Colorado Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon Forceful about Next Year’s Success

DENVER, CO - APRIL 18: Nathan MacKinnon
DENVER, CO - APRIL 18: Nathan MacKinnon /

Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon will only accept making the playoffs next season. Anything less is unacceptable.

The Colorado Avalanche’s season felt like it ended prematurely when they lost to the Nashville Predators in Game 6, thus eliminating the Avs. However, we all know that last season’s 48-point team was never a favorite to even make the playoffs, so we got a couple weeks of bonus hockey.

In any case, the cap and both (main) alternate captains spoke to the media after the game. That wasn’t at all surprising, though it was a delight to see Erik Johnson again — we sure did miss him. It also wasn’t overly surprising to hear Johnson’s and Gabriel Landeskog‘s sober yet thoughtful words. They’re both known for being good speakers.

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MacKinnon for me has always been a show leadership on the ice kind of guy. I don’t want to say he’s inarticulate — he was a little as an 18-year-old rookie, but that’s to be expected. However, I’ve never considered him to be the most eloquent of speakers.

Fast forward to his poised and downright eloquent post-game presser. It’s been electrifying to see MacKinnon grow in leaps and bounds this year on the ice. Now it looks like he’s had an off-ice transition as well.

During his presser, Nathan MacKinnon talked about the series, of course. He saw plenty of positives in what the Avalanche accomplished in just one year. He acknowledged there were plenty of naysayers about the Avs:

"“Definitely a lot of people didn’t see us in this position coming into the season. You know, everybody thought we weren’t going to make it, thought we’d be the odd-team out in the west. Obviously, it’s nice to prove people wrong and have a good young team going forward.”"

MacKinnon also talked about seeing the 2017-18 season as a learning year. He acknowledges that the “bounce-back year” was “cool.” However, he envisions a lot more for this team:

"“We’re trying to win a Cup and obviously it’s disappointing that we showed up like this and lost 5-0 in an elimination game. Obviously, like I said, there’s some positives. We have a young team going forward. I thought we showed a lot of fight this season, a lot of adversity that we overcame.”"

MacKinnon also put to words a worry I have. This year’s playoff appearance doesn’t amount to a hill of beans if the Colorado Avalanche don’t make the playoffs again next year. We already danced this dance: Avs make the playoffs, barely miss it, flame out. And what happened the third year after the Central Division title? Colorado was even worse off than before. (Those are my words, not MacKinnon’s.) Nate does want the Avs to build on what they learned this season.

During the handshake line, Nathan talked for a bit with Predators coach Peter Laviolette. The bench boss had some encouraging words for the young star:

"“He thought our team was up and coming, similar to their team he thought. Up and coming — having a lot of good young prospects and young players just like they did three years ago, and look where they’re at now obviously with the President’s Trophy so definitely a good team to compare to.”"

We want the Colorado Avalanche to be up and coming like the Nashville Predators, not up and down like the Edmonton Oilers.

Here’s the big theme that I took out of MacKinnon’s presser, and one I hope carries through next season. The Colorado Avalanche finished dead last in the NHL last season and bounced back so well they made the playoffs. However, that sets the expectations higher. No one expected much out of the Avs this season. But we’re going to expect it next year.

"“Hopefully we can do some damage next season. Obviously there are going to be higher expectations for our team. Next season is going to be playoffs or failure.”"

MacKinnon definitely doesn’t want the playoffs to be one and done for a handful of years like it was last time:

"“It sets the bar. My first year I was fortunate enough to make the playoffs and that kind of set the bar. You don’t want to come and then not make the playoffs for three or four years. And then that kind of is accepted. Everybody next year, that’s what the bar’s going to be — playoffs or bust.”"

He’s so correct — that sets a dangerous precedent. If you lose enough games, it becomes ok to lose, as long as you don’t make any big mistakes yourself. If the Colorado Avalanche don’t make the playoffs next year, it’s a failure.

Next: MacKinnon's Game-Winning Goals

Don’t blame me for that sentiment — our young star stated it. Playoffs or bust for the Colorado Avalanche.