The NHL is less than 31 days away from the beginning of the 2017/18 season. Over this period we’re diving into the 31 NHL teams in alphabetical order, take a look at their previous standings and upcoming season predictions, as well as their key additions and subtractions. Yesterday we made our first foray into the Central division by looking at the Chicago Blackhawks, today we stay in the Central division and head to Denver, home of the Colorado Avalanche.
2016/17 record: 22/56/4
2017 prediction: Serious contender to win the draft lottery.
It’s no over-exaggeration to say that the Colorado Avalanche struggled last season. The team finished dead last in the NHL with just 48 points. Calvin Pickard was drafted by the Vegas Golden Knights and Francois Beauchemin‘s contract was bought out. The loss of Pickard was offset by the signing of free agent goaltender Jonathan Bernier to a one year contract. Bernier posted better stats last season, but then he wasn’t playing behind the Avs’ blueline. That said, the Stanley Cup winner will likely play back-up to Semyon Varlamov.
The alarm bells have been ringing in Denver for a long time, especially since coach Patrick Roy upped and walked out just over a year ago. However there is a little hope on the horizon, and I don’t mean Yakupov. The Avs drafted well in this year’s expansion draft by focusing on defense. Cale Makar and Conor Timmins were drafted 4th and 32nd overall respectively.
Salary cap enforced old-for-young trades have been commonplace over the last few months, but the minimal moves made by the Avalanche make it look like the team actually has a plan for its rebuild. It hasn’t used its decent slice of cap space to go out and sign old men to short contracts (I’m looking at you Vancouver, Detroit).
One of the biggest off-season storylines in Denver has been the non-trades of Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene, although there’s still time. Both Landeskog, and especially Duchene have been oft-talked about as trade bait and despite having just one season left on his contract, Duchene would likely command at first round draft pick were he to part ways with the Avs.
This coming season won’t be good for the Avalanche in terms of points, but what it will do is give coach Jared Bednar’s team a chance to bed-in and find out what works. The team will without doubt finish last in the Central division, if not the whole league. But this season isn’t about chasing trophies.