The Colorado Avalanche are embarking on an important season that will truly show us the progress the team is making during their rebuild.
The Colorado Avalanche are about to embark on a very important season. After a 48-point debacle, they made the playoffs the following year.
This year we’re going to see if they fall somewhere in between 48 and 95 points or if they’re able to improve on last year’s success. This is also the year that we see if Joe Sakic’s vision, with Jared Bednar at the helm, will prove successful over time.
Like I said, a very important season.
There are going to be ups and downs throughout the season. We’ll have watch parties, happy hours, family nights and other special nights — including one to raise money for the Humboldt Broncos.
So, let’s look at some predictions of the 2018-19 season.
1. Nathan MacKinnon Regresses
The Colorado Avalanche rode to the playoffs largely on Nathan MacKinnon’s coattails. He busted his past success by recording a 97-point season (39 goals, 58 assists). However, there’s always a player or two who regresses, and I fear it might be our star this year.
I don’t think he’ll regress far, maybe into the low 80s, upper 70s in points. It won’t be enough to earn him Hart Trophy contention, though. (Be happy about this prediction — last season I said the same about Tyson Barrie, and he recorded a career year.)
On that topic…
2. Tyson Barrie Earns 50+ Points
I don’t know how bold that prediction is. In five full-length season, he’s earned 50+ points twice and came close a third time with 49 points. As noted, last season was a career year in which he earned 57 points (14 goals, 43 assists, both of which were also career highs for Barrie.)
I don’t want to say Barrie is going to necessarily better that points total. However, I think he’ll crack the 50-point mark.
3. Mikko Rantanen Scores 30 Goals
Boy, it’s tough to know what exactly we have with Mikko Rantanen, but he was an extremely good for the Colorado Avalanche last year. Skating on a line with MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, he recorded 29 goals and 55 assists for 84 points — a career season for the then-sophomore.
The previous season, as a rookie, Rantanen scored 20 goals, which was team-leading. (Yeah, that was the bad season, but still.) I think he can crack the 30-goal mark in his third NHL season — and maybe even get a little Hart Trophy talk of his own.
4. Sophomores will Pan Out — Especially Alexander Kerfoot
The New Jersey Devils are delighted they stole Will Butcher from us. Well, I’ll take our Harvard grad over Butcher any day. Alexander Kerfoor was a delightful surprise last season, going 5th on the team for scoring with 43 points (19 goals, 24 assists). And he only looks sharper this season. I think this kid could well finish top-five in Avs scoring again — and earn himself a juicy contract.
The Colorado Avalanche have three other sophomores of note, and I love what I see from all three. So, I think Tyson Jost will finish around the 20-goal, 30-assist mark. JT Compher may be a little more conservative at 45-ish points. And Samuel Girard will prove himself to be a top-line defenseman who can eat up big minutes and maybe record around 30 points.
5. Philipp Grubauer Throws at Least One Shutout
I don’t think newbie Philipp Grubauer, whom the Avalanche acquired from the Washington Capitals over the summer, did enough to steal the starter spot from Semyon Varlamov. He may still do so, largely dependent on Varlamov’s health.
That said, I still expect Grubauer to get at least 30 games, and I think he can throw at least one shutout in that time. In the last two seasons, he recorded three shutouts in each, so it seems a fair bet.
6. Martin Kaut Plays 9 NHL Games
The next NHL Expansion Draft is coming up soon for the Seattle team. Therefore, teams have to think about prospect contracts because first- and second-year players are exempt. Therefore, the Colorado Avalanche will want to protect their young assets, and that includes Martin Kaut.
The 18-year-old forward out of the Czech Republic didn’t earn a roster spot out of camp, nor should he have. He needs to learn the North American game before he learns the NHL game, and there are too many other forwards who deserve roster spots this season. That said, Kaut is good enough that I think the Avs will give him the nine NHL games that will keep him a second-year player when the Expansion Draft hits, presumably in a couple years.
7. Erik Johnson Plays 82 Games
This is probably wishful thinking on my part. In 10 NHL season, Erik Johnson has never played a full 82. He cam close in the 2013-14 season, but a suspension derailed him that year.
I’m hoping our cornerstone defenseman can stay healthy. He’s on the apex of his career right now, being the Avalanche’s best defenseman while being tasked with mentoring the youngsters coming up. So, I boldly predict this is the year our Condor plays a full 82.
8. Gabriel Landeskog Records a Career Season, and Gets Suspended
Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog is pretty consistently within the team’s top-five for scoring. He’s a 60-something point player in his best years, 50-something in average seasons. But I predict this season will be the one he betters his 65 points and 26 goals (both 2013-14). Our 25-year-old captain is in his prime, so now is the time.
I also predict our captain and his wild ways will run afoul of the Department of Player “Safety” yet again. I think they have a bull’s eye on his back, so they’ll catch him for some power forward infraction.
9. The Colorado Avalanche Earn Fewer than 90 Points, Missing the Playoffs
More from Mile High Sticking
- Could Colorado Avalanche move on from Pavel Francouz next offseason?
- 4 goalies to replace Pavel Francouz if he has to miss time
- Colorado Avalanche make sneaky signing with Tatar
- Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog could return in 2023-24 playoffs
- Colorado Avalanche rookie face-off tournament roster
Boy I want the Colorado Avalanche to make the playoffs. But, boy, I think they won’t. Without Nathan MacKinnon’s magic last season, I think the Avs would have been a 70-something team. That really would have been a normal progression for them, not 95 points and the playoffs.
I think the Avs will go back to the normal progression. If they should have earned 70-something points last season, they’ll earn in the 80s this year. That’ won’t be enough for the playoffs in the tough Central Division. But it’s progress, Avs Nation. Real, sustainable progress.
And now to my final prediction.
10. The Colorado Avalanche Win the 1st-Overall Draft Pick, Thanks to Ottawa
The hockey gods still owe us a first-overall from 2017, when the Avalanche dropped completely out of the top-three in the NHL Draft after recording the worst record in the expansion era. That ain’t right.
We didn’t get that situation corrected this last draft, but the Colorado Avalanche have two chances to earn that first-overall pick this season. Naturally, they have their own first-round draft pick. If they don’t make the playoffs, they can win the Draft Lottery.
But they also have the Ottawa Senators’ first rounder, thanks to the Matt Duchene trade. And the Sens are showing every indication of imploding this year. So, I predict the Avalanche will win the Draft Lottery based on the pick they got from the Sens.
The 2018-19 regular season begins at home this year, against the (hated) Minnesota Wild. I’m not delighted about the opponent, due to recent history. In any case, we’ll start seeing how the above predictions might pan out.