Bold Predictions
Pavel Francouz’ injury during pre-season made one bold prediction easier. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Pre-season means nothing. Less than nothing. It’s irrelevant. The 2016-17 Colorado Avalanche went 6-0 during the preseason and then proceeded to have the worst year in franchise history. However, while the results may be irrelevant preseason also provides some worthwhile information especially to the management of any given team. With the games that don’t matter winding down here are my five bold predictions for the Colorado Avalanche season based on what I have seen. 

JT Compher and Martin Kaut are traded

After losing Brandon Saad to free agency and Joonas Donskoi to the newest franchise the Seattle Kraken the Colorado Avalanche are light on top-six forwards. So far coach Jared Bednar has partnered Valeri Nichushkin with Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky and seems to like what he sees, but given the success of the Nichushkin-Tyson Jost line last year you have to wonder if that’s a good idea?

If Nichuskin does move up you will now need to replace two-thirds of a line that impressed. Alex Newhook could slot in at Left-Wing in his first full season and look to move up the depth chart with his performances but that would leave Compher on the right. Despite their off-ice bromance Jost and Compher have struggled to muster any inkling of chemistry during their tenure with the Av’s and it’s hard to see it changing now. 

This then means the only place for Compher would be on the fourth line. If that’s the case then don’t be surprised if General Manager Joe Sakic moves him on, as paying $3.5 million for a fourth-liner with the future cap situation the Avalanche are going to find themselves in will just not work.

As for Martin Kaut, this one is a lot simpler. He’s dropped down the prospects chart with the arrival of Newhook and Sampo Ranta. The Czech forward played fewer minutes than anyone not named Artem Anisimov against Dallas on Thursday before being reassigned to the AHL Colorado Eagles on Friday. It’s now or never for Kaut and if it’s never then you probably look to cash in while he has the former first-round pick shine still gleaming from him.

Av’s won’t win the Central Division

Apart from the rebuilding of the Arizona Coyotes, there isn’t a really bad team in the Central Division. I don’t think any could be considered cup contenders bar the Avalanche but that doesn’t mean they have the Division signed, sealed and delivered (I’m yours). Plus the last division champions to go on to win the greatest prize of them all was the Washington Capitals in 2017-18 so winning the regular season isn’t all it’s jacked up to be.

Mikko Rantanen will finish with more points than MacKinnon again

The Finnish forward did it last season, albeit in a shortened season while playing more games than MacKinnon but don’t be shocked if it happens again. Rantanen will have something to prove going into this regular season while I feel all MacKinnon will care about is making the playoffs.

While the Nova Scotia native’s competitiveness will not allow him to phone games in I would also not be surprised if we see a more subdued MacKinnon during the regular season before absolutely exploding in the playoffs.

That should help Rantanen with my one of my bold predictions, especially if MacKinnon is just constantly setting him up for that one-timer. One thing is for certain, the Avalanche has two top ten forwards in the game, and by the end of the season that should be set in stone.

Darcy Kuemper doesn’t end the season as number 1

I said the Colorado Avalanche off-season would be must see TV and I was not wrong. I will never doubt Joe but I’d be lying if I said the summer of goaltender changes hasn’t got me a little concerned. I understand not wanting to give Philipp Grubauer term, which I believe is what it came down to, when you have belief in Justus Annunen becoming your future but Kuemper has not filled me with confidence during the pre-season.

I’m aware it doesn’t matter yet and there are a lot of reasonable excuses for his struggles. The Saskatchewan native is joining his fourth NHL team and learning a whole new setup with a new goaltending coach. It’s not easy. However, with Pavel Francouz going down injured for the beginning of the season the Avalanche may be looking at available options and I would not be surprised if they make a trade that pushes Kuemper, who has his own long list of previous injuries, to a backup position. 

Erik Johnson doesn’t play a full season

This is the easiest of the bold predictions but not because of why you think. You are probably saying ‘Johnson has never played a full season so why would it start now?’ and you would be right. However, in the past, he has missed games due to injury and while that’s a real possibility again the last of my bold predictions is based on the thought process that the Avalanche will load manage his ice time. 

Three games a week!?! Expect Johnson to play two. 22 minutes a night!?! With Makar, Toews, Girard, and Byram!?! Not even close. Let’s make that 16 or 18 minutes.

After last season’s exit at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights, Jared Bednar will be aware just how important the experienced defenseman is to the Avalanche’s chances of Stanley Cup glory. With the defensive depth chart decent if not spectacular there is no reason to clip the Condor of its wings before the playoffs yet again.

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