Colorado Avalanche: Is it Time to Hit the Panic Button

Oct 28, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (33) shoots the puck as Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov (1), defenseman Patrick Wiercioch (28) and defenseman Tyson Barrie (4) defend in the first period at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 28, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (33) shoots the puck as Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov (1), defenseman Patrick Wiercioch (28) and defenseman Tyson Barrie (4) defend in the first period at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Avalanche have dipped below 500 hockey just nine games into the season. It’s time to take a realistic look at this current makeup of the team.

Nine games into the Colorado Avalanche season, and you’re going to say it’s much too soon to worry, right? There’s plenty of hockey left, so the Avalanche’s sub-500 record shouldn’t worry us.

Look at all those teams, like the LA Kings and the Pittsburgh Penguins, who started badly and went on to win the Stanley Cup! Why, even the Anaheim Ducks last year started worse than the Colorado Avalanche, and they went on to win the Pacific Division!

I’m not buying it. I’ve sung that song too many times myself the last five or six years, barring the golden Why Not Us season. And I don’t care what you say about new systems and utilizing advanced stats, this is the same team I saw playing under both Joe Sacco and Patrick Roy.

Now, here’s where it gets puzzling, because technically it’s not the same team. I mean, if we’re going back to Joe Sacco, even the core isn’t the same. You’d have to take out Tyson Barrie and Nathan MacKinnon. And you’d have to be looking at greener versions of Matt Duchene and, especially, Gabriel Landeskog.

Ok, maybe saying we should hit the panic button is being dramatic. What are we going to do — hide from the rest of the season? Truthfully, as fans, we can do nothing to change what’s going on with the Colorado Avalanche. We can only offer conjecture on why they’re not a better team.

So, let’s do that.


If I’m going to maintain that Patrick Roy didn’t deserve all the blame for the Colorado Avalanche’s last two seasons — and I am — then I have to admit that Joe Sacco and, yes, even Jared Bednar are  not the major problems.

The rationale is the same as it ever was — a head coach can only do so much. Yes, they teach and implement systems and make in-game changes that can affect games. However, the players are the ones on the ice.

However, the Twitter-verse brought up an interesting point after last night’s 4-0 loss in Chicago — some of the coaching support staff is the same. Tim Army, one of the assistant coaches, has been around six seasons.

I can’t imagine a single assistant coach could have had a significant impact on the team. However, maybe he’s like the dripping faucet that adds to the flooded basement.

Young Core

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The Colorado Avalanche’s core isn’t so young anymore. At 25, Matt Duchene is in the prime of his NHL career, and Gabriel Landeskog is not far behind. Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie both have three full seasons under their belt. And hockey-wise, Erik Johnson and Semyon Varlamov are grizzled oldsters at 28 years old.

Ok, even by NHL standards that’s still pretty young, especially if you throw whippersnapper Mikko Rantanen  into the mix. However, barring Mikko, those players all have a lot of NHL experience.

Whether you talk to an Avalanche fan or another hockey fan — and I do both — you hear the same thing. “The Avs have such young talent on the team.” Well, so do the Edmonton Oilers, but before this season this didn’t get them anywhere.

Here’s a cold, hard truth we don’t like to talk about in Avs Nation — our core is talented, but not elitely so. An even colder, harder truth is that Nathan MacKinnon is no Connor McDavid, much less Sidney Crosby. Sorry, but, no, it isn’t too soon to say that — the “kid” is in his fourth season with the NHL.

Before you howl: NO, I’M NOT AGITATING TO TRADE NATHAN MACKINNON. IT IS TOO SOON TO SAY THAT. MacKinnon most certainly is talented. He definitely deserves the work the coaching staff must put in to help him access that talent.

That said, if the Colorado Avalanche miss the playoffs again this year, the team might have to explore blowing up the core à la the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Goal Tending

Hopefully that one’s becoming obvious. The Colorado Avalanche’s $6-million goalie, Semyon Varlamov, isn’t going to carry the team like he did during the 2013-14 season. Yes, he stole that season. Yes, he’s stolen lots of games. And he’s cost games.

Plus, there’s that $6 million cap hit. The Avalanche could get a nice defenseman for that money and put young Calvin Pickard in net. He’s the goalie of the future for Colorado.

I know Valramov has his supporters. And, yes, he still faces an inordinate amount of shots. See the above suggestion about what the Avs could do with his salary, though.

Ultimately, though, the rust has started to show on Semyon. By the end, even Patrick Roy wasn’t so hot on his golden boy anymore. And you can accuse Roy of a lot of deficiencies, but not about goal tending. (If you try, clearly you’re trying to unseat me from being mayor of Crazytown. Yes, I saw that comment.)

Colorado might have to pick up a veteran backup until Pickard gets some experience under his belt. Or, heck, I’d start playing him a lot more now and trade Varly at the deadline.

Next: Give Gelinas a Chance


I started writing this before the Colorado Avalanche placed center John Mitchell on waivers. As Mike Chambers of the Denver Post points out, this move is likely to get out of Mitchell’s $1.9 million contract.

If that’s the case, I wonder if Colorado tried to trade him. It seems to me they’d be able to get at least a draft pick — Mitchell’s a good two-way center who does very well on the checking line and on the penalty kill.

Anyway, none of us should be hitting the panic button just yet. However, the Avalanche canceled practice today before putting Mitchell on waivers. That means they, too, might not be subscribing to the “It’s still so early in the season” mentality. “Wait and see” hasn’t been working. Time to try something new.