The book may be closed on the Colorado Avalanche for 2019-2020 but what does this team need to address going forward into next season?
The 2019-2020 season is officially over for the Colorado Avalanche after suffering a deflating Game 7 defeat in overtime to the Dallas Stars. Before the playoffs even began, the Avalanche looked to be a clear favorite to make a substantial run at Lord Stanley’s Cup in this COVID-19 induced Bubble Hockey edition of the playoffs. Surprisingly in 2018-2019, the Avalanche found success as well in the playoffs making it to the second round, being viewed as the underdog in both playoff matchups.
Though the perception of the Avalanche was vastly different in the past two playoff runs, they both ended in the same spot of Game 7 of the second round. So now with the members of the Avalanche team, management, and fanbase left to sit and wonder, where do we go from here, let us assess and address some key issues heading into 2020-2021.
Now I know injuries are hard to avoid and prevent but they were extremely costly for the Colorado Avalanche in ’19-’20. Samuel Girard and Matt Nieto were the only members of this Avalanche squad that played the full 70 games of the abbreviated season with Nathan Mackinnon, Pierre Edouard-Bellmare, and Ryan Graves only playing 69 of those games.
Where it proved costly for the Avs was in the goalie position, forcing Colorado to rely on 5 different goalies in the regular season and 3 goalies in the playoffs. Each goalie has their style and approach to how they handle shot attempts and it can also affect how a reluctantly the defense will assist on rebounds or trust the trapper.
Having those multiple styles coupled with a lack of trust in newer, unproven goalie results in bad plays and offensive setups that can dismantle a game plan. It has helped that over the years Joe Sakic has curated enough depth on the roster to where we are more prepared for the sudden rash of injuries but it is not a resource we should rely on.
Any Colorado Avalanche fan who managed to watch at least one game of the playoffs can easily agree, the power play is a two-faced disaster. If the Avalanche can gain the offensive zone using their patented, trademarked, super predictable drop back pass from the redline to a faster skater barrelling through the defensive zone the power play gets too cute and gets passed to death.
The obsession the first team power play has with passing until they can find their highlight goal has proven mind-boggling to me throughout the playoffs. I am not being critical of the team by any means but 12 of 48 successful power plays is not a great number, and with the skill that is on that first power-play unit it is like they are purposely trying not to convert those power plays.
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The Colorado Avalanche find themselves in rarified air heading into the ’20-’21 season with actual available cap space even though the salary cap will remain flat at $81 million for the foreseeable future. With the Avs sitting with a cap hit of $76.1 million giving them at least $5 million of play space to make them serious buyers heading into the offseason.
While a majority of teams are having to sell off assets via trade just to break even, the Avalanche has not only money to acquire talent but also draft picks, roster depth, and a stout minor league system to make them a serious threat to make some major moves. But last I checked Joe Sakic is still in the front office and he isn’t one for the glitz and glamour of making that blockbuster move for the sake of chasing the big names.
Just this season around the trade deadline the Avs had the opportunity to acquire either Taylor Hall, Chris Kreider, or Robin Lehner but ultimately settled for Michael Hutchinson and Vladislav Namestkov which ended up paying dividends in the playoffs. Sakic has the reputation to make the moves he deems fit, no matter how minor they seem to us at the time because he has a long term vision with this current makeup of the organization.
Lastly, before we say our goodbyes to what was a productive season for the Colorado Avalanche, there are some good things to come out of this playoffs. We got a good test for each of our goalies and what they are made of and what they can contribute down the road if called upon. We saw players like Burakoskvy, Namestkov, Nichushkin, and Zadorov step up when the injuries were piling up proving that they were dedicated to the team and they didn’t give up during adversity.
To me, what can be the brightest glimmer of hope is the last time the Stars beat us in Game 7 was in the year 2000, that next year we responded by winning the cup in 2001. I do believe at its core this team has the talent to bring us home a Stanley Cup, I know it, We know it, and They know it, now we need to make the necessary adjustments to achieve what we believe.