The word of the year to describe the 2022-23 Colorado Avalanche is injuries.
The list of injured players continues to rise. Between the Avalanche and Eagles, the number of injuries is up to 11 different players. The stars are out, and those replacing the stars are also starting to fall as well.
This is a serious issue that will hamper Colorado for the rest of the season.
What do the following players have in common?— Peter Baugh (@Peter_Baugh) December 6, 2022
Five of the top six forwards are now out for the Avalanche. Two of the six regular defenders are out. The seventh defenseman is gone. Currently, two of the AHL replacements are also out. Furthermore, the injury bug runs down to the Eagles with Mikhail Maltsev out long-term with a lower-body injury, along with Ben Meyers and Oskar Olausson just returning from injury and illness respectively. As of yesterday afternoon, Jayson Megna was also lost on waivers to the Anaheim Ducks.
The Avs are in serious trouble if things continue down the path they go down. They are already with Nathan MacKinnon out for four weeks, perhaps the biggest name out of the lineup. Simply put:
This team is a Cale Makar or Mikko Rantanen injury away from catapulting down the standings #GoAvsGo— Mile High Hockey (@MileHighHockey) December 6, 2022
Arguably, the Avalanche is already catapulting down the standings. They are currently tied for the last wild card spot, only ahead of the Calgary Flames with the Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks right behind them. One more serious injury to the few remaining stars in the lineup will cause a complete free-fall.
We have seen injuries take down teams in the past. Look at the Vegas Golden Knights last year. Arguably, the Avs' toughest test the last few seasons en route to their Stanley Cup dreams then were shut down by Vegas. However, they didn’t even make it to the dance because of their injuries and the necessity to circumvent the cap. It made them miss the playoffs for the first time in their history.
The same can be said about the 2021 Dallas Stars in the shortened COVID season. Their season had a ton of issues including COVID stoppages, and the fatal winter storm in Texas alongside injuries, which caused them to miss the playoffs just after their run to the Stanley Cup Final the previous year.
The Avalanche could face the same fate should the injuries keep going down this path. While it is only early December, the time to get situated in this season’s standings is now. The next month is crucial for the Avs depending on everyone’s recovery time from the list above.
Call it a Cup hangover, call it the blood sacrifice to win the Cup, call it the antics of Jordan Binnington putting a spell on Colorado, or whatever else it may be, but it is currently not a good spot to be in if you're an Avalanche fan. The next month in particular is going to be an extreme challenge. There are games every other day, 10 of the next 13 at home, starting with the Boston Bruins tonight and New York Rangers on Friday night.
The Altitude crew said it perfectly after Monday’s loss to the Philadelphia Flyers: the team showed a ton of fight in them to almost come back into it late. However, it’s just going to be so hard to go forward with AHL-caliber players in the NHL. There is no way to sugarcoat it going forward: it’s going to be a challenging holiday season for the Avs.
Colorado just needs to keep pushing through the best it can, use the AHL chemistry built up within the organization, and stay healthy. Get through this rough patch, rely on one another, play it safe, and stay in the fight despite the losses. If the Avalanche continues to fall and/or lose players, it’s going to be a challenge to get back to the top of the Central Division and even the playoffs should it get to the worst-case scenario.
It’s going to be tough. Just hang on Avs faithful. It’s going to be hard and sounds incredibly challenging right now. We just have to get through.