2022-23 NHL Team Preview: Colorado Avalanche


LAST SEASON

The Colorado Avalanche had a dream season in 2021-22, posting a 56-19-7 record and ultimately finishing just points away from winning the Presidents’ Trophy for the league’s best record.

While the Avs have always been favorites to win the Stanley Cup, general manager Joe Sakic hasn’t just waited without adding reinforcements. He had one of the busiest trade deadlines of any GM, acquiring two-way winger Artturi Lehkonen from the Montreal Canadiens, defenseman Josh Manson from the Anaheim Ducks and veteran fail Andrew Cogliano from the San Jose Sharks. .

Come playoff time, the Avs were completely dominant. They swept the Nashville Predators in the first round, beat the St. Louis Blues in six games in the second round, then swept the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference Finals. Colorado then dethroned the Tampa Bay Lightning as Stanley Cup champions in six games.

At no point in the playoffs did the Avs trail a streak, and they never lost a game in a row.

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In the offseason, Sakic did a good job of keeping the group together, but Colorado lost some key names to its inevitable salary cap crunch. Added Manson and Trade Timeframes Lehkonen was re-signed to new deals while Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky and Darcy Kuemper left the team in free agency.

MAJOR ADDITIONS AND DEPARTURES

Additions
Alexander Georgiev, G
Brad Hunt, D.
Jonas Johansson, G
Anton Blidh, LW
Charles Hudon, AG/AD

departures
Nazem Kadri, C (CGY)
Darcy Kuemper, G (WSH)
André Burakovsky, AG (SEA)
Nicolas Aube-Kubel, AD/AG (TOR)
Nico Sturm, C (SJS)
Kiefer Sherwood, RW (NSH)
Dylan Sikura, C (CHI)
Dennis Gilbert, D (CGY)

OFFENSE

Colorado was the fourth-highest scoring team in the NHL last season, trailing only the Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs and St. Louis Blues.

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Colorado scored high at even strength and boasted a great power play. No team in the league had more man-advantaged chances last season than the Avs and they scored on 24% of their chances, leading them in the NHL with 67 goals in powerplay, overall.

The front line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen was as effective as ever, as the trio each hit the 30-goal plateau. The Avs also got a great performance from their second line. Kadri scored a career-high 87 points, a critical performance when MacKinnon was injured, while Val Nichushkin scored 25 and Burakovsky scored 22.

Perhaps the most important contributor to Colorado’s elite offense was Cale Makar, who set a new career high with 86 points in 77 games. Makar has recorded 25:40 per game in 2021-22 and his dynamic skills and ability to quickly transition the puck means they almost always have a chance to score when he’s on the ice.

DEFENSE

Sticking with Makar, although he is known as an attacking powerhouse, his defensive impact is beyond doubt. In Makar’s 1,465 even-strength minutes on the ice last season, the Avs had 807 scoring chances and allowed 598 blocks, and they outscored their opponents by a whopping 87-48.

After finishing second to Adam Fox of the New York Rangers the previous season, Makar won the Norris Trophy for the first time in his career in 2022.

Makar formed a dominant duo alongside Devon Toews, but the Avs saw their blue line completed during the season. The acquisition of trade deadline Manson gave the team a much-needed edge on the blue line and the return of 2019 No. 4 overall pick Bowen Byram from concussion issues gave Colorado a additional offense beyond its best pairing.

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GOALKEEPER

After Philipp Grubauer left the team in free agency last summer, Sakic came out and paid a heavy price to acquire Darcy Kuemper from the Arizona Coyotes to shore up the team’s goalie.

Kuemper was rock solid for the Avs during the regular season, posting a .921 save percentage in 57 outings. When he was on the shelf, Pavel Francouz was strong in relief, having recorded a save percentage of .916.

Kuemper also dealt with injuries in the playoffs, but Francouz was strong when the team needed him. Both Colorado guards posted a combined .903 save percentage in the team’s playoffs, which was more than enough considering the team’s elite offense.

During the offseason, Kuemper signed a deal with the Washington Capitals. The Avs replaced him with Alexandar Georgiev, a once-promising young guard with the New York Rangers who was passed by Igor Shesterkin on the team’s depth chart. Colorado will ride with a tandem of Georgiev and Francouz for 2022-23.

FRAMING

Since a disastrous first season as NHL head coach in which the Avs went 22-56-4, Jared Bednar has been among the most successful bench managers in the NHL. Over his last three seasons, the Avs have gone 137-52-19.

Bednar has 240 all-time wins as a head coach in the NHL, putting him just 25 wins behind Michel Bergeron, who has the most wins as a coach in Avalanche franchise history. /Quebec Nordiques.

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A new-age coach geared towards offensive driving and creativity, Bednar is the perfect leader for this extremely skilled Avs group…

“A new school coach. He’s great at coaching personalities, whether you have an intense guy like me or Nathan MacKinnon, who’s on another level, or a guy who has consistency issues, he’s really good at reaching every individual and maintaining that relationship with each individual, » said Matt Calvert, who spent three seasons with the Avalanche. « That’s a really important thing, especially with the new wave of kids coming in, they’re used to more communication and less shouting and that’s something that ‘Bedsy’ brings on a daily basis.

RECRUITS

Given that they’ve been a team in win-now mode by finishing near the top of the standings for the past few years, the Avs currently don’t have a deep farm system.

Martin Kaut, the team’s first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, performed well in the AHL last season, scoring 31 points in 46 games. Getting a stellar performance from Shane Bowers, one of the prospects who returned from the Ottawa Senators as part of the Matt Duchene deal, would be huge, but the No. 28 overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft only scored 18 points in 65 games. his last two seasons in the AHL.

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BURNING QUESTIONS

1. Will the goalkeeping duo Georgiev and Francouz be enough? When the Avs lost their goaltender in free agency last summer, they traded a first-round pick and a replacement prospect. This summer, they again lost a goalie in free agency and they again traded for a replacement. But this time, Georgiev has more question marks than Kuemper. Can a goaltender with a .901 save percentage over the past two seasons be good enough?

2. How much will Nazem Kadri miss at Avs? While MacKinnon was out with an injury early in the season, Kadri stepped up and was Colorado’s MVP for a time. Kadri scored a career-high 87 points and eventually ruled himself out of his return to Colorado, as he signed a seven-year, $49 million contract with the Calgary Flames in free agency. Not only are the Avs losing a lot of production with Kadri’s departure, they’re also losing the grit that lurks under the skin of his opponents. Can JT Compher be as effective as Kadri? Or is it the role of Alex Newhook?

3. Will Nathan MacKinnon test free will? There’s only one season left in the hilarious tag team contract that Nathan MacKinnon signed with the Avs in 2016. He currently has a salary cap of just $6.3 million and will obviously be asking for a substantial raise on his next contract. The Avs should be able to get a deal done as nearly $10 million in cap commitments will roll off the books next summer from Erik Johnson and Compher, but MacKinnon being an impending free agent will be a story over the course of the season.

PREDICTION

The Avs aren’t as good right now as they were when they won the Stanley Cup in June, but they still have arguably the best core of players in the league as well as tremendous depth. The big question is the goalkeeper, but Sakic can make a move during the season if Georgiev and Francouz don’t. Colorado finishes with the best record in the Western Conference and, like Tampa, they’re pulling it back.

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