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Short and Sweet Season Previews: Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche as one of division stalwarts can be a model for the Blackhawks



This is the second of the Short and Sweet Season Previews from Chicago Hockey Now. Thanks to Colorado Hockey Now’s Evan Rawal who provided insights as CHN continues with the Central Division, looking at the Colorado Avalanche. 

A season removed from winning the 2022 Stanley Cup, the Colorado Avalanche sputtered in the first round against the Seattle Kraken, falling in seven games. But the loss may have been a blessing in disguise. The Avalanche may actually get a chance to heal.

“Obviously, Gabriel Landeskog will not be there again this season,” Rawal said. “Unlike last season,  they know he’s not coming back so they could plan accordingly. Even with those plans, he’s not someone you just go out and replace easily. Beyond Landeskog, the team should be healthy to start camp.

I say should because there’s usually a mystery injury that pops up when camp starts, but after they won the Cup, they had to have had the shortest off-season ever. By exiting in round one, their players had time to rest their wounds, and that should make a difference this year.”

A lot of rest since April could go a long way for Colorado.

Colorado Avalanche – 2024 Stanley Cup Champions?

So will the rest equate to another title? They do, after all, have an all-world player in Cale Makar and a roster that is just two years removed from getting through the Stanley Cup playoffs gauntlet.

But everything will boil down to being healthy. With the Dallas Stars as their biggest threat to the division crown, the Avalanche, according to Rawal, will need to stay off of the trainer’s table.

If the Avalanche were healthy last year, they could have challenged Vegas, but they never were, and ran out of gas because they had to overplay their stars,” Rawal points out.  “They have the best defense in the league, but that defense barely played together last year because of injuries. Beyond health, the Avalanche are banking on Ryan Johansen bouncing back on a new team. If he shows he can play at the level of a 2C, the team will be just fine.”
One other important aspect? Having the depth to compete with not only the divisional rivals but also the conference as a whole.
“The injuries really exposed the lack of depth the team had last season,” Rawal said.  “That’s not surprising, given all they traded away to win the Cup. The additions of Ross Colton and Miles Wood bring some help to the bottom six, and make them more difficult to play against.”
So how do they stack up as things roll into the season?

Advice A Former Rebuild To Another

The Avalanche took time to build–starting in the early 2010’s and finally seeing the mountain top in 2022, which from start to finish was over 11 years (Landeskog taken in 2011). With a franchise that went up and down from there, and even lost the lottery in 2017 with the worst record in hockey by a mile, what advice can the Blackhawks take from it? After all, they hit the jackpot by winning the rights to take Connor Bedard.

“Sometimes, you have to get lucky,” Rawal said.  “The Avalanche were actually the worst team in 2017, but lost the lottery and dropped to the fourth spot. That’s how they ended up with Makar. They probably wouldn’t have taken him at first overall, so that drop was probably the best thing to happen to them.”

Contrast that with the Blackhawks not only getting Bedard by jumping up two spots, but then lucking out with Oliver Moore slipping all the way to 19. Rawal continues.
“The Blackhawks just picked up what should be a franchise player, and that’s the best way to start a rebuild,” he said. “Keep in mind, the Avalanche took MacKinnon way back in 2013. There were some ups and downs before they won the Cup. The Blackhawks will need to hit on some other picks beyond the 1st overall pick. Beyond the Makar pick, the most important pick they may have made was Mikko Rantanen at 10th overall in 2015. It’s all about finding the right complimentary pieces to go with your superstars. Once you think you have your core in place, you can tinker from there.”
The Avalanche will likely squirrel another division title away this season and once again be a contender for the Stanley Cup. But if the breaks continue to go the Blackhawks way during the draft, it might not be too long before they’re competing up there with them.