Colorado Avalanche: Answers to the Questions From 2018-2019

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 04: Members of the Colorado Avalanche stand during introductions prior to the game against the Minnesota Wild at the Pepsi Center on October 4, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 04: Members of the Colorado Avalanche stand during introductions prior to the game against the Minnesota Wild at the Pepsi Center on October 4, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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The 2018-19 season was a pivotal year for the Colorado Avalanche. Find out how they answered the questions from the season.

The Colorado Avalanche went into the 2018-19 season with a lot of questions that needed answering. Their 2017-18 season was a big turnaround for the team, but a lot of Avs fans — myself included — couldn’t be sure how sustainable that success was.

Well, we know now how they did. Let’s look at questions I asked before the season started:

Related Story. 9 Questions for the Avs. light

And see how the Colorado Avalanche answered them.

9. Which Prospects will Make the Team?

In the 2017-18 season, the Colorado Avalanche were one of the youngest teams in the NHL. On any given night they suited up to four rookies, usually Tyson Jost, J.T. Compher, Alexander Kerfoot and Samuel Girard.

Those four players remained with the team, so we needed to see what new players would make it into the lineup. They never had as many rookies as the previous season, but at various times these prospects skated in the regular season:

None of them really broke into the roster, though.

Now, during the playoffs, we did see another prospect make the team, Cale Makar. He signed as soon as his UMass season was done and started skating with the Avs right away. He skated in 10 playoff games and earned 1 goal and 5 assists.

I think it’s safe to say he’ll be on the regular roster next season.

8. Who Will Emerge as the #2 Center?

The short answer is: No one. At various times, different players suited up as second-line center:

Colorado never evolved a true second line, so there was no one consistently centering it.

7. Can Erik Johnson Play a Full Season?

Almost. Erik Johnson missed just two regular-season games with an upper-body injury suffered in January. He played all 12 playoff games.

And, as it turned out, he did so with a shoulder that then almost immediately required surgery:

Related Story. EJ was Playing with Shoulder Injury. light

Johnson is expected to make a full recovery. While there’s no official timeline, knowing EJ, I expect him to be ready for training camp.

6. Who will Comprise the Bottom Defensive Pairing?

Going into the season, we knew Erik Johnson, Sam Girard, and Tyson Barrie would be in the top-four for defenders. I had thought that Nikita Zadorov would be in that top-four as well, and he was for some of the season. However, he often traded places with Ian Cole.

Indeed, for the most part Zadorov anchored the bottom pairing, usually playing with either Mark Barberio or Patrik Nemeth. He averaged 17:12 of TOI, which is about right for a third-pairing defenseman.

5. Which Journeymen will Step Up?

Matt Calvert. He is such a heart-and-soul kind of player, and he gave so much of both during the season. He also made tons of documented sacrifices, including getting punched in the face by a bare-knuckled Tyler Bertuzzi, blocking a shot with his daddy parts, taking a massive hit from Brent Burns, and several well-timed fights.

Throughout the season, we saw Carl Soderberg, Matthew Nieto, and Patrik Nemeth step up. Derick Brassard was a late addition that played well at the end of the season but had an insignificant playoffs.

4. Who is the #1 Goalie?

Well, that was the question of the year, wasn’t it? The number-one goalie position was undoubtedly Semyon Varlamov‘s at the beginning of the season, especially after Philipp Grubauer got off to a shaky start.

However, Grubauer got hot right when the Colorado Avalanche needed him to, and he backstopped them into the playoffs and through all 12 playoff games.

Grubauer emerged as Colorado’s number-one goalie.

3. Can Mikko Rantanen Succeed on his Own?

31 goals, 56 assists for 87 points in the regular season.

All Star

6 goals, 8 assists in the playoffs.

So, in a word, yes.

2. Is Nathan MacKinnon an Elite Player?

More from Mile High Sticking

I repeat, yes.

41 goals, 58 assists for 99 points in the regular season.

All Star captain

6 goals, 7 assists for 13 points in the playoffs.

When MacKinnon went down with an injury early on in Game 7, all of Avs Nation — including the players and coaches — wailed “NOOOOOOOOOOO,” at least internally. He’s our franchise player, and he’s elite.

1. Are the Colorado Avalanche Good Enough to Compete in the Central?

And, one more time, I repeat yes.

They had a couple of sloppy months in the middle of the season. However, they pulled themselves together and made the playoffs.

They routed the number-one team in the Western Conference, the Calgary Flames, in five games.

They took the number-two team in the Western Conference, the San Jose Sharks, to seven games.

So, yes, the Colorado Avalanche are good enough to compete in the Central Division.

And the general consensus not just in Avs Nation but in the entire hockey community is that the Avs are only getting better.

Next. Avs to Debut Co-Ed Ice Patrol. dark

We’re done with Avs hockey for now, unfortunately. We still have some questions moving forward through the offseason. However, this is a great time to be an Avalanche fan.