Colorado Avalanche: Ten Predictions for the 2016-17 Season

Mar 9, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Members of the Colorado Avalanche celebrate the win over the Anaheim Ducks at the Pepsi Center. The Avalanche defeated the Ducks 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 9, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Members of the Colorado Avalanche celebrate the win over the Anaheim Ducks at the Pepsi Center. The Avalanche defeated the Ducks 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Avalanche are starting out fresh in 2016-17.  How will they do?  Here are ten predictions for the season.

Hockey season is finally here, and it feels great.  At the end of last season, I certainly wasn’t as excited as I am now.  I felt that another year under Roy’s coaching would be another wasted season that would end with both Roy and Sakic losing their jobs.  But,  Roy’s decision to resign, Sakic’s shrewd offseason maneuvers, a “young” and exciting new coach, an undefeated preseason have me feeling good and a wild and crazy home opener have me feeling good – Here are ten predictions (more like wishes) I have for the Colorado Avalanche this season.

1.Nathan MacKinnon finally has his breakout season and finishes in the top 10 in league scoring

Many are already predicting this year will be MacKinnon’s breakout season.  Under new head coach, Jared Bednar’s guidance and new offensive systems, MacKinnon will finally take advantage of his speed and skill to become a dominant offensive player.    Having more confidence with the puck in high-traffic areas and shooting the puck more will see Nate achieve 30+ goals and 50+ assists.

2.  Mikhail Grigorenko also has a breakout season proving that he belongs in the top six of the Avalanche.

With his incredible puck skills, creativity and overall hockey sense, Grigo should also excel under Bednar’s new systems designed at generating a dynamic and speedy offense. Hopefully he can crack 20+ goals and 25+ assists.  

3.  Nikita Zadorov has his own breakout season of sorts, and becomes the most intriguing piece of the Colorado Avalanche blue line.

Zads will still have his usual amount of bad penalties, unforced turnovers and likely a short suspension, but these will be overshadowed by his intelligent and physical play in his own zone, and his overlooked ability to shoot and carry the puck in the offensive zone.  By the end of the season, the entire league (especially the Buffalo Sabres) will wish they had Zadorov on their team.  

4. For the first time in years, the Avs defense will be respected around the league.  

It won’t be the best defense in the league, but it will no longer be among the worst.  Joe Sakic’s depth signings finally pay off, especially those of Tyutin and Wiercioch.  

5. For the first time in his nine year NHL career, Cody McLeod finds himself spending more time in the press box than on the ice.

After being a leader and staple of the Colorado Avalanche for nine season, this year, McLeod’s place on the fourth line is taken by younger, faster and more skilled players.  Even though it hurts to see Cody benched, it makes sense

6. By the end of the season, Avs fans realize that they won the O’Reilly trade.

The improvements made by Grigorenko and Zadorov begin to show, while J.T. Compher demonstrates his worth as a bottom six forward after he’s called up from San Antonio.  Meanwhile, A.J. Greer becomes a key offensive player in San Antonio.  By the end of the year,  $7.5 million a year for Ryan O’Reilly seems ridiculous, especially when the Avs have Duchene, Landeskog, Varlamov, Johnson, and Barrie all under contract for less than $6.3 million each.

7. Joe Sakic is finally recognized for his accomplishments as a GM.

Sakic’s vision and long term planning start to pay off this season after years of being doubted in his role as a GM.  Specifically, his cap-friendly contracts of core players, the return of the O’Reilly trade, the development of draft picks and prospects, and savvy veteran and depth signings prove that Sakic is a much smarter GM than people thought.

 8. Semyon Varlamov has a bounceback season and holds on to the number one goalie position.

Despite this, Varly will go unprotected in the summers expansion draft, making him a likely, but not certain pick for the Las Vegas No-Names.

9. Joe Colborne is selected in the expansion draft to join the Las Vegas No-Names next season.

His age, cap-friendly contract, size and underrated offensive potential aren’t enough for the Avs to choose protect him in the expansion draft, but are enough for Las Vegas GM George McPhee to select him to play in Vegas.

10. Patrick Roy’s resignation is the best “offseason move” for the Colorado Avalanche

No longer are the Avs players cast members in the “Patrick Roy Show”.  

Under Bednar, the players become the focus of the franchise and are given the support they need to succeed in the hyper-competitive Central Division.  Ultimately, Bednar’s systems and coaching knowledge reveal how much Roy’s coaching decisions weren’t working for the Avs.

Related Story: Colorado Avalanche Player Grades Season Opener

Playoff prediction:

Under Bednar and the leadership of the Avs core, the Colorado Avalanche finish in a wild card position and make the playoffs for the first time in 3 years.  The Avs win their first round matchup (their second series win in a decade) but lose in the second round.  Despite this, the season is a success as the Avs send a message to the rest of the league that they are cup contenders again.