Apparently Hockey News feels that the honeymoon between Patrick Roy, Joe Sakic, and the Colorado Avalanche is going to end in catastrophic fashion this season. Last year, the Avalanche brought in Colorado legends Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic to coach and manage the team, respectively. The Avalanche barreled down the mountain out of the gate, destroying everything in their paths (including glass partitions between the benches, opposing goalie’s hopes and dreams, and the blood pressure of enemy coaches). Their hot start accumulated the boys in burgundy ‘n’ blue 12 wins in their first 13 games.
The Avs held their own throughout the season, keeping pace with the powerhouse Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues, before overtaking both in the final month of the season and winning the Central Division crown! The Avs finished with 112 points, and a 52-22-8 record overall.
The Hockey News (THN), the most recognized hockey publication in North America, doesn’t buy the Avs having another fairy tale season this year.
Why is THN being so hard on the Avs? They are loaded with young star players, Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly, Gabe Landeskog, and Tyson Barrie are all 23 or younger. They have a stud goaltender from Mother Russia, Semyon Varlamov, who was fantastic last season. Seems like this team would be trending up. Maybe not so fast.
Here are a few possible reasons the Avs could slip up next year:
- Varly faced more shots than any goalie in the league last year. He was up to the task, posting a stellar 0.927 save percentage, but relying on your goalie that much isn’t ideal.
- The Avs were shaky on defense last year, and the only thing they did to address that was pick up aging Brad Stuart from the San Jose Sharks. Many Sharks fans were glad to be rid of Stuart, saying he is a pylon (immobile skater) and offers nothing on the offensive end. The Avs are hoping Stuart can give them a solid physical presence on the back end. If paired with a more mobile creator and playmaker like Erik Johnson or Tyson Barrie, I can see Stuart being servicable, but he certainly isn’t an acquisition that should get anyone overly excited.
- The Avs stunk up the joint in terms of puck possession last year. They ranked near the bottom of the league in both team Corsi and Fenwick, which are metrics used to quantify a team’s ability to possess the puck. These statistics generally are reliable predictors of success, but the Avs defied the odds last year. Many feel that the Avs “luck” is bound to run out eventually, especially if they don’t get better at hanging on to the biscuit and clearing it out of their own end. The lack of significant moves on the blue-line hasn’t instilled a great deal of confidence in the public opinion that this team will be any better in those possession metrics next season.
- They really really REALLY want in on the Connor McDavid sweepstakes, and tank the season to miss the playoffs and enter the draft lottery. This has to be it. McDavid and MacKinnon on the same team. I’m McLovin it! Sorry, that joke was super-bad.
What do I think? I think 12th in the Western Conference is a little harsh. The Avalanche can score goals, and with MacKinnon’s trajectory into the upper stratosphere of elite players in the NHL, you figure they might have even more firepower on the offensive end this season.
Last season the Avalanche scored 250 goals, one of eight teams to score over 240. Those eight teams all made the playoffs. I think it’s a safe bet to project this year’s Avalanche to net another 250 goals or so, and if they do, history is on their side. Scoring in the regular season gets you into the playoffs. Defense wins championships. The playoffs are where the Avs shortcomings could be revealed.
Vegas betting odds have the Avalanche over/under at 98.5 points, and projects them to finish 3rd in the Central and 6th in the West. This is a 14-15 point regression from last year’s total, yet 98 points still would have gotten the Avs into the playoffs last year. I agree 100% with the notion that the Avs aren’t likely to have the magical regular season they had last year, but 100 points and a playoff berth still seem like pretty good bets to me. 12th THN?!? C’mon man!