Last Word On Hockey brings our Team of the Decade series. We will dive into the best player at each position this decade for every organization. The biggest and best at each position, with the most memorable moments of the decade. Here is the Colorado Avalanche Team of the Decade lineup.
Colorado Avalanche Decade Team
The Colorado Avalanche had one of the most challenging decades of any NHL team. They had multiple playoff appearances but also one of the worst seasons in modern league history. A collection of some of the best players in team history has fueled that chaos and several of them stand above all others.
Let’s breakdown the players who made the Colorado Avalanche Decade Team.
Centre: Nathan MacKinnon
Nathan MacKinnon is not only the best Colorado centre of the decade but one of the great players in franchise history. The 24-year-old is already in the top 10 for goals and points in just seven seasons. He is the face of the Avalanche and has one of the best contracts in the league on top of his outstanding production.
What makes MacKinnon so impressive is his speed. He participated in the fastest skater portion of the most recent All-Star break and kills teams on breakouts. Much of Colorado’s strategy is built on a dump pass to MacKinnon through the neutral zone. It’s an obvious strategy and yet teams are still incapable of shutting it down as often as you would think. MacKinnon is capable of knifing through defenders and using an outstanding shot to score. His skills make him a no-doubt inclusion on the All-Decade team.
Left-Wing: Gabriel Landeskog
Gabriel Landeskog entered the league at just 19-years-old and hasn’t looked back. He has been one of the team’s anchors through its lean years and while he is not a superstar, Landeskog is among Colorado’s most dependable players. There is a decent chance his next contract will carry the 27-year-old to retirement and make him a lifelong Avalanche.
Landeskog’s consistency his a huge part of why he has been so valuable to the franchise. He has failed to score fewer than 35 points only twice in nine years; once in a lockout-shortened 2012-13 and then the dreadful 2016-17 campaign where Colorado was one of the worst teams in league history. He has scored at least 50 points in every other season but this one could derail that depending on if or when games resume. Add in over 120 hits per full season on top of the points and you have one of the most productive and reliable players of the decade.
Right Wing: Mikko Rantanen
The Avalanche are fortunate that Mikko Rantanen fell to 10th in the 2015 Draft. The Finnish wing has established himself as one of the league’s most lethal threats on the power play since entering the league. 40 power-play goals place Rantanen in a tie with Jack Eichel and Vladimir Tarasenko for 27th among active skaters. That doesn’t seem especially impressive but it’s a great total when you consider Rantanen doesn’t even have 300 games under his belt. He is the only skater with fewer than 300 games played in the top-30 for power-play goals since 2015.
The 6’4″ Rantanen is a perfect option alongside stars MacKinnon and Landeskog. Those two have the speed and strength, respectively, to draw defensive attention and create great shooting lanes for Rantanen. Some injuries cut into his production this season but Rantanen is easily one of the best offensive threats the Avs have had since 2010.
Left Defence: Nikita Zadorov
Nikita Zadorov wins the title for the best left-handed defenceman of the decade by virtue of his physical play. He only has 15 goals and 54 points since joining Colorado but is one of the league’s best checkers. Zadorov has been credited with over 150 hits in every season as an Av except for 2015-16.
There is still a chance the 6’6″ Zadorov could transform into a more regular scoring option as well. He is just 24-years-old and has yet to play in 400 regular-season games. Large defencemen can often take longer to truly break out. Zadorov has been a special physical player for Colorado this decade but he could be primed for more.
Right Defence: Tyson Barrie
Tyson Barrie was one of the best Avalanche defenders in history before he was traded in the past offseason. The former third-round pick from the 2009 Draft ended his tenure with Colorado as the top goal-scoring defenceman in franchise history. Barrie edged out Sandis Ozolinsh late in the 2018-19 season to take the top spot.
What made Barrie so effective was his power-play usage. He led all Colorado blueliners in average power-play time from the 2012-13 season onward. His deployment with the man advantage is a huge part of why he was so productive. Barrie was also never the best defensive defender but there is no doubt his scoring ability makes him the best right-handed defenceman of the decade.
Goaltender: Semyon Varlamov
Semyon Varlamov joined the Avs after the 2010-11 season and immediately seized the job over free-agent acquisition Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Varlamov would go on to win 183 games for Colorado over eight seasons with a .915 save percentage and 2.75 goals-against-average. He ranks behind only Hall of Famer Patrick Roy for the franchise lead in games played and wins.
Lower-body injuries cut into Varlamov’s production in later years and made fans almost forget he nearly won the Vezina in 2013-14. That year saw Varlamov win 41 games in 60 stars with a sparkling .927 save percentage and 2.41 goals-against. The problem was that he went up against Tuukka Rask in one of the decade’s great seasons. Varlamov’s tenure did not end the way he wanted it to but he stands tall as one of the great netminders in team history.
Honourable Mention: Matt Duchene
Matt Duchene left the team with negative feelings towards the front office but was still the best centre after MacKinnon. Duchene scored over 150 goals and roughly 400 points before he was traded to the Ottawa Senators. Fans may not like the way Duchene parted ways with Colorado but he was a fantastic success story in the first part of the decade.
Honourable Mention: Paul Stastny
Paul Stastny might have been the son of legendary Quebec Nordiques skater Peter Stastny but Paul was a great Av in his own way. He led the team’s charge into the decade with over 60 goals and almost 200 points before he left for the St. Louis Blues. Stastny was a very capable centre whose departure was hard to accept at the time.
Honourable Mention: Ryan O’Reilly
Ryan O’Reilly played alongside Duchene and Statsny during his Colorado tenure. His first six seasons in the NHL came as an Av. O’Reilly scored over 200 points in roughly 400 games to open his career. He received votes for the Selke Trophy in five of those seasons and won the Lady Byng in 2013-14 for sportsmanship. O’Reilly is a player that fans can root for no matter where he is playing.
Honourable Mention: Erik Johnson
Erik Johnson was a true soldier for the Colorado franchise during the 2010s. The former first overall selection in the 2006 Draft has played the majority of his career as an Avalanche blueliner. Johnson has over 200 points with Colorado and is behind only the mighty Tyson Barrie in defenceman scoring over the past 10 years. Johnson has never been an outstanding scorer but has been one of the team’s emotional leaders for years.
That does it for the Colorado Avalanche Decade Team so stay tuned for Friday’s Team of the Decade.
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