Colorado Avalanche Season Recapby Christopher Gallagher June 24, 2021 1 comment
One of the most exciting teams league-wide, the Colorado Avalanche captured the President’s Trophy for the first time in 20 years this past season. Finishing atop the West Division with 39 victories, the team also led the NHL with 197 goals for. Enjoying another stellar campaign in 2021, star center Nathan MacKinnon was named a finalist for the Hart Trophy after recording 20 goals and 45 assists in 48 games. Along with this, in his third year with the Avalanche, netminder Philipp Grubauer earned a nomination for the Vezina Trophy. Racking up a .922 save percentage and a 1.95 goals-against average, the 29-year-old finished second in the league with 30 victories in 40 starts.
An active team at the NHL’s trade deadline, general manager Joe Sakic made multiple moves. Shoring up their forward and defensive depth, the team acquired forward Carl Soderberg from the Chicago Blackhawks and defenseman Patrik Nemeth from the Detroit Redwings.
In addition to this, the team also added depth between the pipes after adding veteran goaltender Devan Dubnyk. The odds on favorite by many to make their longtime return to the Stanley Cup Final, Colorado was able to dispatch the St Louis Blues in four games in the opening round of the playoffs. However, Jared Bednar’s group was ultimately unable to achieve their goal after falling to the Vegas Golden Knights in six games during the following round.
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By the Numbers
Power Play: 22.71% (8th in the league)
Penalty Kill: 83.05% (8th in the league)
Goals For: 197
Goals Against: 133
Best Player- Nathan MacKinnon
Narrowly edging out his Vezina Trophy Finalist teammate in Cale Makar, the edge goes to MacKinnon for Colorado’s top player. Earning an MVP nomination for the second straight season, the 25-year-old averaged 1.35 points per game. Helping the Avalanche continue to be one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the league, he finished top ten in shots on goal (206) and assists (45). Playing more than 20 minutes per night on one of the league’s top lines, the Halifax Moosehead’s alumn also remained deadly on the powerplay, with eight goals and 17 assists with the extra man. Beginning to challenge Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid for the best player in the NHL, MacKinnon also remained brilliant during Colorado’s playoff run. An early favorite for the Conn Smythe trophy before his team bowed out, he recorded eight goals and seven assists in ten games.
Biggest Disappointment- Nazem Kadri
Underachieving during his second year in Colorado, Kadri recorded just 11 goals and 21 assists in 56 games. Finishing with his lowest points per 60 minutes total of the last five seasons, he also finished his 2021 campaign a minus seven. The 30-year-old also saw his shooting percentage fall over eight percent from a year ago. Taking himself out of the Avalanche’s first-round series against the Blues, he was suspended eight games by the NHL for his high hit on defenseman Justin Faulk. A repeat offender, the former Toronto Maple Leaf’s draft pick was previously suspended five games during the 2019 playoffs. Set to enter the final year of his contract, Kadri has begun to see his name brought up in trade talks as he accounts for $4.5 million against the team’s cap in 2022.
Behind the Bench (Coaching Analysis)
Receiving a vote of confidence from management, Jared Bednar will return for his sixth season behind the bench next year. The longest active tenured head coach in Avalanche history, the 49-year-old led the team to their fourth consecutive playoff appearance. Helping Colorado capture their first Presidents Trophy in over two decades, the former Calder Cup Champion has received praise from his players for his high-flying aggressive system. However, with the core of the team’s roster beginning to age, look for Bednar to be on the hot seat following next year if the group ultimately fails to return to the Stanley Cup Final. With one year remaining on his two-year contract extension and one of the most complete rosters in the game at his disposal next season, it remains now or never for the Saskatchewan native.
Front Office Analysis (GM)
A snub for the general manager of the year award that was ultimately captured by the New York Islanders Lou Lamoriello, Joe Sakic has quickly become one of the top executives in the game. Putting together an elite group of talent over the last few seasons, the 51-year-old pulled off one the deal of the season when he acquired defenseman Devon Toews from the Islanders. Furthermore, he was also able to obtain veteran winger Brandon Saad from the Chicago Blackhawks for defenseman Nikita Zadorov to give Colorado an extra scoring boost lower in the lineup. Continuing to draft exceptionally well on the backend, Sakic has created one of the best young up-and-coming defense cores league-wide. Convincing his star players to sign value contracts, he has allowed the team to add pieces in and around the lineup to help get them over the hump.
2021 NHL Entry Draft Picks/Prognosis
Slated to hold just three picks in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, the Avalanche will be without their 2nd and 5th round picks due to the Toews and Dubnyk deals. In addition to this, the team will also not hold a 4th round selection after they traded it to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for forward Vladislav Namestnikov. Lastly, Colorado also traded their 6th round selection to the Buffalo Sabres for young goaltender Jonas Johansson.
Slated to pick 28th in the opening round, many options present themselves for Sakic and their scouting department. With a strong farm system present both in the American Hockey League and the Ontario Hockey League, they could ultimately choose to draft and stash a player that could help the team down the road. However, remaining in the middle of a wide-open Stanley Cup window, the Avalanche could also ultimately choose to move their selection for a star player that could make an immediate impact in their lineup.
Off-Season Wishlist/Checklist and Prognosis for 2021-22
Faced with many items to take care of in the offseason, the team will first need to extend their star defenseman in Makar. Earning a Norris Trophy nomination after recording 44 points in 44 games, look for the restricted free agent to earn over eight million dollars per year on a long-term deal. Furthermore, both Saad and Grubauer will become unrestricted free agent status. at just a $3.3 million cap hit last season, look for the star netminder to ink an extension in Colorado.
Using the contract that Jordan Binnington signed with the Blues as a benchmark, look for the Vezina Trophy finalist to cut into the $20 million the franchise has in available cap space. Lastly, the Avalanche will also look to resign captain Gabriel Landeskog. The longest-tenured member of the team, the 10-year veteran, remained productive last season with 20 goals and 32 assists in 54 games.
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