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Twitter Tuesday: Coping with a lost season and turning our attention to the offseason

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Who gets a contract extension with Colorado this summer? And what might next season’s roster look like?

Colorado Avalanche v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

Day 33 without hockey. And with every passing day, it feels less and less likely the NHL returns to finish the 2019-20 season. On Monday, L.A. Kings’ D-man Drew Doughty cast his opinions on a conference call with reporters, and let’s just say, well, “Doughty” lived up to his name and doubt-yed the NHL finishes out the campaign.

“I don’t see how this season is going to return. I really don’t. We have no idea when this virus is going to be over. We’re all kind of just sitting at home, just hoping to return to the season or hoping to watch the playoffs return. But we’re just sitting here, waiting, working out, being ready to return at any point...I think the NHL would have to make some kind of decision on that soon, and it seems like it’s pretty tough to resume the season or the playoffs.

”It’s what’s going on in the whole world. I mean, everything just keeps getting delayed even more, with lockdowns and things like that. People are dying, [with] more every day. I don’t see how or when we’re going to be able to make a decision to return to the season. And then when that comes into play, you have to figure out all the logistics after that. So it seems very, very hard to be able to do. But us players are going to be ready for whatever.” — Doughty on conference call on Monday

I’m with Drew on this one. I just really don’t understand why the league is delaying this decision, and I really don’t think there’s a chance the league resumes play for the 2019-20 campaign. I think it’s time we start to come to grips with that and start making the schedules for next season and we’ll see you in September.

It’ll be tough. If you’re the Avs, you probably hate this more than most teams in the NHL. For the first time since ‘01, Colorado appeared poised to make a run at the Finals. Captain Gabe Landeskog said during his Zoom media availability with the league last week that it was “probably the first time in nine years that I’ve been in Denver that we felt really confident about the group that we had, and actually feeling like you had a shot at this thing. We weren’t just playing to make the playoffs. We were chasing down St. Louis, and we were two points behind them with a game in hand and we knew we had them coming up in Game 82, the last game of the season.”

Nathan MacKinnon echoed his linemate’s feelings in recent article with GQ. He said for the first time in his seven years in the league, he felt like he had a legitimate chance to lift the Cup this year.

“A few days ago I saw it would’ve been our last game of the year against St. Louis. We were only two points back of them when the season ended, and we were rolling. It would’ve been cool to have this momentum and get everybody healthy heading into the playoffs. Hopefully we can return eventually.”

It is what it is. As fans, we can feel sorry for ourselves all we want. But really, it’s the guys on the ice, the MacKinnon’s and the Landeskog’s, that we should feel sorry for. Those are the guys that train their entire lives, putting their bodies on the line night-in and night-out, all for a chance to lift the Cup. It sucks. There’s no other way around that. But it is what it is.

The good thing is, the Avs are a very good team and they’re young and the core of this team should remain intact for at least the next couple of years. This season was merely a cracking of the championship window, if you will, just letting the spring-air breeze in. The window is wide open now, and the Avs will have another chance next year. But like you said, who knows what will happen.

Well, before the season was put on pause, we were told by Sakic and Bednar that the entire team would return healthy by the end of March, and presumably that included Mikko Rantanen.

I would say if they do resume by maybe late-June, everyone would be as healthy as ever.

This is kind of tough to track. The injured players you mentioned above have missed a combined total of 77 games at the pause of the season. Rantanen has missed the most time out of all of those players — 28 games, to be exact. So that right there is at least 28 games where all five of those guys weren’t on the power play.

I would say it’s reasonable to assume that less than half the games played have featured that exact power-play unit. Maybe that’s why the power play could really never get rolling?

Advanced stats can mean any number of things. Whether it be zone starts, or shooting percentages and save percentages when a certain player is on the ice, or Fenwick and Corsi.

Corsi seems to be the most standardized metric of “advanced stats” that people follow the most, so to make things easy, we’ll look at the Avs Corsi percentages to answer this question.

As a team, the Avs rank 8th in the NHL with a 51.6% Corsi-For Percentage according to Natural Stat Trick. And if you look at which Avalanche players had the best individual Corsi numbers (and let’s say a minimum of 40 games played this year), here are the top five:

Val Nichushkin (55.3%)

Nathan MacKinnon (54.2%)

Mikko Rantanen (53.4%)

Matt Calvert (53%)

Andre Burakovsky (52.9%)

Only one of those names in the top five was an offseason addition this past year, and that was Burakovsky. If you look at some of the other offseason additions and how they rank, you’d get P-E Bellemare (10th on the team), Nazem Kadri (12th) and Joonas Donskoi, who has the second-worst CF% on the team. And for those wondering, J.T. Compher actually had the lowest Corsi on the team.

Using those metrics to answer your question, I’m not sure the offseason additions had that much to do with the team’s improved metrics, and the Avs weren’t bad before those newcomers came either. Last year, Colorado ranked 14th at the end of the regular season with a 49.86% CF.

I’m also not saying that those offseason additions have contributed nothing to the team’s overall CF%, because obviously they have. I’d attribute the success more to the team settling more and more into Bednar’s/ the coaching staff’s philosophies. In all likelihood, however, the team’s 8th-ranked CF% is a healthy combination of coaching and the players on the ice, whether they’re new to the team or not.

This is an interesting observation. I haven’t really thought of it like that.

I’ve always thought it to be a solid strategic move and haven’t really thought much of it or been distracted by it. I will say we are seeing quite a bit more of it in today’s game than we ever have before. But at the end of the day, getting the puck out of your defensive zone is priority numero uno. A coach will tell you do whatever you have to do to clear the puck out of the zone. And if you can do that without icing the puck, then that’s ideal.

I’m sure every coach in the league would disagree with your assessment. But from a fan standpoint, I see what you’re saying about how it could be boring just watching teams play that brand of defensive back-and-forth hockey by lobbing the puck out of the zone.

Thoughts?

I would bet the Avs wait until next offseason to explore Cale Makar’s extension (which will be huge, no doubt).

Given the first year of his ELC was burned in the 2018-19 playoffs by playing in those 10 games, and then this season, the second year of his ELC, has been shortened to just 57 for Makar. That said, he’s really only played 67 games in the league across two “seasons.” That said, 67 games is not a lot of time to really evaluate a player’s total value.

Obviously the Avs know what they have in Makar — that is, he’s a generational talent — and he’ll certainly get a large extension, but I’m sure Makar and his agent would like to wait until he has a full season under his belt to assess how much money he should be getting. And it will be a lot of money, I can assure you that. They’ll easily go for the eight-year max, likely somewhere in the $8-10 million AAV. If Sakic can sign him for anything less than that, wow, what a steal.

I’d say it’s a very fair bet that Matt Nieto and Colin Wilson will not be on the team next year. I also don’t really see Vlad Namestnikov playing a role next year either. All those guys are on expiring contracts this offseason and probably won’t need to be re-signed because of some graduations from the Colorado Eagles. On the defensive side of things, with the push of Bowen Byram potentially (and likely) cracking the roster next year and Conor Timmins knocking on the door, Mark Barberio’s time has likely run up and so has Nikita Zadorov’s.

Let’s start with the forwards. The reason I say Matt Nieto and Colin Wilson won’t be on the team next year is because of a couple of young Eagles who I think will slot in as cheaper options with the same talents as Nieto and Wilson. Martin Kaut is no doubt starting the season with the Avs next year. And then I’d say Logan O’Connor will be a successor to Nieto. We’ll likely see Shane Bowers spend some time in Denver next year too.

On the defensive side of things, I know everyone wants to see Timmins in Denver. I’d say that will be wholly dependent on whether Byram makes the team or not. I’d say it’s very likely he does because another year of stagnant development in the WHL seems like a waste for a talent like Byram’s. I think Zadorov has played his way out of the lineup and has played his way out of contract-extension talks, too. So that leaves Makar, Sam Girard, Ryan Graves (he’ll be re-signed this offseason), Ian Cole, Erik Johnson and then presumably Byram in there too as your top-six defenseman next year.

But then do you really want to leave Timmins as your seventh D-man sitting in the press box? Or do you re-sign a cheaper defenseman (say Kevin Connauton) and have them serve as your seventh guy and allow Timmins to stay in Loveland to develop and get an occasional call up? Those are the tough questions.

I think the Avs could explore some help at wing at the trade deadline. Maybe ship a 3rd and the rights to Tyson Jost to Detroit for Anthony Mantha. Or maybe the same deal to New York for Ryan Strome?

Either way, I think Jost would be the most likely to be dealt.

I think he’s traded at the draft or perhaps re-signs on a modest one-year “prove it” deal with Colorado.

Taylor Hall, anyone?

Talk amongst yourselves...


Anymore questions, comments or concerns? Direct those to @0ffScottFree on Twitter or email him at scottyamacdonald@gmail.com anytime.