Colorado Avalanche

Patrick Roy shocked the Colorado Avalanche and the hockey world with his offseason resignation. After two difficult seasons of near-playoff misses, it was clear he and general manager Joe Sakic were at ends on how to get the team over the hump. Roy, with his unconventional defensive schemes and breakouts and cavalier attitude to toward modern hockey analytics, wanted to add more and more size up and down the lineup, sign the mercurial Alexander Radulov, and send Tyson Barrie’s six-million-dollar contract demands packing.

Sakic, having witnessed for two seasons a talented young team fall dangerously low in nearly every measurable statistical category, bolstered his front office with top modern hockey minds and began shaping the roster with players who might actually be able to provide possession support to its top names. The result was Roy walking away in August and the eventual hiring of Jared Bednar, coach of last year’s AHL Calder Cup champions. Avalanche fans now hope for immediate improvement from modern breakout and defensive systems, as well a more mature young core.

THREE QUESTIONS

  1. Can the team make enough improvement from schematic changes to leap back into the playoff conversation?

  2. Will Nathan MacKinnon finally put together a complete breakout season and fulfill his promise as the former No. 1 overall draft pick?

  3. Can the Avalanche get enough goaltending out of Semyon Varlamov to compensate for any growing pains they might have with a new coach?


BEST CASE SCENARIO

Colorado shoots out the gate, re-energized by a new system that lifts unnecessary restrictions and solves the deficiencies of the one ran by their former coach. Nathan MacKinnon maintains his health and demonstrates the skill he did in September when he looked like one of the very best players in the entire World Cup of Hockey. Semyon Varlamov starts 60 games in net and, after seeing considerably fewer shot attempts per game, sports a save percentage of more than 92 percent. Young players like Mikko Rantanen, Nikita Zadorov, and Chris Bigras take big steps in their development and are able to make solid, if subtle, contributions to good team hockey. The Avalanche navigate a cutthoat Central Division and finish third with 98 points.

WORST CASE SCENARIO

The Avalanche have difficulties adjusting to the new system and struggle to start the season. Core players succumb to extended-period injuries and throw the entire team dynamic. Aging players like Jarome Iginla and Francois Beauchemin fall into even faster decline and weigh down younger, faster players on top lines/pairings. Top prospects continue their NHL struggles from last year and begin losing the trust of the organization. The Blues, Blackhawks, Stars, and Predators are still better overall teams, and the Minnesota Wild leap Colorado in the final game of the season to earn the final wild card spot.