Coming off a Stanley Cup Championship, expectations for the Colorado Avalanche to repeat were reasonable. No one in the NHL boasts a better big three than Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Cale Makar, and those three alone can almost win a series on their own.
The difference this year was the depth, or lack thereof, and this is where the discourse around the Avs was a bit maddening. Turn on any radio station during the season and you’d hear some form of “Where did the Avalanche go?” dominating the discourse in the moments between the daily Broncos updates on the 3rd string quarterback. Whether talk radio and the blogosphere were the cause or the effect of this broad “why aren’t they as good as last year?” discussion is academic, but the net result of this amplification of an argument being made around the city created expectations for the Avs that were unreasonable as long as their trainer’s room was full.
Where did the Avalanche go? To Calgary. And Seattle. And to the injured list. This team was never going to be as good as last year’s was, because last year’s was a historically great hockey team. It was unreasonable to hold them to last year’s expectations. Yet, one master of the low-hanging fruit of Denver discourse is suggesting that a team who won a championship somehow underachieved this era—not to mention that the blue-chip players of that team are 27, 26, 24, 29, 27, and 21 years old.
So what you’re suggesting is this core has underachieved under Bednar?— Mark Kiszla (@markkiszla) May 1, 2023
Hmmm … https://t.co/iyPLoJ8Il6
They won the Stanley Cup! Last year!
This discourse is literal insanity.
Nathan MacKinnon, Devon Toews, Cale Makar, and Mikko Rantanen all made it clear in their post-game press conferences that they were proud of this team and proud of the effort they put up in game seven. It was an uphill climb the entire way on the hardest journey in sports, and the Avalanche have joined the avalanche of teams who slipped and fell to the bottom.
Being upset by a big underdog is disappointing, and frustration is an appropriate emotion to have in the wake of it, but asserting that the team who has most captivated the NHL with its exhilarating style of play the last few years is somehow underperforming is unreasonable. Rantanen just scored 55 goals. MacKinnon led the NHL in even-strength points despite missing 11 games. The window is not closed. The future is bright, and in all honesty, losing in the first round is far from the worst result that could happen to a team who desperately needs some rest.
Avs fans should be proud of this year’s team for grinding through the endless array of AHL call-ups and distractions en route to a division title, and anyone saying you shouldn’t is just trying to bait you into giving them a rage-click.