Colorado Avalanche Midseason: Is It Time To Worry About The Defending Champions?

Denver – Everything looked great going into the holiday break. Sure, the Avalanche They were beaten, but won six out of seven games and were finding ways to get victories. Samuel Gerrard He sent the team to a break with a Nashville overtime winner, capping a two-goal comeback. Feelings were good.

But in eight games since the break, Colorado has been a bad 1-6-1. In this stretch, Jared Bednar’s club fell to Arizona and fl Clubs, seemed too much against it Toronto And dawn progressed with two goals against both of them Vancouver And Los Angeles. The players met in Edmonton, and coach Jared Bednar said he felt nervous around the group.

He said, “That’s right.” “But we bring it upon ourselves in many ways.”

The worst loss in the stretch, though, came Thursday night in Chicago. The Avalanche lost 3-2 to a league worst Blackhawks And he never performed. This was the low point of the season indeed.

The team does not score in the usual way and entered the night 26th in the league in goals. An Avalanche team that was defensively solid in the offseason has transformed into one that makes consistent breakups.

All of which led to a record-breaking halfway point. Forty games into the season, Colorado is 20-17-3. If the season ends today, the defending champions will be out of the playoffs. It’s time to worry, and it all begs one question: How did one of the most talented teams in the league get to this point?

departures

Maybe the 21-year-old hopes Alex Newhawk can replace Nazim QadriProduction was too much. After a season best of 87 points, Qadri signed him Calgary As a free agent, he will represent the Flames in the February All-Star Game. Colorado went into the season wanting to give Newhook a chance in the second line quarterback role left vacant by Kadri. Rather than take a step forward, Newhook had a relatively quiet season, scoring 13 points in 40 games, though he would have had 14 if Thursday’s game-tying goal hadn’t been nullified by goaltender interference. None of that means he won’t be a top six player as his game matures, but he’s not quite there yet.

Qadri wasn’t the only contributor Colorado lost. Winning the Stanley Cup comes with a price: players leave for contracts larger than a crowned team can afford. Andrey Burakovsky He went to Seattle and had 35 points in 40 games. Nico Sturmwho was currently tied for fourth on the Avalanche with 10 goals, signed for San Jose. Nicholas Op-Koppel I signed with Toronto, then got off waivers before Washington. Veteran Defender Jack Johnson He went to Chicago. Not all of these players are flashy, but they have all appeared in several Stanley Cup Final appearances.

And so did I Darcy Comber, the Avalanche’s starting goaltender in 2021-22. 919 save percentage with Washington this season and made 11.37 more saves than expected, according to Evolving-Hockey. Avalanche traded for Alexander Georgiev to replace it. He’s been solid, posting a 0.915 save percentage and giving up 3.96 more goals than expected, according to Evolving-Hockey, but — at least for now — it looks like he’s been downgraded slightly.

Evan Rodrigues It was a good capture in the off-season of the Avalanche, commercial acquisitions in the 2022 deadline Arturi LikonneAnd Andrew Cogliano And Josh Manson They are in their first full season with the club. But losing two of their top six strikers (Kadry and Borakowski), the starting goalkeeper and cutting depth is painful. And unfortunately for the Avalanche, that’s not all they’re missing. Health has been in the team’s way since pre-season.

injuries

Sitting in his locker after losing Vegas this month, Nathan McKinnon A brief recap of what was probably Colorado’s biggest problem this season.

“We just need to be healthy,” he said. “Guys are fighting, but it’s hard.”

Captain Gabriel Landscog (Knee) He missed all 40 of the team’s games this year. Darren Helm (kidnapper) He missed the first 35 matches and left Thursday’s match with an injury. Bowen Byram (lower body) it has 30. Valery Nichochkin (ankle) missed 25. Manson (lower body) missed 19. McKinnon and Rodriguez, both in the lineup, missed 11.

Earlier this year, Bednar said the rash of injuries was likely in part due to the short season and the length of the playoffs. Landeskog was almost certainly injured, when he was playing with a recently surgically repaired knee, all of the playoffs and didn’t take the morning skates despite running the postseason. He has yet to play a regular season game with Laconne, Manson or Cogliano.

The impact of injuries is evident from looking at the team’s lackluster scoring numbers. Between the regular season and last year’s playoffs, Landeskog scored 41 goals in 71 games. Nichushkin is off his career-best 25 goals and scored seven goals in seven games this year before he needed ankle surgery. Both are strong presences up front and can watch goalkeepers and bury rebounds. Colorado misses them.

Avalanche power play also faltered with MacKinnon out of the lineup, converting on just 13.3 percent of chances, which ranked 26th in the league over that span. (This unit has been, for what it’s worth, 1-for-25 since McKinnon’s return.) And when McKinnon, Nichoshkin, Likonen, Landskog and Rodriguez were all out, at some point Bednar had to contend with a fine line from Newhook, Mikko Rantanen and Charles Huddon. Not what you want.

If the team is healthy, Byram and Manson will likely form the second defensive duo. Byram, who has extreme offensive potential, is coming off a massive Avalanche playoff, and Manson is a proven, consistent defensive player who makes up a large portion of the team’s penalty kicks. As both players are out, Girard and Eric Johnson They took some of those minutes away, with mixed results.

fatigue

With all the injuries, Bednar has had to rely more and more on the players he trusts, perhaps in an unsustainable way. Superstar Defenseman Cal Makar is the prime example. He entered play on Thursday averaging 27:29 of ice time a game, by far in the league. But he’s not the only one with flashy totals. Here are the players who have played at least 20 games with a career-high average entering play on Thursday.

player 2022-23 TUI Previous job level

27:29

25:40

25:30

25:22

23:08

20:59

22:27

22:05

21:32

16:29

20:20

17:29

19:08

15:50

15:01

13:34

14:59

13:52

11:55

10:54

“I don’t feel like I’m managing it well at the moment,” said Makar, who has a cough. “But you live and you learn.”

Makar is still a standout defensive player this season with 39 points in 40 games, but he looked worn out at times. He played more than 30 minutes in three consecutive games this month, including 33:09 tonight against oilers. Toews also logged heavy minutes since the offseason and made some uncharacteristic errors.

In general, the leading players have done a good job dealing with the increased minutes, but it’s fair to wonder if the total time on ice will have lingering effects as the season goes on.

Retreat

Colorado has had a few jumpers jump, including JT Comfer, but suffered from the decline of other players. Gerrard is the most famous. check from his player cardCreated by Dom Luszczyszyn and Shayna Goldman of the athlete:

Girard’s added game value was 2.4 in 82 games in 2020-21, when he had 32 points in 48 games. He’s been back on the floor since that phenomenal season, putting up just 28 points in 67 games last year. This year, he’s been at a slower pace—at 0.3 points a game—and hasn’t shown as much of his dynamic offensive skill set.

“He had some inconsistencies in his game, the way he skated and moved the puck,” Bednar said while playing the Chicago game. “We’ve just had a couple of games where I thought he was great. I think he’s probably no different from a lot of the other guys in our room and what we’ve seen them do in the past and what they’re doing recently. As a group, as a whole, we all have to take it a step further.”

The lack of consistency was the big thing for Gerrard. But as Bednar said, he is not alone. Makar and Toews, for example, have not been quite as effective as last season, perhaps because of the minutes they score. Combine that with player absences, whether due to free agent departures or those suffering from injuries, and you get less success on the ice.

Leader

Landeskog’s absence was noticeable, and not just on the ice. He is the leader of the dressing room and a level head during turbulent times.

“A great influence on our team when it comes to being present verbally, speaking openly in the room and knowing when he needs to speak up and calm things down or speed things up,” Bednar said. “He’s a real asset to our team, along with what he does on the ice.”

The Avalanche still believes he will return this season. But meanwhile, his teammates sense his absence.

“His leadership and his leadership in the dressing room is very impressive,” he said. Logan O’Connor, who mentioned Landeskog’s ability to be a voice of reason and hold others accountable. “We don’t have it, so we need everyone to be led by a committee. Different guys have come forward in different ways, which I think was huge.”

MacKinnon is always a presence in the room, and Bednar has credited Rantanen with his rise as a vocal lead. But none of this can fully replace the captain.

Poor production of summons

Aube-Kubel, who did not receive a qualifying offer from the Avalanche and was waived by the Maple Leafs, has scored two goals and four assists in 14 games with Washington this year. His six points is more than the sum of the points Ben MyersAnd Martin CootAnton Bledh, Jean-Luc Vaudy, Alex Galcheniuk, Charles Huddon, Jason Megna (now with ducks), Sambo Ranta and Mikhail Maltsev with the Avalanche this season. In an injury-plagued season, Colorado needed organizational depth to ramp up its efforts. These players, especially the forwards, do not have it in terms of point production.

Kuyt is perhaps the most striking example of a recall not bringing the Avalanche as they probably want it to. The first player was waived in the 2018 preseason, but was not claimed. He received a call-up early in the season but was eventually waived again, only to never be claimed again. He’s back with NHL The club however hasn’t had much impact so far, scoring just three points in 26 games and one point in 18 games. A disappointing result for a player who finished 16th overall.

Myers looked good in the spikes, but the point production just wasn’t there. The team liked to get double-digit goals from him and Lukas Sedlak. Myers is far from that pace, and Sedlak was waived after three NHL games, which he acquired Philadelphia He is now playing in his native Czech Republic. An attractive prospect, Foudy has shown flashes but isn’t quite ready for the NHL level of play, and Galchenyuk’s tryout hasn’t worked out yet, despite him having 14 points in 16 AHL games.

An avalanche needs goals. Their summons gave them almost nothing.

Bednar said the team is confident players who are currently in the NHL club can help the Avalanche get out of its funk. If they can and Colorado get their injured players back, plus maybe make a few additions in the trade deadlines, the team will still be a serious opponent for any team in the playoffs. But with the way the Avalanche plays, a lot has to change before they can even think about it.

“The confidence has to come from the work we’re doing now and the steps we’re taking,” Bednar said recently. “In the end you are what you do over and over again. If you are asking me right now, ‘Where are we?’ We are not close. But we have a lot of seasons left to play to get to where we need to be.”

(Photo by Cal Makar: Ron Chinoy/USA Today)

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