Colorado Avalanche
(Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)

To be or Not to be; Colorado Avalanche 2022 Season Preview

Last season did not turn out the way Joe Sakic and his Colorado Avalanche had dreamed of. After sweeping the St. Louis Blues, the defense fell short in the last games against the Vegas Golden Knights. It was a disaster. Absolutely heinous. 

The 2020-21 campaign was allegedly an all-or-nothing season. But the lack of consistency across the board and throughout the season made it less than ideal. For a good chunk of the regular season, when the top lines were on fire…the defense went up in flames. And vice versa. 

Nathan MacKinnon had a very Nathan MacKinnon season. Mikko Rantanen came from the depths of Finland and gave Pedo-Stache Matthews a real run for his money. Tyson Jost filled the top-line center position while MacKinnon was injured and he did an incredible job. So well even, he secured himself a spot on the protected list for the Seattle expansion draft. 

When the time came to face Vegas, the defense was nowhere to be seen and it eventually cost them the series and the Cup. 

This next season will be very interesting for Avs players and fans alike. Ryan Graves was traded to the New Jersey Devils in early July for Mikhail Maltsev. Maltsev has played a total of 33 NHL games since his debut in January 2021. This debut game came 5 years after being drafted in 2016. 

Another sad departure from the Avalanche is P.E Bellemare. It was announced shortly after the end of the season that Colorado would not be re-signing Bellemare. In free agency, he signed with the defending Cup Champions, Tampa Bay Lightning.

Forward line predictions:
LandeskogMacKinnonRantanen
BurokovskyJostNuchushkin
CompherHelmO’Connor
RantaNewhookMegna

Obviously, you’re not going to change the top line at all. MacKinnon and Rantanen had stellar seasons in 2021. Although Landeskog’s could’ve used some improvement, it wasn’t bad by any means. 

Boy oh boy, did captain Gabe Landeskog make me and the entire state of Colorado very nervous when he took his sweet time signing a contract extension. But good news, he’s here to stay for another 8 years.

Tyson Jost had a rough start to his NHL career. In the beginning few years, he bounced back and forth from the AHL and the NHL but this year he really proved that he is prepared and capable of being in this league. 

Darren Helm came to Colorado in August in free agency after Detroit let him go. He was a 21-year-old rookie in 2008 when Detroit won their last cup. He brought a lot of depth to the penalty kill in Detroit (though I don’t think that says much; it is Detroit). I don’t think he’ll make or break this team. Good addition but not a great addition.

Bowen Byram and Alex Newhook are very notable young, growing players. Unfortunately, Byram took a nasty hit to the head and missed most of the season on concussion protocol. But in the games he did play, he was great on the backend and took every opportunity he could to get in front of the puck and learn something. Alex Newhook didn’t make his NHL debut until May 5th. He played 6 regular-season games and 8 playoff games. His first goal was in a playoff game against St. Louis. He also took advantage of as many opportunities as he could to get in front of the puck and do what he could.

I think this season we’ll get some Makar & Byram action. Once Byram gets comfortable in the league and plays a whole season in the NHL, Makar & Byram will be Colorado’s top defensive pair. In 2019, when Joe Sakic drafted Byram at 4th overall, it was said that it was unfair that Colorado had Byram and Makar. Maybe not right away, but this pairing will be the Avs 1-2 punch in the near future. They’ll make the Colorado Avalanche a dangerous team.

Defensive pairing predictions:
MakarGirard/Toews
Murray Johnson
Girard/ToewsByram

I don’t love this defensive situation we’ve got going on here. Don’t tell literally anyone I work with (especially Gavin), but I actually really liked Ryan Graves and I’m sad he’s gone. I think he and Girard were a great pair on and off the ice. Girard or Toews will play on top with Makar and whoever doesn’t, will be with Byram on 3. I honestly don’t know if Johnson will make the starting lineup. He played 4 whole games this last season before he fell, quite literally, flat on his face and missed the rest of the season. Johnson is part of the Avs core along with MacKinnon, Landeskog, and Rantanen. And for this reason, I am only thinking happy thoughts. Erik Johnson will be a regular on the defensive lineup for the Colorado Avalanche. 

The goalie situation:

I would actually rather cut my toes off individually than talk about the goalie situation right now. I don’t know who peed in Joe’s cereal but you need to apologize so I can have Phillipp Grubauer back. When I tell you, I’ve never been more upset over a free agency signing in my entire 20 years, I mean it. With my heart and soul. Gruabauer was outstanding in the net this season. Like…Patrick Roy’s level of outstanding. And? Joe let him…just…go to Seattle? Joe played with Roy. They won a cup together. They won TWO cups together. I don’t get it. I do not get it.  

Darcy Kuemper came to Colorado from Arizona. He was very good in Arizona but a goalie can only be as good as the team in front of him. I’m sure it’ll be Kuemper and Johanson in tandem with Francouz thrown in every now and then. Just for shits and gigs. 

To be or not to be:

Colorado is becoming the team that “chokes” for a lot of people. 

“Oh, that’s Colorado they always choke. They never win.”

Okay, look at Gretsky. Look at Steve Yzerman. Two of the greats who played for…bad teams. Eventually, Detroit and Edmonton became hockey dynasties. But it took a lot of sets back and a lot of upset before they got to that point. We haven’t seen this Avalanche team play together. This Avalanche team hasn’t even started camp yet. Last year, I was absolutely certain that I’d be front and center at a Stanley Cup parade down Larimer street in Denver. Clearly, I was wrong. 

The Colorado Avalanche has a lot of potential this year. Colorado had a lot of potential last year. I think they’ll make the playoffs again without a doubt. I won’t make a cup prediction cause I’m unbelievably superstitious. But I will say that I do regularly wear my 2001 Stanley Cup Champions hat (that I stole from my dad because I wasn’t born yet. I hope that makes all of you feel old). 

Cup Favorites: 
  1. Colorado 
  2. NYI 
  3. Tampa Bay (reluctantly)

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