The Colorado Avalanche made it through the fire and are now Stanley Cup Champions. It was an exhilarating ride through the regular season and an even more compelling story during the playoffs.
The Avs finished at the top of the Western Division with 119 points. They had the second-best record in the NHL and set a franchise record. They also had the fifth-longest home-ice winning streak in NHL history with 18. Needless to say, it is no wonder they deftly took care of the Nashville Predators and the Edmonton Oilers with a 4-0 sweep of both teams.
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By the Numbers
Power Play: 24.01% (7th)
Penalty Kill: 79.66% (15th)
Goals For: 312 (3rd)
Goals Against: 234 (7th)
It is a tough decision, especially with eight different players with 50+ point seasons, and out of those eight, four had an 80+ point season. In addition, 16 players had a career-high season. Players such as Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon, Nazem Kadri, Gabriel Landeskog, Valeri Nichushkin, Andre Burakovsky, and Devon Toews deserve accolades for having an incredible season and cup run. However, Cale Makar deserves to be recognized for the player he has developed into. He had an 86-point season, with 28 goals and 58 assists. In the playoffs, he had 29 points with eight goals and 21 assists.
Makar was the 2022 Norris Trophy winner, and the NHL decided to throw in the 2022 Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, for good measure. He is not through yet, and he is just 23, so imagine how productive he will be if he can continue fine-tuning his skill.
As difficult as it was to choose the best player for Colorado, it is equally hard to choose a player that was expected to do well and flat-out disappointed. However, being on a team like the Avalanche, fans may have thought Jack Johnson would have improved on this team. He played 13 games and only had one point last season with the New York Rangers, so 74 games with only nine points are not that much of an improvement when given an increased number of games. He is not a good player anymore. Does Johnson contribute in other ways? Yes. However, contributions on the ice matter more in the long run and to fans.
Behind the Bench Analysis
It was not just the team setting records. Head coach Jared Bednar became the winningest coach in Avalanche history on November 24, with his 194th victory behind the bench, passing Bob Hartley, who had 193. He is the current third-longest tenured coach in the NHL and has a 240-168-46 (.579) record in six seasons behind the bench. If Bednar continues to get the Avs into the postseason, he will be there for a few more Stanley Cups.
Front Office Analysis
General manager Joe Sakic has proven himself to be extremely lucky when it comes to decision-making. He essentially built this team from scratch and put Bednar behind the bench to watch over the magic he was creating. He will have some decisions to make in the offseason, but considering how he has done so far over the past few years, putting pieces and players together, it is a job well done. Sakic does not have too many heart-wrenching decisions, as the core that just won him a Stanley Cup will remain mostly intact. However, adding a few more pieces for another shot at a cup run will surely weigh heavily on his mind.
2022 NHL Entry Draft Picks
Right now, Colorado has four picks in the draft. They will not make their first selection until the third round. Sakic will either have to make carefully thought-out choices or possibly pull off some trades to get what he wants. Four picks may not be much, but we have seen what the front office can pull off over the last few years. A player like Marek Hejduk may be on Sakic’s radar, but he should consider finding a goalie they can tend to and have down the road.
Offseason Wish/Checklist for 2022-2023
This could also be just the beginning for Colorado. The front office will need to look at what they have, what they can keep, and who will unfortunately leave. They will need to have fun and celebrate, but be ready to do it again. Look for the Avalanche to add players in free agency that will compliment their younger players and superstars. Sakic will have to balance the salary cap with possible free-agent departures of players such as Kadri, Burakovsky, and Nichushkin. Questions also surround what to offer players like MacKinnon when contract talks come around. The Avs will want to maximize their gains while not getting crushed by the salary cap.
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