Now that the calendar has turned the page to May, the Colorado Avalanche officially begins its summer. With a lot of time forthcoming to reflect and start thinking about a busy offseason ahead here are some of our initial reactions.
What is one thing you’ll remember most fondly from the 2022-23 campaign?
Evan: Opening night way back when was the best memory of the season. Watching the banner rise to the rafters, back when there were no worries or concerns, was a wonderful time. The 2022 Stanley Cup championship will never be taken away from this team, regardless of the outcomes moving forward, especially from this season.
Jackie: I really wanted Mikko Rantanen to hit 50 goals and I still believe it is the most impressive individual milestone reached this season. To put the icing on the cake, I was in attendance to witness him score the team-record-breaking 55th goal against the Winnipeg Jets. Through all the injuries and lineup drama Rantanen also played every single game this season and I’ll remember it as one of his best seasons in his career.
Jacob: Just how much the Avs fought and grinded. This was the kind of season where almost everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. It would have been easy to just pack it in and shrug and say “This isn’t our year,” but the Avs fought from way back in January to win the division despite playing with a fraction of their roster at full strength.
Ezra: It’s awesome that Mikko and Nate both hit 100 points, but for me, it’s the emergence of Alexandar Georgiev as a true no. 1 goalie - he’s on a bargain deal for two more years and if he can play out that contract at the level he showed this season, the Avs will stay at the top of the Western Conference. Very excited to see him progress alongside the still-young core.
What is the greatest disappointment from the season?
Evan: It has to be losing in the first round in another game seven. I think most fans probably saw it as an extreme challenge to repeat and go back-to-back as the Tampa Bay Lightning had done prior, but to go out in the first round? Probably not what people had on their bingo cards. Losing three of four at home, failing to match the depth and energy the Seattle Kraken brought took them to their demise. I wish we were still playing, but at the same time, the Avs need this rest to prepare for next season.
Jacob: It’s obviously the first-round loss, but not having Gabriel Landeskog the entire year is a close second. The Avs were missing their heart and soul, and not getting a fair chance to defend their title with their captain is a bitter pill to swallow.
Jackie: Missing Landeskog all year was a tough blow and so was Valeri Nichushkin leaving the team during the first round of the playoffs, which seemed to be the final straw. But injuries have to always be expected as a rolling constant with some years naturally worse than others. As I’ve been yelling into the wind for 10 years now the organization’s development woes will come back to bite them and hopefully won’t end this core’s window of contention early. Failing to get anyone in the minors ready to contribute as needed or to take a job in the fall will just perpetuate these injury and absence issues which then leads to more burnout among the top players.
Ezra: Fully agree with everyone’s points so far, so I’ll just add in a quick thought - depth scoring disappeared in the playoffs despite seeming like some guys were ready to contribute. JT Compher specifically had such a great year, and then put up a total dud of a series when it really mattered. He, Malgin, and Newhook seemed poised to break out and absolutely didn’t.
Who is one player not under contract you’d like to see return for 2023-24?
Evan: Please please please find a way to get Bowen Byram on a good deal. He is likely the best piece moving forward in the core of the defense to pair alongside Cale Makar. We’ve seen glimpses of the two working together and just how dominant they can be. While he’s only an RFA, getting him on a good deal with good terms will be instrumentally huge for the upcoming years as an organization.
Jackie: Maybe not the most popular answer but I’d like to see Chris MacFarland find some way to bring Evan Rodrigues back. Sure he was frustrating at times but ERod scored 16 goals and the Avalanche are in need of adding scoring depth to this team, not just replacing it. Of course, the price greatly matters and he’s not signing a one-year two-million dollar contract again but I don’t think he raised his price much in his stay in Colorado, thus shouldn’t break the bank to retain.
Jacob: Lars Eller. The Avalanche middle six has been decimated by free agency, the expansion draft, and injuries the past couple of years, and priority number one for the Avs has to be restocking the talent pool in the middle six. After MacKinnon and Rantanen, Eller was the best Avs forward in the Seattle series, and his size and championship pedigree makes him a perfect fit on this roster and the Avs should do everything they reasonably can to bring him back.
Ezra: I’m comfortable moving on from all the UFAs, though if JT Compher could be brought back to play third-line minutes for third-line value that would be cool. It’s not realistic, however. Eller for under two million or Rodrigues for under three would not upset me either.
What is one critical move you’d like to see happen over the summer?
Evan: Doing something about the depth has to be the first move. They were walloped in this most recent series, of course with extenuating circumstances not helping either. No goals from anyone in the bottom six was a problem. It was not the same as the Cup team, as to be expected, but it wasn’t expected to be such a huge issue. Of course, it leads to questions such as resigning what they have now in Evan Rodrigues and Denis Malgin or moving on to find pieces elsewhere.
Jackie: Figure out what Devon Toews wants on an extension and if it’s not team friendly then he has to be traded to bring assets back into the organization. Look, I get it he’s been great for the team and on a pair with Cale Makar but let’s be honest anyone would take a step in their career playing with Makar. Just like with Nazem Kadri, the appetite won’t be there to pay a 30-year-old 50 million dollars and also like with Kadri one year of Tyson Barrie bought the Avalanche a top-six center for three years. That’s the type of move that should be made or this window of contention is going to close very quickly.
Jacob: Go get Sidney Crosby. They can afford him (especially if they put Gabriel Landeskog on long-term IR) and we all know how special the relationship is between him and Nathan MacKinnon. With Pittsburgh’s title window closing (or closed) and Colorado desperately needing to restock their secondary scoring, there has never been a better time to complete this trade that every Avs fan has had in the back of their head since we learned that MacKinnon is Crosby’s protégé.
Ezra: I don’t see a big trade swing happening unless it’s one of the lefthanded D-men on the way out. Byram is a stud, and Girard is on a great deal, so Toews makes the most sense as he is the oldest and likely to command the most pricey contract. His value will never be higher than this summer, so swapping him out for a center a la the Barrie for Kadri deal seems like the right move for this moment. Love DT, it’ll be hard to see him go. But I also loved TB, and that goodbye worked out pretty well.