The Colorado Avalanche’s Core Is Crazily Strong


The Colorado Avalanche have made many moves this off-season, including the trade that sent an important core player to the Buffalo Sabres. Nevertheless, when pointing out roster strengths, it is easy to notice that the team’s core is still extremely strong.

Over the past seasons, one of the Avalanche’s most important players was Semyon Varlamov. The Russian goaltender was acquired from the Washington Capitals in 2011, and has since been a force for the Colorado Avalanche. He played a huge 2013-14 season in which Colorado won the Central Division ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues and co. At 27 years old, Varlamov is just entering his prime now.

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Next up is Erik Johnson — another 27-year-old who is just entering his prime. Acquired from the St. Louis Blues one year after Varlamov, Johnson has been the anchor of a Colorado Avalanche defense that has been craving a true No. 1 since the times of Rob Blake and Adam Foote. Whether or not Johnson will become a legend like Blake and Foote may be questionable. He has, however, developed into a true No. 1 defenseman and will likely be that for a few more years.

Young D-man Tyson Barrie and new addition Nikita Zadorov can also be counted as core players. Zadorov has yet to prove that he can be a good second-pairing defenseman. However, he was a first round draft pick in 2013 and has all the tools to succeed in the NHL. Young guns like Barrie and Zadorov, along with a veteran like Johnson are a great defensive core that the Colorado Avalanche can build around.

Just like in goal and on defense, the offense features some high-potential players that were drafted in the first round. Nathan MacKinnon was the 1st overall pick in 2013, Gabriel Landeskog the 2nd overall selection in 2011 and Matt Duchene the 3rd overall pick in 2009. Add to that a couple more first-rounders — 2012’s 12th overall pick Mikhail Grigorenko and 2015’s 10th overall selection Mikko Rantanen. Both those forwards can develop into core players within the next years. That makes a more than acceptable core.

So when arguing that the Colorado Avalanche is far away from winning the Stanley Cup — like I did myself not long ago — it has to be kept in mind that the problem is not the team’s core. With Duchene, MacKinnon, Landeskog, Rantanen and Grigorenko, the club does not have a group of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad, but they do have a group with very similar potential.

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Therefore, the foundation for a successful future is there, and the task should be to build a competitive team around it. Veteran-acquisitions like Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay and Francois Beauchemin are one way to do so. However, it has to be expected that they regress with age and don’t remain stars until they retire. So there must be a different way.

At the end of the day, it must be a balanced approach of developing prospects, acquiring depth players and acquiring experienced players. The Colorado Avalanche are heading in a good direction as they stacked up their prospect pool through the O’Reilly deal and the 2015 Draft, while already having acceptable defensive prospect depth.

Does that mean that we can expect Colorado to get back to more successful times very soon? Not quite. As said, the core is definitely there, and while Johnson and Varlamov are heading into their 30s, the core is still very young overall. Unfortunately, Tanguay, Iginla and Beauchemin likely went to the wrong club if they want to win the Cup before they retire.

However, the foundation is there, and Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy should be competent enough to develop a good roster around that core. There are strong prospects in the system, and free-agent additions can be made over the next years. With this core of young, talented players, the Colorado Avalanche should be able to make their way back to the very top of the league eventually — if Sakic and Roy can shape a team around it.

What do you think about the Colorado Avalanche’s core? Is it strong enough to lead the team to the Stanley Cup? Let us know in the comments!

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