Are the Colorado Avalanche Bubble Out?


The Colorado Avalanche are a bubble team, meaning they’re not favorites to make the playoffs in the 2015-16 season. We can’t really argue with that — the Avalanche have only made the playoffs once in the last five years, and last season they finished last in the Central Division.

Luckily, summer wipes the slate clean. Teams take the time to regroup and restructure. Hopefully they make their teams stronger. The Colorado Avalanche certainly were busy during the off-season. However, did they do enough to make themselves a bubble-in team? Or are they going to be on the outside of the playoff bubble again?

Colorado Avalanche Off-Season Moves

Every fan likes to think their team got stronger in the off-season. Last season we were all delighted to “trade” center Paul Stastny for right wing Jarome Iginla.

This season the moves were even more significant. The Colorado Avalanche finally pulled the trigger on the Ryan O’Reilly trade, sending him to the Buffalo Sabres for center Mikhail Grigorenko, defenseman Nikita Zadorov, prospect JT Compher and a second round draft pick.This move was precipitated by the team trading a draft pick to the Boston Bruins to acquire and eventually sign center Carl Soderberg. The Avalanche also acquired right wing Blake Comeau and defensman Francois Beauchemin in free agency.

Those moves mean the Colorado Avalanche are coming into the 2015-16 season significantly changed. Mikhail Grigorenko was an offensive dynamo at the major junior level, and the Avs are hoping being reunited with his old coach, Patrick Roy, will spark that offensive prowess again.

Nikita Zadorov is a huge (6-foot-5, 220 pound) shut down defenseman who likes to play physical. He’s supposed to be roving defenseman Tyson Barrie‘s new anchor on the blueline.

Carl Soderberg is like a defensive version of Ryan O’Reilly. He’s slated to center left wing Gabriel Landeskog and forward Nathan MacKinnon until the latter can take over top centering duties.

Blake Comeau is an energy player with offensive upside who might see time on the third line with John Mitchell as his center or fourth line with the rowdy bunch. He’s also looked to for physical play.

Another physical player is Francois Beauchemin, who played big minutes with the big, mean Anaheim Ducks. He’s to partner #1 defenseman Erik Johnson, who’s no stranger to physical play himself.

So, essentially, the Avalanche got bigger and grittier with a touch of extra offensive upside.

Tough Central Division

It’s said quite openly that the Central Division is the toughest in the NHL. The Colorado Avalanche finished last in the Central with 90 points. That was middling for most other divisions.

The Central didn’t get any easier in the off-season. Notably, the Dallas Stars — who finished just above the Avs with 93 points — made some impressive moves. They acquired goalie Antti Niemi from the San Jose Sharks and left wing Patrick Sharp from the Chicago Blackhawks. They also signed defenseman Johnny Oduya as a free agent. That is an improvement on every level for the Stars.

The Colorado Avalanche fared well against the Dallas Stars as a whole, sweeping them in their five-game series. However, the Avs didn’t do so hot against the Central Division as a whole, going 14-12-4. That’s barely 500 hockey. It was even worse against the Pacific Division — the Avs went 7-10-3.

However, that was Avalanche execs’ rationale for going out and getting some big, gritty but skilled players.

Prognosis did a feature on the Colorado Avalanche as part of the site’s annual 30-in-30 assessment. During the feature, analysts EJ Hradek and Dan Rosen predicted the Avs would be a bubble-out team, meaning they wouldn’t make the playoffs.

The Colorado Avalanche are a bubble team, that’s true. However, it’s premature to rule them a bubble-out team. The biggest criticisms from last season were that they allowed too many shots on net and overall didn’t have adequate defense. Avs execs addressed those issues exactly with two big, shutdown defensemen and a defensive forward.

They were also criticized for not possessing the puck enough or taking enough shots on net themselves. They addressed that with puck possession forward and an offensive dynamo. All these additions get added solid young core the Avalanche already had in place.

With one more maturity under their young belts, the Avs core are more likely to be prepared for the tribulations of the season. With one more year NHL coaching experience — and a coaching staff of his choosing — head coach Patrick Roy is even more likely to inspire his charges to victory.

For those reasons, I predict the Colorado Avalanche are bubble-in.

Next: 5 Reasons to be Excited About the Stadium Series Game

More from Mile High Sticking