If your team was lucky enough to dress Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog, you’d never expect to have trouble scoring. Rantanen and MacKinnon sit second and third, respectively, in scoring league-wide. Landeskog has 44 points himself too, good for 16th in the NHL. However, that represents the vast majority of the teams’ total production. And with the three of them struggling as of late (at least by the standard they set earlier in the year), the Colorado Avalanche can’t find a way to win.
After starting 17-7-5, the Avs haven’t quite been the same team since early December. They’re on a bit of a slide right now, having gone 2-6-2 in their last ten games. Luckily for them, the Winnipeg Jets, Nashville Predators, and most of the rest of the Central Division has hit a speed bump as well. They aren’t falling out of the race yet, but will if things don’t improve quickly. And the Avalanche scoring depth is really where the problem lies.
Colorado Avalanche Scoring Depth Holding Team Down Entering Near Year
In the last four games, the Avs are 0-3-1. Across those games, Rantanen has four points while MacKinnon has three. Individually, scoring three or four points in four games would never be considered bad. Unfortunately for the Avalanche scoring depth doesn’t exist: they get so little from the rest of their roster that they rely on their top line to carry them on a nightly basis.
Lucky for them, this formula has worked more often than not. MacKinnon and Rantanen both have 18 multi-point games, and the team is 16-1-1 in those matchups. That means on nights when MacKinnon or Rantanen can’t score more than a single goal, the team is 3-12-6. Hence why they’re looked to be in a “slump” despite scoring just under a point-per-game in the team’s current four-game losing streak.
No Goal Support from Avalanche Scoring Depth
The question then becomes, why can’t the Avs win games when MacKinnon and Rantanen don’t put up multi-point performances? For Colorado, this isn’t just an anomaly-type statistic. It exposes just how little help the team gets production-wise from their bottom three lines.
Take their current 2-6-2 skid. In this ten-game segment, the Avs have scored 25 goals. Landeskog, Rantanen and MacKinnon combine for 17 of those tallies. That leaves just eight goals produced, across ten contests, from the other fifteen players on the team’s roster. Forward J.T. Compher has a few of them, and he’s been the only consistent scorer outside of the first line. Unfortunately, he’s been limited in action due to injuries. Additionally, none of those eight come from defensemen.
The Trend is Nothing New Though
Its been this way all year, too. MacKinnon, Rantanen and Landeskog have accounted for so many of the team’s wins singlehandedly. It is just that right now, they aren’t scoring multiple goals every game as they did earlier in the season.
Unfortunately, that’s usually how the season goes too. The early part of the year has more goals all the way around, as teams surprise each other and systems take a little to implement. Sure, the Avs top trio is made up of some of the league’s best players so they’ll find ways to produce still. But, right now, every team playing Colorado knows how to beat them. The Avalanche scoring depth is so bad, opponents don’t have to look past their top line.
Shut down 92, 29 and 96 right now, you’ll probably beat the Avalanche.
Avalanche One Move Away from Contending
Ultimately, even if this team does qualify for playoffs, their current balance isn’t one built for a real championship run. The best teams are deep enough to compete even when their top guys have bad nights. And in a playoff series, teams get so used to playing each other that you really rely on the ability of your depth lines to step up and surprise your opponents.
It’s the same thing that happened when Colorado faced the Nashville Predators in the first round. After a back-and-forth start to the series, Nashville took over and completely shut down the Avs top trio. They solved those guys and took it to the rest of the roster. When Colorado got a surprise Game 5 win in Nashville, it was thanks to a stellar goaltending performance and production from the team’s bottom lines. That’s what it takes.
Avs in Market for a Second Line Winger
If Colorado is going to get beyond the first or second round, they’ll need another piece up front. The Carl Soderberg, Matt Calvert, and Matthew Nieto group is a great third line. Their fourth line is one of those classic setups ideal for giving youngsters opportunities. But the second line, featuring Compher, Tyson Jost, and Alexander Kerfoot, simply isn’t doing enough.
Compher and Kerfoot produce more than Jost, and maybe it’s just that Jost isn’t quite ready for those minutes yet. He’s just 20 years old, after all, so maybe acquiring someone to fill that spot and let him gain more experience is a good move both now and for the team’s future.
Players Colorado Should Target
Kerfoot can center the second line with Compher on one wing while Jost slides to the fourth line. Heck, Jost could even benefit from a stint in the AHL potentially. Down in the AHL, he could play big minutes in all situations. The Avs could add a piece without any issues too, as they currently have $11 million in cap space. They might have to settle for a rental and figure out whether they can retain the player later, as they have some decisions to make financially with all their young players coming due for raises sooner than later.
Colorado has draft picks and prospects they could deal away too, especially to help them win now. They’re at that point where those sorts of moves start making more sense anyway. And with names like Ottawa Senators forward Mark Stone and Columbus Blue Jackets winger Artemi Panarin currently pending UFA’s, there are tires for general manager Joe Sakic to kick around.
Add a Scoring Threat, Set Sights on the Cup
Adding someone of that calibre would make the Colorado Avalanche contenders overnight. They’ve already got the best line in hockey, plus a great third line, real solid defence and two starting goaltenders. All they’re missing is a true scoring threat outside their top group, and a Stone or Panarin would fix that instantly.
Whether they go for one of these players or someone else remains to be seen. All that is for sure is something’s got to give soon. Another few losses here could quickly land them back in the wild card race instead of fighting at the top of the division. The Central is still competitive from top to bottom, and Colorado can’t get complacent now. Don’t wait for Rantanen, MacKinnon and Landeskog to fix things, because leaving all the pressure on them won’t work in the long run anyways. Get something done now, and it will push this team from an “exciting” team to a “dominant” one.