Disappointment. The true description that has circled the Avalanche over the last two years while General Manager, Joe Sakic, has acquired talented piece after piece for his club. The burgundy and blue saw a disappointing 17-20-4 home record, while hovering just above .500 on the road with a 22-19 record. The club had to endure a disappointing 216-240 Goal Differential as the team ended their season in a sputtering fashion and losing any chance of a playoff appearance. Going 0-5-0 in their final month and finishing only 5 points behind Central Division opponents, the Minnesota Wild. 5 points separated the two teams. 3 wins and 2 losses and it would have been the Av’s taking on the Dallas Stars in the first round. It was the playoff berth that got away. A disappointment.

 

Noteworthy New Additions:

Jared Bednar (Head Coach)

Joe Colborne

Patrick Wiercioch

Tyson Jost

 

Losses:

Patrick Roy (Head Coach)

Nick Holden

Jack Skille

Mikkel Boedker

Shawn Matthias

Nate Guenin

Brad Stuart

 

2015-16 Season:

Record: 39-39-4

Points:  82

Standings: 9th in Western Conference (6th in Central Division)

Postseason: DNQ

 

Who To Watch Out For

 

Forwards:

Matt Duchene

Leading goal scorer in the 2015-16 season with 30 goals and 59 total points. Last season saw him notch his 200th career assist.  Duchene has been highly regarded for his talent on the ice. There has never been denying that there is talent there. It’s the conversion of talent in to production over the last two years that lands Duchene amongst the trade rumors.  After producing 43 points in 47 games in 2012-13, 70 in 71 games for 2013-14, and then a “screeching halt” to 114 points in 158 games over the course of the next two seasons, Duchene was the one that was reportedly to be moving away from the Avalanche. All because he couldn’t keep up to near a point per game pace. With the loss of Head Coach, Patrick Roy, Duchene will need to help lead this team by example and get back to his old ways and produce. However, this is a burden that should be spread wider than just Duchene, the leading scorer on the roster. Expect Matt and the rest of the team to get a kick in the rear as the season begins.

Mikhail Grigorenko

After being traded to the Av’s at the 2015 Entry Draft, Grigorenko had a chance for a fresh start. New teammates and perhaps a better system and more talent around him, Mikhail had every reason to go in prove he was the 12th overall pick from 2012 for a reason. 74 games later, Grigorenko would set a new career high for himself and post 6 goals and 27 points. Before his season with Colorado, he would see a career high of 6 points in 25 games. Whether Patrick Roy’s system did not mesh with him, or the NHL is not in the cards, Mikhail has at least one more season to prove his worth.

Nathan MacKinnon

Started his offseason the right way by signing a 7 year extension worth $44 million. MacKinnon finished out his 3rd pro season ranked third on the team in overall points (52). After a 63 point rookie campaign, the troubling Sophomore Slump hit and hit hard. Mackinnon was able to bounce back from his 38 point season though in 2015-16 with 52 points in 72 games. If the Avalanche are going to succeed in the upcoming seasons and prove their dominance in the West, production and “200 Foot Hockey” will have to be played to the highest level. Now that he has his contract and very likely a future star, Mikko Rantanen on his wing, Nathan could look to push to be the points leader amongst the Avalanche and help Duchene and Landeskog back to the postseason.

Mikko Rantanen*

Rantanen did not have the best start to his NHL career. 0 points in 9 games and a -9 overall rating. Then again, roughly 18% of Colorado’s skaters finished the season with an even +/- rating, so he’s in amongst the majority. Mikko was sent down the Avalanche’s AHL Affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage, last year and posted 24 goals and 36 assist in 52 games (1.15 Points Per Game). Not bad for a 19 year old. It’s pretty safe to say that the Finnish winger has proven himself amongst the AHL and is ready for the Big Show. If he can keep up his production, don’t be surprised to see him slated amongst the Top-6 or even the Top Line. Pending the right system is in play for this squad, Rantanen could very well get a boost from the talent around him and earn himself a nod for Calder.

 

Defense:

Erik Johnson

For the last few years, finding a complimentary line mate to match Johnson’s style of play and skill has been a bit more of a difficult task than anticipated. The former 2006, number one overall draft pick posted only 27 points during his 73 games played last year, after posting 23 in 47 during 2015-15. Though he might be getting paid like one of the league’s top defensemen, Johnson’s numbers certainly state otherwise. As previously mentioned, roughly 18% of the Avalanche finished with an even +/- rating last year, and Johnson was certainly not on the good side of that number. His -19 overall rating was second only to the -22 rated Jarome Iginla, and first on the squad amongst defensemen. However, Johnson’s 6.3 shooting percentage ranked amongst those like Johnny Oduya and Dougie Hamilton, and only 0.2% below Ottawa Senator’s, Erik Karlsson. The Avalanche coaching staff could consider to drop him down off the top pairing unit for Tyson Barrie in order to give Johnson better chances to produce offensively and potentially help his +/- rating.

Tyson Barrie

Signed 4 year, $22 million contract on July 31st. After finishing out his 78 game campaign this past season, Barrie rounded out Colorado’s top 5 with 49 points for the year. While arguably outplaying Johnson and could very well fit better in his top-pairing minutes, Barrie will look to slide in his Top-4 role again this upcoming season (pending a shakeup from new Head Coach, Jared Bednar). Barring any health issues, Barrie should once again be able to help produce at his half-point per game pace, help quarterback the power play, and lead his defensive teammates in scoring.

 

Goalie:

Calvin Pickard

After playing in only 20 games last year, recording a 7-6-1 record, a 2.56 GAA and .922 SV%, Pickard signed a 2 year, $2 million extension with the Avalanche in the offseason and will look to prove his worth behind Varlamov. Pickard is a very serviceable backup and with a good defense in front of him, can be able to steal games. If his offseason training has helped him progress, the 24 year old can start to come in to his own as an NHL starting goaltender.

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