How the Pandemic has Impacted Colorado Sports: Avalanche

Feb 28, 2020; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girard (49) celebrates with left wing Gabriel Landeskog (92) and center Nathan MacKinnon (29) after scoring a third period goal against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. Colorado won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

‘The New Normal’ as we’ve all heard so much in the last three months has impacted nearly everyone in some way, shape, or form––emotionally, financially, or socially.

Nearly every walk of life has experienced some kind of change from COVID-19 and the global pandemic.

Using our sports filter, what has the impact of shutting down the United States had on the Colorado sports scene? Let’s dive into each of the major sports teams in a four-part series, starting with the Colorado Avalanche.

Through all the shutdowns, mitigating the spread of the virus, stoppage of social gatherings, and an ever-changing day-to-day landscape, it’s been a challenge for everyone to adapt to a new life of uncertainty. As we peel back the layers of a global pandemic, the international reaction, U.S. government’s reaction, State government’s reaction, public and private company’s responses, and the eventual trickle-down effect which ultimately impacts every individual, what has been gained (or lost) from a sports perspective?

March 12 will officially go down as the day that sports stopped. Rudy Gobert, the Utah Jazz All-Star center, jokingly coughed and touched all of the media members microphones at a media session, mocking coronavirus, just hours before testing positive for COVID-19, eventually leading to the postponement of all NBA games.

This closure eventually cascaded to every other major sports league following suit. Since that day, team owners, players, and all staff of the major leagues have been weighing the options of how to best move forward with sports. Options currently on the table are playing games without fans, rapid testing of players before games, canceling seasons entirely, and postponing the seasons until long after Coronavirus is no longer a factor.

Without a clear picture of the future for the 2019-20 seasons for the NHL, NBA, MLB, and NFL, we can only speculate about the possible impact this virus will eventually have on each team. The Colorado Avalanche are one of the teams that are praying this season returns and they get a chance to fight for a championship.

The Colorado Avalanche were in the midst of the end-of-season playoff push, ranking towards the top of their division and conference in terms of standings and rankings. The Avalanche were in second place in the Western Conference, a mere two points behind the division leader St. Louis Blues, having played one less game. With 12 games left in the season, a 7-2-1 record their last ten games, the third-highest goal differential in the NHL, and hopes of a deep playoff run, shutting down the NHL season has (for the time being) halted any possibility of Lord Stanley’s Cup returning to Denver for the first time since 2001.

The Avalanche had one of the best offenses in the NHL, a goaltending duo that was hitting their end of season stride, and a young defense that was making plays on both ends of the ice. The true ability for them to win a championship wasn’t an unreasonable thought, and Vegas oddsmakers even had them as one of the most likely teams to hoist the cup.

If the NHL season is to return, the biggest benefit for the Avalanche is that they were one of the most injured teams heading down the stretch, and they have had plenty of time to get healthy. With Joonas Donskoi and Cale Makar marked ‘Day-to-day’, Nathan MacKinnon and Andre Burakovsky marked ‘Out’, and Mikko Rantanen and Philipp Grubauer both on the Injured Reserve, this extra time off should make for an exciting, healthy, star-studded NHL playoffs.

This Avalanche team when healthy seemed unstoppable and, quite frankly, health has been the biggest weakness for the current roster, these extra few months off before the playoffs could prove to be in the Avalanche’s favor. The current Avalanche roster his stacked with talent from the top-down and the offseason acquisitions have all contributed and been more impactful than could have possibly been expected.

If the season ends up being canceled, the St. Louis Blues would keep the Stanley Cup for another year presumably and the 2019-20 season would go down in Avalanche history as one of the best teams to never get a chance to play for a championship.

Their star-studded core of MacKinnon, Landeskog, Rantanen, Kadri, Makar, and Girard, along with an extremely talented farm system growing behind them, will certainly be contenders for the foreseeable future. Though 2019-20 was supposed to be the start of their dynasty, waiting another year could be a reality and could just add fuel to their fire.

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