After just missing the playoffs in 2015-2016, the Colorado Avalanche seemed poised to push their way into the big dance. When October 15th rolled around, Avalanche fans all around were expecting big things. Winning three of their first four games helped get fans excited for a great year. But the highs did not last very long. Between October 22nd and November 8th, Colorado went on to lose six of their next eight games. It was the start of the Avalanche downfall. The Colorado Avalanche off-season may give them direction for years to come
The Climb Back From Oblivion: Colorado Avalanche Off-Season Outlook
What Went Wrong?
Colorado entered last season with a core of young talent and the goaltender to back it up. Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog looked ready to take the next step as the offensive leaders of the team. Some Avalanche fans even thought one of the three could push into the elite point scorers in the league. But only MacKinnon was able to crack 50 points. The rest of the forwards, outside of rookie Mikko Rantenan, struggled just as much as the big three, with only one other cracking 20 points.
Behind the forwards the Avalanche were a mess. Between Erik Johnson missing 36 games and Nikita Zadorov missing 25, the brunt of the weight landed on the shoulders of Tyson Barrie. For his part, Barrie carried the load admirably, but without much help behind him the Avalanche were unable to keep the puck out of their own net. Add in the number one goalie, Semyon Varlamov, missing 49 games with multiple injuries, no amount of puck luck could pull them out of the depths they had reached.
When it was all said and done, the Avalanche faithful watched a team finish with their lowest win total since moving from Quebec. 48 points and a -112 goal differential was more than enough proof that this team was one of the worst in recent memory.
What Should They Do Now?
To any normal hockey fan it clear the brass in Colorado have two options. They either need to write off last season as an anomaly or tear it down and rebuild.
The first option may be harder for Avalanche fans to swallow. If Joe Sakic does not think the team is that bad, then he may just wait out the upcoming tough years. With very little in the way of defensive option behind the aforementioned Johnson, Zadorov and Barrie, the Avs may continue to struggle in the defensive end. Their first round draft pick, Cale Makar, may be able to help a little but this team may need more than that.
Possible free agent signings to shore up the holes in the defense corp could be along the lines of a Roman Polak or Dennis Wideman, Two veteran players who are struggling to find a place. Polak became a very heavily relied upon option on a young defense in Toronto last season. If he can come in and mentor a young Makar, that could boost the potential for this team.
Up front, the top six for next season are all but accounted for. Landeskog, Duchene and MacKinnon will more than likely be joined by a combination of Rantanen, Tyson Jost, recently acquired Colin Wilson and newly signed Nail Yakupov. The bottom six, on the other hand, is in even more shambles than the defense core. J.T. Compher, Carl Soderberg, Blake Comeau and Sven Andrighetto will most likely make up the majority of the third and fourth lines. Unfortunately, they are probably not going to strike fear into many opposing teams. Alex Chiasson could be a smart target for the Sakic to look for, but they will need some serious help.
In goal, the Avalanche may be better off now than they were last season. After Varmalov has the entire summer to heal he should be ready to play a leading role in the teams resurgence. Add in the signing of Jonathan Bernier and the crease looks well accounted for in Colorado.
If Sakic chooses option two, they are many places to start. The Matt Duchene Saga continues and it looks as though that may be the first piece to fall. A new landing spot may be the Toronto Maple Leafs. After signing Patrick Marleau, they could be swayed to deal James Van Reimsdyk. If that were the case a deal involving Duchene might not be the only star moved. Barrie could be packaged to help Toronto’s right side. Of course Sakic would require a ransom for the duo, but Toronto may have the right pieces. Along with JVR, the Leafs could package together Tyler Bozak, Connor Carrick, Travis Dermott and a first round pick. With multiple young pieces, two proven veterans and a pick coming to Colorado, Sakic may have to consider the rebuild.
From there, Colorado could look towards the future even more and move Varlamov. Only a year removed from posting a .914 save percentage, Varlamov could be the target of multiple teams. One intriguing trade target for his services could be the Winnipeg Jets. Although youngster Connor Hellebuyck currently mans their crease, the Jets may be convinced to trade him away. If he is able to swing the young Hellebuyck from Winnipeg he could prepare his squad for years to come.
Whether or not the Avalanche choose to tear down their roster or just patch it together remains to be seen. With three months until the season begins Sakic has plenty of time to decide his clubs future. For now, Avs fan will just have to wait and see what next season holds.
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