Colorado Avalanche: Viability of a Full Season

The Colorado Avalanche may not get a full 2021 season — and no telling what any sort of NHL season will look like.

The Colorado Avalanche last played a game on September 4. September 29 saw the last NHL game played as the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Dallas Stars to win the Stanley Cup.

Here we are, six weeks later in what would normally be a season that’s just getting its legs under it. Midway through November, you’d start having a good idea of what kind of season your team was going to have. Instead, it’s like mid-August, when even free agency frenzy day is a distant memory.

As of right now, the NHL still plans to start its season January 1. However, the league hasn’t decided yet what that’s going to look like — or even if that’s when the NHL season will start.

Right now, commissioner Gary Bettman is considering many different scenarios. He said recently that the 2021 season may well finish differently than it starts. The teams and league will simply have to be flexible.

One scenario is that teams will play in hub cities. This will be a hybrid version of the playoff bubble. Teams will rotate into a hub city and play several games there. However, they’ll only be in the hub for 10 to 12 days before they travel back home for a week to spend with their families. During their time in the hub city, though, it sounds like they’ll be in a bubble.

Another reality is that the league may need to temporarily realign teams. They need to minimize travel. They don’t want to see east coast teams heading west and vice versa. The big stumbling block is, of course, the Canadian teams. It’s bad enough traveling from state to state — traveling across the US-Canadian border is much trickier.

Teams may also end up playing in their own arenas in another scenario. It sounds like the NHL is going the way of the NFL, though, and letting teams or localities make up their minds about whether any fans will be allowed in the stands. NFL teams have a variety of approaches, from some teams allowing up to 20% capacity to others allowing no fans at all.

Finally, a grim reality is that the season may end up shortened. With all these restrictions, a full, 82-game season may simply not be feasible.

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The Colorado Avalanche seemed to have hit their apex at the wrong time — right in the middle of a pandemic. We could never predict this happening, of course. I remember back in February writing a blithe post about how the coronavirus might impact players’ abilities to get new sticks in the midst of the playoffs — boy, what a naive and optimistic future I imagined!

Well, the Colorado Avalanche are well set up, even in these COVID times. They’ve got depth and future — even to withstand a pandemic.