Ian Cole
The trade of defenseman Ian Cole is another indication of the Colorado Avalanche’s strength in depth on the back end. Photo: Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

The youth movement is in full force in Colorado as years of high and smart draft picks look to pay off over the next decade for the Avalanche. With the excitement created by these young stars rising through the ranks also comes a tinged of sadness as veteran favorites have to make way. Sadly it’s the way the world turns and it’s starting to move quicker for the Avalanche as they traded defenseman Ian Cole on Tuesday afternoon.

When signed as an unrestricted free agent in 2018 Cole was seen as a gritty veteran presence who had learned what it takes to win the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins. At the time he was a second pairing guy who could move between the lines if needed and most importantly play penalty killing minutes. Three years on and things have changed drastically for the Avalanche.

THE TIME IS NOW!

No longer are they on a rebuild but instead are the bookies favorites to go all the way and win this year’s Stanley Cup. Last Friday’s 8-0 the trashing of a good St. Louis Blues team would have done little to quell that optimism. Unfortunately for Cole, the rapid progression of his younger teammates has seen his minutes and role become more limited.

Cale Makar broke onto the scene during the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs against the Calgary Flames and expectations went through the roof. Drafted the year before Ian Cole arrived, initial expectations were limited. Taking the College route it was always likely he would require two or more years to develop and then would need limited minutes.

MAKAR EXPLODES

Instead, Makar owned the College scene in the 2018-2019 season helping the UMASS Minutemen to a final four championship game. He also won individual awards, picking up the Hockey East Player of the Year and the Hobey Baker Award. Days after losing the Frozen Four  Final to the University of Minnesota Duluth he was inserted into the Stanley Cup playoff series against the Calgary Flames and on his first shift with his first shot scored his first NHL goal. Expectations didn’t just explode they exited the freakin’ atmosphere.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t just the rise of Makar that spelled the end for Cole. The performances of Samuel Girard also caught most off guard. After being acquired in the Matt Duchene trade Girard went straight into the Avalanche defense and never left, barring injury.

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK

But it’s the rise of Conor Timmins along with the acquisition of Devon Toews from the New York Islanders that have ended Cole’s time in Colorado. In Timmins’ two games so far this season he has averaged more ice time than the veteran (15:21 to 14:41) and despite a -2 from a weak opening night loss to the St. Louis Blues looked much more composed in the return encounter last Friday. He even clocked up some power-play time as the game became a complete annihilation. 

All this and we haven’t even mentioned Bowen Byram yet. It originally looked like Byram would be in by the weekend as first reported by Adrian Dater of Colorado Hockey Now. That proved to be accurate as the 2019 first-round draft pick is in the line-up against the LA Kings on Thursday night.

If you are not reading Andrew McGuinness’ coverage of the Philadelphia Flyers what are you doing!?!

Marc Moser and Peter McNabb of Altitude Sports spoke about the Cole situation during the Tuesday night LA Kings game. The fact minutes were already limited for Cole with Erik Johnson returning from COVID protocol and Byram yet to start meant he became expendable. I still would have preferred him to go anywhere other than Minnesota but I guess I can’t be too picky. The future in Colorado is looking so bright it’s probably best you wear sunglasses while watching.

SHOP!