For the end of 2018, we’re granting wishes to the four major sports franchises in Denver. Here’s the Colorado Avalanche’s list.
The Colorado Avalanche are having a nice season. Despite a recent swoon, they are still within striking distance of the top of the Central Division and Western Conference. They’ve had spectacular performances from their goalie tandem and top line.
The young Avs are figuring out their depth on-the-fly with intriguing players like Alexander Kerfoot showing flashes of speed and craftiness that the Avalanche desperately need from players not on the top line.
There’s a big dropoff from Mikko Rantanen‘s 16 goals to Carl Soderberg‘s 10 and the free-fall continues from there. No other Avs player has scored double-digit goals. It remains the primary issue for the Avalanche heading into the second-half of the 2018 season.
A close second is the Avs reliance on goaltending. They give up 32 shots per game and the goalies are getting overwhelmed. After strong starts for both Semyon Varlamov and Philipp Grubauer (and Pavel Francouz, briefly) they have come back to the pack quite a bit.
So, considering Colorado’s standing and some of their shortcomings, we wish for the following for them:
A Scoring Title. The last time a Colorado Avalanche player won an Art Ross trophy was 2003 when Peter Forsberg hoisted the hardware. That’s a long time for a storied franchise, too long. Flash to 2018 and Mikko Rantanen leads the NHL in points, showing no signs of relinquishing that standing. Mikko has hit a bit of a lull in his scoring lately but remains in the lead. Strong competition from Nathan MacKinnon and Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning should keep Rantanen motivated. Not that he needs motivation, Rantanen has come seemingly from the middle-of-the-pack this season for the Avalanche. It’s welcome news as the Avs are so reliant on his line. Mikko is currently the Avalanche MVP. Let’s hope that holds for the likeable Finlander.
A Deep Playoff Run. The last time the Colorado Avalanche made it out of the first-round of the playoffs was in the 2009-10 season. Like the Denver Nuggets, their NBA counterparts, just making the playoffs would not be considered progress. Progress will come in the form of a series win or two in the playoffs. We don’t pretend that the Avalanche are currently superior to the Nashville Predators or Winnipeg Jets but it wouldn’t take much for Colorado to accelerate past even those Western Conference powerhouses. Colorado may not be competing for a Cup this season but they still need to make some noise in the playoffs.
Netminder needs. When Colorado GM Pierre Lacroix traded Jocelyn Thibault to the Montreal Canadiens for Patrick Roy, it set the Colorado Avalanche up in goal for nearly a decade. Several conference finals and two Stanley Cups later, Roy retired as one of the most accomplished goaltenders in NHL history. The Avalanche have struggled to find consistency in the net since, rolling through a who’s-who of also-ran goalies in that time. In 2011, Colorado acquired Semyon Varlamov from the Washington Capitals and he has (mostly) been the Avs netminder since. We say mostly because Varly has had a run of injuries that have damaged his effectiveness over the last seven years. He’s been great at times, ordinary at others and hurt too often. Joe Sakic, possibly reading the tea leaves brought in Philipp Grubauer (also of the Capitals) before this season, partially to cover the possibility of another Varlamov injury and partially to look to the future beyond the 30 year-old Varly. Our wish is that one of the two return to the consistency that defined their early season. If the Avs can rely on either man in net to maintain that sub-2.00 goals against average, the team has a good shot at that postseason run.
It’s an exciting time in the Pepsi Center with both occupants performing near the top of their leagues. Ultimately our wish is for that to continue, it’s exciting when everyone is good.