The Colorado Avalanche have three important questions they must answer this season in order to show relevancy in the NHL again.
The Colorado Avalanche don’t need to answer the following question: Can we make the playoffs? We already know the team doesn’t have a playoff-bound roster. Plus, you don’t go from dead last in the NHL to playoff contention — not without a returning Hall of Famer who shall remained unnamed.
That said, Colorado has plenty of issues to address this season. We’ve already got a pretty good look at what the roster will be. GM Joe Sakic has been slowly piecing together both an NHL and an AHL team. Barring a blockbuster trade — I think Matt Duchene will skate in burgundy and blue at least until mid-season — the Avs lineup is pretty set.
So, as Avs Nation braces for another bumpy season in an unfortunately long line of such, let’s look at three questions we do hope the Colorado Avalanche can answer this year.
How Can the Play Cut Down on Shots Against?
A lot of people hoped the Colorado Avalanche would trade Duchene for, among other things, a young, NHL-ready defenseman. That didn’t happen. That means our defensive corps consists of cornerstone Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, Mark Barberio and the hopefully-signed-soon Nikita Zadorov.
Since that’s not exactly the Orange Crush of hockey, the Colorado Avalanche are going to have to find another way to cut down on shots against. The team was #24 last season, allowing an average 31.7 shots per game. That helped lead to being dead last in both goal differential (-111) and goals against per game (3.37).
I imagine it’s going to have to come down to systems. The Avs are going to have to implement two-way systems that cut down on those shots against. We have a good goal tending tandem in Semyon Varlamov and Jonathan Bernier, but they can’t keep getting peppered with over 30 shots per game.
How Can the Team Score More Goals?
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It’s true that it doesn’t matter how many goals the other team scores as long as you score at least one more. That certainly was the case in last year’s opening night when the Avs won by a score of 6-5. However, that -111 goal differntial tells the tale.
When you look at the roster, this question shouldn’t be as hard to answer as the previous one. The Colorado Avalanche have proven goal scorers in the likes of Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Tyson Barrie. Colorado should also reasonably expect goal production from Mikko Rantanen and Tyson Jost.
Well, all four of those proven goal scorers had some of the worst seasons in their careers last year. Hopefully the management has done enough to address any roster issues with the supporting cast that’s assembled.
Now it’s a matter of lines and systems. The Colorado Avalanche are a speedy team, so naturally they need to continue building on that. The lines and the systems need to be developed to complement the team’s need for speed.
I’m going to go out on a limb and state lines need to be cemented. You have to change things up sometimes. However, it’s important for players to have regular linemates so they can develop chemistry.
What Is the Team Identity?
All of this comes down to team identity. Four seasons ago the Avs were asking, “Why NOT us?” Well, the answer hasn’t been pretty.
I think it’s time for a return to the Comeback Kids. We do not need to see those unsustainable third period come-from-behind wins. Rather, we need to see the Avalanche come back and prove the kids are all right.
Sakic has stated time and again the new model for the Colorado Avalanche is young and fast. Well, only two players (Blake Comeau and Carl Soderberg) are over the age of 30, both being 31. Most players are well south of 30. So, kid is apt for next year’s team. There’s definitely speed on the roster as well.
So, it’s time for the Avs to put it all together. There are big issues still for sure. However, last season the common lament was that the players didn’t have any chemistry. That cannot be the case this season. It’s up to the coaching staff and the team leadership to create bonding among the team.
Truthfully, the Colorado Avalanche should return this season as if they’ve just been through a war together. It’s not just the 48-point season, it’s all the negative media and mindset that went with such a disaster of a season. The returning players should hold that as battle scars that only their fellow brothers from last year can understand.
The new players should look on history and know they’re part of the solution. It’s expected of them to help ensure such an embattled season never happens again.
Maybe this year’s motto for the Colorado Avalanche can be “Coming Back At Ya.” And we all need to say it with a chip on our shoulders and our heads at a pugnacious angle.