Colorado Avalanche: 2015-16 Best-Case Scenario


For the Colorado Avalanche, there is a lot of uncertainty about the upcoming season. Sometimes, uncertainty can create a very uncomfortable feeling. Especially when you know that among all possibilities, there is also the one of ending up at the very bottom.

In a best-case scenario, the future looks bright.

But then, in the Colorado Avalanche’s case, you look at those extremely talented core players and prospects and suddenly everything looks so much better. As I have said before — and many of you may be sick of reading it, so I apologize in advance — there is a lot of unproven talent on the Avs roster right now. Nevertheless, in a best-case scenario, the future looks bright.

Of course we don’t live in a perfect world, so this best-case scenario is still supposed to be somewhat realistic. We can’t just assume that the core players take their game to the next step and win all the big trophies, while three prospects battle for the Calder Trophy and the Avs walk away with the Stanley Cup. That just ain’t happening.

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But if we start at the top and keep it realistic, we can get much closer to that perfect world than we have been not long ago. At the top of the depth chart and close to the top of the scoring list sits Matt Duchene. Arguably the club’s biggest fan, Duchene seemed to have taken his level to the next step when he scored 70 points in 71 regular season games in the 2013-14 campaign.

However, he failed to deliver the season after — just like all of his teammates — and ended the 2014-15 season with only 55 points. If the whole team manages to get out of their slump, Duchene could finally develop into one of the elite centers in the league. He proved that he can score at a point-per-game pace in 2013-14 and has the potential to get those 80 points in the upcoming campaign. Just wait for it.

Obviously, even Duchene won’t just score 80 unassisted goals. So that means that his linemates will also profit from that accelerated production. Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla, finished the past season with 55 and 59 points respectively. If Duchene gets up to his 80, wait for those guys getting around 65 or 70, assuming that they don’t start their big decline now.

You can call him Carl Soderberg, but I believe his nickname is Ryan O’Reilly 2.0.

Sliding down one slot on center, we find the Colorado Avalanche’s new No. 2 — Carl Soderberg. You can call him that, but I believe his nickname is Ryan O’Reilly 2.0. Another strong two-way player with a little less NHL experience, but more experience in life and professional hockey in general.

The 29-year-old spent ten years playing professional hockey in Sweden, recording 60 points in 54 games in his last season, before joining the NHL Boston Bruins. And he didn’t slow down there. While playing bottom-six minutes on a checking line, Soderberg recorded 94 points in 161 NHL games. He added six more in 14 playoff contests.

So now may be the time for him to step into that new role as a No. 2 center and contribute like O’Reilly did. Raise that point total to 60 and be a force defensively. As I said, we don’t live in a perfect world and Soderberg likely won’t be as good as O’Reilly defensively. But it is well possible that he gets close to it.

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Now his projected linemates are Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon. The 2nd overall pick in 2011 and the 1st overall pick in 2013, who obviously have a lot of talent and can be elite forwards as well. That would — in a best-case scenario — give us a top six of five elite players (Duchene, Tanguay, Iginla, MacKinnon, Landeskog), although two of them are past their prime.

Two of them are aging, but I haven’t even mentioned two of our top prospects yet, who also happen to have elite potential. One of those is 2015 No. 1 European skater and 10th overall pick Mikko Rantanen and the other is newly acquired center Mikhail Grigorenko. Rantanen just signed his entry-level deal and has good chances to make the team this year, while Grigorenko has some NHL experience already and will be on the team if he signs a new contract.

If these two players work out this year, it would add more depth to the team. At least one of them could move into the top six and pave the way for a more balanced lineup. Even if they stay on the third line, the Colorado Avalanche would have some great depth. Again the reminder, this is a best-case scenario and the exact opposite could happen. Grigorenko could go back to Russia, Rantanen to Finland and we sit here talking about depth — but let’s not talk about that now.

The Avalanche’s top four could be catapulted into the league’s top 10.

With Grigorenko and Rantanen in the lineup, John Mitchell can move down and form a great bottom line with two of Cody McLeod, Dennis Everberg and Jesse Winchester. That could, indeed, be called good depth.

Moving on to the defense, we have fresh addition Francois Beauchemin paired with our No. 1 Erik Johnson. Behind that, we have Nikita Zadorov and Tyson Barrie. That could definitely catapult the Avalanche’s top four at least into the top ten in the league.

Don’t let your excitement be killed by the bottom pairing that is still quite horrible. Both Duncan Siemens and Chris Bigras could be ready sooner rather than later and fix all the problems. Brad Stuart is likely staying because of his hefty contract. But as I said, this is a best-case scenario, not the perfect world.

There has never been a need to worry about the goaltenders, but I want us to enjoy them again. Semyon Varlamov has been an outstanding starter over the past years and will continue to be that next season. Calvin Pickard is ready to step in as his backup and the best-case scenario would be for him to do just that, pushing Reto Berra back to San Antonio.

If all those things really did happen, what would be the best-case result? I want to say that that Stanley Cup will likely remain in the Colorado of the perfect world, while the real life Colorado Avalanche still has some work to do. But, if all the above things occur, the playoffs are more than possible and perhaps the team could even sneak into the second round.

How realistic do you think this would be? If everything happened like it does in this scenario, where would the Colorado Avalanche end up? Let us know in the comments. 

Next: Avs D: From Worst To Best In 3 Years?

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