With only five Tuesdays left in the regular season, it’s crunch time around the NHL and there are still plenty of questions that need to be answered by the Avalanche and the rest of league’s 30 teams.
Colorado can’t seem to stay healthy this year. The Avs were already missing three of their top-five scorers for the past few weeks and last night it may have gotten tragically worse. Fans are eagerly awaiting the status of star forward Nathan MacKinnon, who left Monday night’s game in L.A. during the second period and did not return.
With everyone healthy, what does our starting lineup looks like? Who sits?— Brad Francis (@BradFrancis72) March 9, 2020
Gabe Landeskog — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko Rantanen
Andre Burakovsky — Nazem Kadri — Val Nichushkin
Vlad Namestnikov — J.T. Compher — Joonas Donksoi
Matt Calvert — P-E Bellemare — Tyson Jost
**Martin Kaut/ Logan O’Connor / Sheldon Dries reassigned to AHL
Last time I did this a couple weeks ago, I left the top line in tact. I still think that’s the best decision, although Burakovsky has also performed well alongside MacKinnon (but then again, who doesn’t?). Last time, I also had Nichushkin on the third line and Donskoi on the second. I switched those this time around. I think Big Val has solidified his spot in the top-six from here on out.
Nieto and Kamenev are my 13th and 14th forwards. Again, many may be surprised to see I put Jost in for Nieto on the fourth line, but even the strongest Jost detractors would say he’s been playing much much better since the trade deadline. Jost has a new lease on life and has certainly been playing like it.
What western conference team is the most dangerous for the avalanche to face in the playoffs? Right now I vote Minnesota, what about you?— eagle (@swillcox) March 9, 2020
Right now, it might be Minnesota.
The Wild are 12-6-1 since Feb. 1, good for the fourth-most points in that span, just three points behind (with one fewer game) the Avs total in that span. They’ve climbed their way out of the Western Conference basement and are in the final spot of a very tight wild card race. And with Dallas slumping, it’s actually a very real possibility the Avs could see Minnesota in the first round if the trends keep going the directions they have been.
I’ve answered this question a few times now and I’ve maintained my answer being the Dallas Stars. Dallas, however, has looked lost recently and has dropped seven of its last 10. The Stars can’t score to save their lives and is dead-last in terms of goals scored since Feb. 21 (14). I still think Dallas is a strong team but confidence heading into the first round of the playoffs is of the utmost importance and the Stars have next to none of it at the moment.
Minnesota has to make the playoffs first, but a first-round rematch of 2014’s series would be a lot of fun.
My vote is St. Louis, though. I think the Blues are a Western Conference Finals kind of team.
Is it possible we see Byram by the end of this calendar year?— RockiesRants, BASEBALL FAN (@RantsRockies) March 9, 2020
End of the this season? Unlikely. End of the calendar year? Much likelier.
I don’t think we’ll see Byram enter the lineup in the playoffs like Cale Makar did last year — although it seems everyone wants to see that. The WHL playoffs start on March 27 and Byram and the Vancouver Giants will be in it. The WHL’s first round series will likely extend into the first week of April, which is when the NHL regular season ends. If Vancouver makes it past the first round and into the second, Byram will continue playing with his team in the WHL while the Avs will also be in their own first-round series.
It would depend on how long Byram and the Giants make it in the playoffs. But to be honest, I don’t think Byram is a guy who can step into an NHL playoff series and seamlessly transition into the big league like Makar was able to do in the Calgary series last season. I’m not saying the Avs absolutely won’t do it, but I’d be pretty surprised if they did. It’d be even harder if Byram’s season ends while the Avs are in the second round of the postseason. Throwing a guy that young into a second-round series in the NHL playoffs is asking a lot of a kid.
But given Nikita Zadorov’s fall from grace with coach Bednar and his subsequent benching, it’s unlikely Z is re-signed this offseason. That said, Byram and Conor Timmins will fight for the open spot on the Avs’ D rotation come training camp this summer. I’d say it’s very likely we see Byram by the end of this calendar year. Probably in October.
when do you think the top prospects will arrive to the NHL team. Byram, Newhook, Bowers, etc.— 907username (@907username) March 9, 2020
While Alex Newhook has created quite a bit of buzz this season as a freshman at Boston College, I think the idea is to have him return to BC for his sophomore season next year. I’d say he’s in the NHL to start the 2021-22 season.
There’s no need to rush these things and I think the Avs have learned their lesson from throwing their young NCAA talent into the deep end after their freshman season, a la Tyson Jost. Look what two years in college did for Cale Makar. It’s very possible Newhook is a Hobey Baker finalist next season if he keeps maturing so rapidly at this rate.
Shane Bowers, Logan O’Connor and Martin Kaut will all see plenty of time in Denver next year. Whether that’s a full-time role or not remains to be seen. But expect Bowers to earn some NHL time. OC and Kaut will likely be mainstays on the Avs third or fourth line next season, replacing guys like Nieto, Namestnikov, etc. at a way cheaper value.
I’d say one of Byram or Timmins — or, hey, possibly even both (?) — should work their way into regulars on the Avs defense rotation to start next year.
It's almost playoff, so we're gonna see some beautiful facial hair. Who has the best playoff beard in Avalanche history? Nordique history?— BKS (@gusbeansjr) March 9, 2020
Top Playoff Beards:
The Worst Playoff Beard Award
Joe Sakic: NHL legend, GM of the Year, terrible at growing a beard
Any more questions, comments or concerns? Feel free to direct those to my Twitter anytime @0ffScottFree or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.