After a disappointing exit in the 2020/2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Colorado Avalanche come into this season as the odds-on favorite to win it all. Did they do enough to come through?Embed from Getty Images
The Colorado Avalanche start the 2021/2022 season with a new look. Between the Expansion Draft for the Seattle Kraken, Free Agency, and the Amatuer Draft. The Avalanche have a new goaltender, and a new look defense. The acquisition of Darcy Kuemper from rival Arizona Coyotes was one that grabbed headlines. But the acquisition of big winger Kurtis MacDermid and his 6’5″ 233 lb. frame will add a lot of heft to the Avalanche lineup. He won’t add much scoring with only 6 goals in 118 games played. But that’s the last thing the Colorado Avalanche need.
With Nathan Mackinnon (despite COVID issues), retaining Gabriel Landeskog, and moving Valeri Nichuskin to the 2nd line will provide all the offense they need. What cost the Avalanche in the 2020/2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs was that they couldn’t match the Vegas Golden Knights physicality. Once Zach Whitecloud and Co. hunkered down and started hitting Colorado in a way they weren’t used to, the Avalanche rolled right over.
Below is the full Colorado Avalanche Roster:
Joe Sakic continued to show an ability to look internally, find the problem, and create a solution. He moved deftly through all 3 major phases of the offseason with ease and has been recognized for it nationally. It looks like the Colorado Avalanche are back to relevance. From the aformentioned move to get MacDermid for a fourth-rounder 2 years from now (2023). Retaining The Captain Landeskog for a manageable $56 million over 8 years, pretty much ensuring the 28-yr. old retires in the maroon and blue.
Obviously with a hard salary cap you can’t keep everybody, and losing Brandon Saad, Ryan Graves, and Philip Grubauer hurts. And regardless of Grubauer having a shaky start for the Kraken against Vegas on opening night, you can’t help but thing Darcy Kuemper is a slight downgrade while Pavel Francouz is out with an injury to start the season. Graves and Saad brought a veteran presence/attitude you will miss. But again MacDermid and more Bo Byram will help salve that wound.Embed from Getty Images
So all in all, Sakic either kept the same level of talent, or upgraded pretty much every where a loss was suffered. You still have the star power of Nathan Mackinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Cale Makar. Then you have the tight rope walker in Nazem Kadri. And also you have the depth in J.T. Compher, Nichushkin, Tyson Jost, and so many more. This team is primed for a title run if the goaltending is just middle of the road. Hence Sakic choosing to keep Landy over Gru.
I know I said Kuemper was a slight downgrade, and he is. But he is cheaper and competent, that’s all this team needs. Once Francouz comes off the injured list, the depth doesn’t really worry me either. I worry about Jonas Johansson taking on an expanded role, but Kuemper/Francouz I can trust to play steady and not lose a game for you. Kuemper will even mix in some absolute gems as many Avalanche fans can attest too. Here’s how they stack up:
Grubauer: .923 save percentage, 2.29 goals against average over nine seasons.
Kuemper: .917 save percentage, 2.72 goals against average over nine seasons.Embed from Getty Images
So the biggest question mark on this roster is a small one. If Francouz can get and stay healthy. If Kuemper goes down for any extended period of time, then this will transform into a huge one. As for offense, this is the reigning NHL scoring champion, it’s what got them to the dance. The lack of size and physicality is what cost them the ultimate prize and allowed Vegas to take their place in the finals and the Lightning to repeat.
This year has a new feeling, maybe its the new faces? Maybe it’s the simple high that a new season of hockey gives fans when Opening Night approaches? But I, as with all Mile High Hockey fans, can’t help but be optimisitic. Sakic closed the open wounds with surgical precision, Landy and Mack are back, Cale and Bo are set to take the next step, and Sam and Kurtis look to bring to the wood. How can you not be ready for October 13, 2021 at Ball Arena?Embed from Getty Images
Season predictions below:
Most Improved Player:
Best Offseason Acquisition:
Nathan MacKinnon Hart Trophy
Cale Makar Norris Trophy
Bo Byram Calder Trophy
With a parade.