Colorado Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon Showing New Maturity

Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports /

Thanks to periods of the Colorado Avalanche losing, especially this Destroyed Season, center Nathan MacKinnon is showing new levels of maturity.

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon is all grown up.

Nothing shows the mettle of a man like adversity. And it has been nothing but adversity for the Avalanche this season.

MacKinnon himself certainly hasn’t been awful. He’s first on the team for points and tied for third with goals. It’s just that the team has been awful — first in points is just 48, and third in goals is just 15. That’s horrid when you’re in the last handful of games in the season.

This year marks MacKinnon’s fourth year in the NHL. He entered during the golden Why Not Us season of 2013-14, earning 63 points and Calder Trophy honors.

Since then his best season was last year’s Season of Collapse when he earned 52 points in 72 games. Theoretically MacKinnon can best that points total this year, but it will take all 82 games.

MacKinnon was a kid coming into the NHL — just 18, and a fresh 18 at that since his birthday is in September. More “veteran” players — like the then-22 Gabriel Landeskog — took MacK under their wings. Nate was allowed to be just a kid growing into the game.

As late as last May, MacKinnon seemed to be very much just a kid. He did a Mother’s Day special with Mile High Sports. In talking bout his mother, he said the following:

"“She pays my bills, does my laundry, cooks me food. Pretty much everything I don’t want to do. I think she likes taking care of me.”"

That he wasn’t adept at doing those things himself isn’t too damning considering he lived his first year with JS Giguere and his second year with Max Talbot — true veterans and family men both of them. However, it didn’t exactly reek of preternatural maturity either.

Well, I don’t know what his bills and housekeeping situation is now, but 21-year-old Nate himself is definitely showing new maturity. Unfortunately a lot of that stems from the awful Avalanche season.

MacKinnon has been saying that outright. He’s talked about how he’s never been in a position like this before, which makes sense considering every team he’s been on before has succeeded partially because he’s on the team.

Nate has also had to talk about scoring woes — 15 goals and 48 points is not what you expect from a player of his caliber. (He says himself in the video below that he’s “embarrassed” by how many goals he has this season.) He’s still something of a kid, saying it “sucks” because scoring goals is “fun.” However, he’s developed enough maturity to analyze what’s going on:

Besides the analysis that he and the other top players haven’t been able to get going at the same time — not exactly a news flash — something else struck me.

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Nate has learned how to mind his tongue. He takes on responsibility in saying “There’s some games when [Matt Duchene] is going and I’m not going.” However, he’s very careful not to criticize the others: “Or I’m going and Dutchy or Mikko [Rantanen]… you know, we’re never really in sync.”

That’s noteworthy because earlier in the year, in January, MacKinnon was benched for a few shifts. The stated reason was that he needed to “sit down and regroup” because of “in-game stuff that happens in sports.” However, insiders remarked that they’d heard Nate criticizing teammates right before he was benched.

Nathan MacKinnon’s maturity also stems from the bold move of naming him an alternate captain at the beginning of the season. I didn’t really agree with the move at the time because he hadn’t shown a ton of leadership up to then — and he seemed very much the kid still learning the NHL game.

Well, his status as a core player and future star of the team, as well as alternate captain, has put him very much in the spotlight this year. As the season deteriorated, he’s had to answer question after question (after question) about what’s going wrong.

As with the video above, he’s remarked on the difficulty with scoring goals, especially from the top offensive players. However, he also remarked in a post-game presser, “We have no chemistry.”

Chemistry is that ultimate intangible, the thing that prevents a team with talented, skilled players from being, well, the Colorado Avalanche this season. As far back as December, MacKinnon could identify it as a primary reason for the team’s failure.

Next: Avs Death Watch Begins

Last season Nathan MacKinnon was one of the few players showing fire consistently throughout the year, until he was sidelined for the remainder of the season with a knee injury. He’s been frustrated with losing.

That fire has to stay inside him, just tempered with his new maturity. Nathan MacKinnon is a team leader now. He’s not ready to take on veteran status just yet, but as the new youngsters keep coming up, such as this year’s Mikko Rantanen and (hopefully soon) Tyson Jost, it will be up to MacK to lead the way.

Adversity shows the mettle of a man. For the Colorado Avalanche, hopefully Nathan MacKinnon can continue stoking the fire of his motivation even as these losing periods have matured him.