom: I want to see the new guys provide the support the top line needs. Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky and Joonas Donskoi need to give the team the type of second line scoring we haven’t see in over the last two seasons. If they can do that - and Philipp Grubauer can stay healthy - there’s not reason this Avalanche team can’t finish in the top-3 in the Central.
Luke: It’s going to be a fun fast team to watch, if they can iron out consistency, balance in TOI with the top 9 and steady goal tending they should finish no worse than 4th in the Central. I would like them to insert the next wave of youth into the line up at some point this year as well. With Kaut, Bowers, Timmins and Rosen all getting playing time and ready for the 2020 season in a year, the real contending window will open then.
Any final predictions on the season? Playoffs? Point totals?
Hardev: 100 points, third round at least. Hopefully there isn’t much regression or sophomore struggles. Also, give me 30+ goals from Nazem Kadri again. God, I need that.
Arielle: Conference Finals. I see this team keeping the momentum they had from last season and taking it as far as possible. The new guys will fit right in, and the established core has what it takes to fully emerge as an NHL force.
Tom: This is going to be the season Nathan MacKinnon finally cracks 100 points - not only that, he’ll win the Art Ross and will force the media to give him the Hart Trophy he deserved two seasons ago.
Luke: 98 points, 4th in the central, 1st wild card playoff spot and they knock off the Duchene lead Nashville team in 5 games. Timmins becomes a household name and gets calder votes. Mack wins the rocket, Sakic GM of the year and we will see Vegas in the west Final. Oh and for fun, Byram win Gold for Canada, top defensemen in the WJC, Memorial Cup and top CHL defensemen, and Newhook winning the frozen 4 against Ohio. Bring on that hype train!
Jackie: Something nobody has considered: the possibility the team actually misses the playoffs. Starting off the year with a distraction, nearly half the roster has turned over, a young defense, an unproven backup, a starting goalie who has never been a starter, asking a step up from just about everyone outside the top line is a lot to assume just comes together as a better version of what the Avalanche had last year. Even if they miss it will be close but I think the opposite of last year might happen and 95 points won’t get them in the postseason.