Connect with us

Scott Takes

Scott Takes: There’s always next year…again.

Published

on

Nathan MacKinnon after VGK series loss

“Sure, there’s always next year. It’s all we talk about, I feel like.” 

A defeated—and deflated—Nathan MacKinnon, slumping behind the microphone, took to the podium following the Avs Game 6, series-losing loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.

“I’m going into my ninth year and I haven’t won shit,” he said, clearly exasperated and exhausted—more so emotionally than physically. 

It’s been nine years for MacKinnon. It’s been 20 years for the city. 

But this year was supposed to be different, though. Colorado had been the Stanley Cup favorites for the better part of the last six months. This was supposed to be the best roster the Avalanche has had since ‘01. This was supposed to be the year. They proved it in the regular season. They faltered when it mattered most. 

“I thought we fought real hard and battled and played our asses off,” Avs captain Gabe Landeskog said, as the sounds of the Vegas Golden Knights locker room celebration echoed through the halls of T-Mobile Arena and through the speakers of the post-game Zoom conference. 

 “I’m real proud of that group in there. I’m proud of the season we had. You’re never gonna be satisfied until you win that final game of the season. It sucks.”

Indeed it does, and for the third straight year, there won’t be a party at Civic Center Park. Instead, the Avs find themselves hitting the links and checking into their summer homes earlier than they’d like. Sans Stanley Cup. 

We can try and look at all of the positives all we want. Sure, there’s been steady progress since that atrocious 2016-17 season. The following year, the Avs shocked the world and snuck into the postseason. That was a big moral victory. It was a turning of the tide.

In ‘18-’19, they fought to the second round, improving over their past season. 

Last year, in the Edmonton bubble, they fought back from a 3-1 deficit against Dallas and were minutes away from punching their ticket to the Western Conference Final, despite playing two-thirds of a healthy roster and relying on a third-string goalie. We can cut ‘em some slack on that, though it was disappointing nonetheless.

This year, well, there really are no excuses. 

The fact is, the Avalanche failed. They still haven’t made it out of the second round since 2002.

What more can the Avs do?

That’s a question that’s pretty hard to answer, whether you’re MacKinnon or Landeskog, or fifth-year head coach Jared Bednar, or general manager Joe Sakic. 

Still, it’s a question that needs to be answered, and it needs to be answered quickly.

Bonus Voucher!

The window’s been wide open for the past three seasons. It still could be open for another year or two. Maybe more. But with so many large contracts expected to get doled out between captain Gabe Landeskog, your Calder Trophy-winner and Norris finalist Cale Makar, and your Vezina Finalist Philipp Grubauer, Sakic will likely be hamstrung by cap space moving forward. 

The Avs will have to get younger and play their entry-level, cheap-contract guys next season, while parting ways with some veteran leadership, like Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Matt Calvert, and potentially Erik Johnson and Brandon Saad. Indeed, the Avs will be young next season. And with youth comes inexperience, and inexperience is what has been the insurmountable hump in the postseason for Colorado.

Do you point at leadership as the issue? Can Jared Bednar lead this Avalanche team to Cup glory? “I’m confident I can guide this team. I’m dedicated to this team,” he said after the Game-6 loss. Others, however, are not so sure he’s the man for the job.

The easy way out is to blame the coach and the staff, and, hey, maybe that is the problem. But blame almost never rests squarely on the shoulders of one member of the team, whether it’s the coach or the captain or the general manager. That’s not what the definition of a team is.  

This is an organizational issue. We can point fingers at the coach and his inability to make the proper adjustments. We can question Joe Sakic on his trade-deadline minimalistic moves, both of which severely underperformed in the postseason. We can blame the team’s stars and leadership, like Nathan MacKinnon, who couldn’t seem to breakthrough against Vegas.

You can’t fire the whole team. So, do you can fire the coach, who has one year remaining on his contract? You can shake things up in any number of ways. In what ways is that? I don’t know, and I’m glad I’m not the one calling those shots.

I can tell you, from my perspective, there’s an issue with toughness, both mental and physical. The Avs aren’t built like a playoff team, and they don’t have the confidence to be a playoff team that makes it the distance. When the going gets tough, they can’t rise to the occasion. Vegas, on the other hand, got molly-wopped in Game 1 and got a game stolen from them in Game 2 to go down in an 0-2 hole, and ufabet had the series over. But they made the mental adjustments necessary to rise to the occasion, though.

The Avs don’t quite have that. At least not yet.

Maybe coach Bednar has taken this team as far as he can. The Avs stoic bench boss forged an identity and a culture that has irrefutably worked on his players…to a certain degree. But maybe that culture and way of thinking just isn’t ideal for playoff hockey. Maybe a new head coach, someone like Gerard Gallant or a John Tortorella or a Bruce Boudreau, could instill some toughness and grittiness on the soft-around-the-edges Avalanche team. I don’t know.

I would be willing to give Jared Bednar the final season of his contract, banking on him coaching the hell out of his team while he’s in a contract year. But I’m also willing to hear out arguments that he’s taken this team as far as he can. It’s a fair point. Will Joe Sakic be having a serious conversation with coach Bednar in the coming days? Absolutely.

The whole team will be having some serious conversations. Start with the man in the mirror.

Go back to the drawing board.

It’s all you can do now.

And, remember, there’s always next year.

Subscribe to CHN+ today!

A graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder, Scott has so far spent the early parts of his young career covering Colorado hockey — from the Avalanche to the Colorado Eagles to the DU Pioneers. His work can be found across sites such as NHL.com, TheAHL.com and SB Nation, among others. Scott currently resides in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Denver, where he works as a Marketing Executive when he's not writing.

6 Comments
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
6 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
jpmckown

The thought of “this team needs a culture change” has been rolling around my head. What that means to me is that starts with the coach and the captain (Bednar and Landeskog). Landeskog had a pretty poor showing and we hear that same old story. We also saw that same old story too. Captain has to lead the team on the ice and stumbling across some June 9 2001 highlights… that Avs team had a captain leading the way. I like Bednar and Landeskog but maybe it’s time for one or both to go.

pukface

I have the same thoughts rumbling around in my head as well. It seems at times this team gets caught up in playing ‘the system’. We hear this from Bednar especially when discussing new/young players coming into the fold. Maybe a coach who is going to let the boys play with freedom vice too much structure is needed. I don’t get why you draft a guy like Newhook , sign him, bring him up to the big club, then drop him on a checking line. Is that why you drafted him? I just think this organization may be a little… Read more »

petexvx

I don’t think we need drastic changes. Bedner has won at every level and I think he can get this team there. I really think we are one or two harden veterans away from getting over the hump. I don’t know who we would sign or trade for though. Maybe a Toews from Chicago, someone like that. Who demands instant respect but still has something to offer without impeding the development of some of our other guys. Saad has got to be resigned.

dp10

Mental toughness indeed seems to be lacking. Patrick Roy’s ability, for example, to bounce back from a bad game was absolutely legendary. If you consider that Grubauer stole Game 2, the Avs missed 4 consecutive opportunities to find another gear.

Matt Briggle

Good read Scott, lots to think about in there. I’m not on board with the fire Bednar folks even though I still question his decision to not play Byram at any point in the second round. He has won at every level he’s ever coached at and to a large degree this roster has been built around his coaching style/philosophy. Bringing in someone new at this stage would, to me, be almost like admitting failure on this rebuild and starting over especially if it’s someone like Torts or Babcock. Honestly, I think if we can get EJ back and keep… Read more »

The PG

This round was lost because the league’s best defense this year flopped at the wrong time. That includes Grub. Sammy needs a partner that can take some of the physicality off of him (bodyguard?). I thought that was supposed to be Graves role, but then he started seeing himself as the next Ray Borque or Bobby Orr. He was telegraphing his shots better than David Alter (look it up if you don’t know) Grubi is a Vezina finalist. Joe is nothing if not loyal, and will see this year as Grubi living up to what the team needed, so Grub… Read more »

Colorado's premier coverage of the Avalanche from professional hockey people. Adrian Dater, Editor-in-Chief. Part of the National Hockey Now family.

This site is in no way associated with the Colorado Avalanche or the NHL. Copyright © 2019 National Hockey Now and Adrian Dater.

Send this to a friend