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Scott Takes: Making sense of the Avs offseason, through burgundy-colored glasses

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Avs win 3/18

In April, shortly after the NHL trade deadline, when Avs general manager Joe Sakic said “this is as deep a team as we’re going to have here,” he wasn’t being hyperbolic or trite.

Not at all.

Last season was the Avs’ chance at winning the whole thing. Joe knew that. His head coach knew it. Every guy in the Avalanche dressing room knew it. Why? Because everyone was very aware of the contract situations that would present itself this offseason.

Now, that’s not to say the Avs don’t have a chance this season or the next, no. The championship window is not closed—far from it. But are the shades slowly being drawn? It’s getting there. 

You should’ve seen this offseason coming. This shouldn’t have been a surprise to you.

It almost never happens this way. It’s rare—very rare—that there’s an offseason when you must sign multiples of your top guys….from each position group, no less. To have to sign your captain and your Norris nominee AND your Vezina finalist in one season is just downright unfair.

You can blame it on poor contract management. Blame it on covid crunching the cap. Point your finger at whomever you want. Curse the hockey gods from high above. Either way, Joe can’t cook the books on this one. He has too much talent, too much money to dole out to retain his superstar roster. It sucks now, yes. But, honestly, if anything, it’s actually quite laudable that Sakic finds himself in this predicament. It’s a testament to the talent he’s brought in and drafted over the years.

But the Avs were bound to lose a few key members. It sucks, yes. But business is business.

And before you go running for protection as the sky is falling, let’s look at the positives.

Cale Makar—an elite NHL D-man, a perennial Norris contender, a future first-ballot hall-of-famer—is locked up for the next six years. Your captain is tied up for the next eight and seems destined to retire in the Burgundy and Blue, a spot for his No. 92 already reserved in the rafters next to 19, 21, 23, 33, 52 and 77.

See, there are reasons to smile, oh cynical Avalanche fan.

The biggest loss suffered this offseason is obviously goaltender Philipp Grubauer, who was a Vezina finalist this past season. But maybe his loss isn’t the worst thing after all. In his case, maybe money trumped the will to win, and those are the kinds of guys you don’t need on your team anyway. He’s got his Cup already, and now he can go sail his yacht into the Puget Sound’s nubilous sunset. Thank you for your services, Grubi, and best of luck out there.

But to keep two out of your three big names—and the two most important names of the three—is nothing to hang your head about. Sakic turned around and arguably upgraded at the goaltender position, anyhow. And for those questioning Kuemper’s injury history, Grubauer has actually missed more games than Kuemper has over the last few years.

One point, Kuemper. 

He also has a higher save percentage (.922) than Grubauer over the last four seasons combined.

Bonus Voucher!

Two-nothing, Kuemper. 

And a superior goals-against average (2.35) over the last three years, to boot.

Three-zip, Kuemper.

You get the idea. Grubauer won’t have the shot suppression and stellar defense he was getting in Denver. Now, Kuemper gets to reap those benefits. Four-nothing, new guy.

The point is, it’s not all doom-and-gloom in Colorado. Stop acting like it. Sure, the Avs lost Ryan Graves. It was a smart move by Joe shipping him off and getting assets back—he couldn’t be protected (you know, because of the aforementioned wealth of depth Joe’s collected), and Graves was surely going to be the Kraken’s choice. They didn’t lose him for nothing. That’s a win. Joonas Donskoi’s depth will be missed, but that’s the name of the game in expansion. Brandon Saad’s price went up, and it is what it is. Money talks.

Conor Timmins and a first-rounder are gone, too. But again, the pipeline is just too well-stocked. It became clear as time passed that Timmins was getting bumped out of the Avs future on the blueline anyway. And that first-rounder, by the way, won’t be anything special if the Avalanche play the way they’re still capable of playing. Enjoy pick 32, Arizona. 

At least, hopefully that’s the case.

Yes, there was a lot of loss this offseason; it had to be done though. But in loss, there is always gain. And there can always be addition by subtraction, too.

Veteran D-man and locker-room leader, Erik Johnson, will be back next season. Alex Newhook, Logan O’Connor—the kids will get a chance to play and prove their stuff. Hey, we might even see Martin Kaut or Shane Bowers finally get their chance.

The biggest thing, though, is that the core remains intact for the foreseeable future. That’s a big win. Retaining that group means the championship window is still open and the breeze is continuing to roll through. The Avs top-two lines are still set. The Avs fourth line is arguably better now. 

Did the Avs get better this offseason? Who knows. Are they as good as they were supposed to be last season? Only time will tell. I know it may not seem like it now, but there are lots of positives out of this offseason, too. Don’t forget that. Look at it from the 30,000-foot view.

And breath. Relax.

Try those rose-colored lenses on. Or better yet, throw those Burgundy-colored glasses on.

They look good on you.

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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.

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John Emanuel

Nubilous??? Props, dude.

petexvx

I am with you Scott, this team is going to be fine. Let’s finally let the pipeline show what it is worth. Nothing will be given but let’s give these guys the chance to prove they are what we think they could be.

Richard Trujillo

They have set themselves up to be more of a one line team than ever.

troian

With even lesser defensive pairings than in the past two defensively iffy seasons…the rose colored lenses would need to be accompanied by some serious rose colored wine to avoid seeing where this is pointed towards.

Yan Girard

Toews didn’t play in playoff 2 years ago for the Avs. Toews, Makar, Girard was serious candidates for the Norris the last season and the things won’t change the next season. Also, Johnson is an excellent defenseman. Byram will be incredible and Barron will knock on the door. All the NHL teams would change their defensemen for the defensemen of the Avs. Do you realise that?

ricoflashback

Ridiculous. The Avs could have exposed Girard and Kraken wouldn’t have touched him. Ron Francis and the Kraken believe in stout defensemen. Girard as a serious candidate for the Norris Trophy? Hallucinating. EJ is near the end of his career and injury prone. Serious injuries where one hit could end his season again. I look for him to retire after history repeats itself this year – if he even is healthy enough to play. Let’s hope that Byram can recover from his concussion and contribute this upcoming season. All the NHL would change their defense for the defense of the… Read more »

troian

Agreed – the height of the ‘wishful thinking’ mentality…the roster as currently constructed is far inferior to that of last season…and still contains the fatal flaw of lack of physicality and grit on the defensive end…suspect early next season we will start to see teams throwing everything at the top line as there will be very little scoring from elsewhere…Bednar, whose fault this isn’t, will be pressured into splitting the line up…the team will be on the cusp of missing the playoffs by the Olympic break (assuming there is one)…Bednar will be replaced…the team will barely get into a 7… Read more »

Yan Girard

You have the right to not like Samuel Girard. However, when you talk, Samuel Girard doesn’t bring nothing good at a hockey team. You say that you wouldn’t protect Samuel Girard at expansion draft because that Seattle wouldn’t select him. Then, you protect Graves instead of Samuel Girard. In those circumstances, if you say true, the result would be that Donskoi is selected anyway by Seattle. Finally, you have always Makar, Toews, Girard and Graves as defensemen. You trade Samuel Girard thereafter at another team. But Samuel Girard, a defenseman that doesn’t bring nothing good at a hockey team with… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Yan Girard
ricoflashback

Samuel Girard is an absurdity. “F” Hockey Experts. You’re never going to win with mini “D” defensemen like Girard. Either way, I would have dealt Sammy Girard to the first taker. Addition by subtraction. This is a much weaker team. But let’s see how it plays out. Let’s see how the Avs perform and then we can have this discussion later next year.

Richard Trujillo

I would probably clairify that you can’t win with too many Girards on your team in the playoffs. Those guys do just fine in the regular season. Girard is the perfect guy to trade for a rental at the trade deadline.

I just hope he didn’t do so much damage during his laughable playoff performance that no one wants him now.

dp10

Here is an interesting tidbit about the Avalanche: only 5 players of the Avs’ current NHL roster are players that were acquired through the draft. Compare that to 12 players on the Tampa roster that were Lightning draft picks. My point is, the Avs need to look within the organization to turn this team from a second round candidate to a Stanley cup candidate.

Joshua Canfield

Well said. I’m definitely not freaking out. Grubauer went straight for the money. We signed Makar and the Captain to long term deals. Calvert retires. Donskoi joins Grubi in Seattle. When everything settles down, the Avalanche maintained their core and swapped out for a good goalie. I’ve watched every single game the last 3 seasons and when ever we faced Ben Bishop or Darcey Kuemper, I knew the game would be a challenge. If Kuemper is healthy, he’s a beast to play against. I believe this team is just as strong as last year’s. They will need to replace Saad… Read more »

Phrish

Still stings a bit to protect your goalie, only to then lose him immediately afterward in free agency to the team from which you just protected him.

Luke Waggoner

They had to protect him. Either protect him or JoJo/Dubnyk. Frankie was exempt.

Sean

less phish bud. JFC.

ricoflashback

Totally disagree. Take off the burgundy colored glasses. This is a weaker team than last year. Less physical, less depth and the wrong choices throughout this entire off season. Start with the idiot trade of Graves. A plus +59 throughout his short three year career and you think you have a better defense without him? Then, the ridiculous drafting of another mini “D” defenseman. Girard and his bloated five mil for five year contract should have been exposed in the draft. Or traded outright. Losing Donskoi and Saad is not easily replaced by Newhook and whatever player you plug in.… Read more »

Yan Girard

You have the right to not like Samuel Girard. However, when you talk, Samuel Girard doesn’t bring nothing good at a hockey team. You say that you wouldn’t protect Samuel Girard at expansion draft because that Seattle wouldn’t select him. Then, you protect Graves instead of Samuel Girard. In those circumstances, if you say true, the result would be that Donskoi is selected anyway by Seattle. Finally, you have always Makar, Toews, Girard and Graves as defensemen. You trade Samuel Girard thereafter at another team. But Samuel Girard, a defenseman that doesn’t bring nothing good at a hockey team with… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Yan Girard
ricoflashback

It’s not personal, Yan. It’s strictly business. And that business is having the best roster to compete and win a Stanley Cup. I could care less that the hockey experts all had the Avs protecting Girard. You can’t win with undersized, small “D” players in this league. You can win in the regular season and maybe even advance a round in the playoffs. But as you progress through the playoffs, weak links get exposed. I don’t hate on Sammy Girard. Good for him and his $5M a year contract for five years. He’s set, financially, for life. But there will… Read more »

Yan Girard

Torey Krug (2 finals), Ryan Ellis (1 final), Matt Grzelcyk (1 final), Anton Stralman (2 finals), Dmitry Orlov (1 final). I don’t know how all these mini-defensemen made it through the second round. I don’t know either how Makar made to be considered for the Norris.

ricoflashback

Makar is far tougher than Girard will ever be. You’ll never get it through your thick skull, Yan – you don’t win with mini “D” men like Girard. As I said, check back next year and we’ll resume the conversation. Hey – – you have five years, repeat, five years to enjoy Sammy Girard’s dipsy-doos before he gets annihilated in the playoffs…assuming the Avs get to the playoffs. One and done, for sure – – at the best.

Yan Girard

6 years and not 5 years

Joseph Gauthier

McGeorge… is that you?

ricoflashback

McFly – – is that you?

Hoppyhacker

Agree with this – and good point about the will to win vs money – I actually like the goalie move overall. I also feel that the individual growth curve is in a great place – I don’t see long term contracts with aging players that produce passengers, and quite the opposite – young, hungry players improving each year. And adding an enforcer – really good move, finally.

Brian

Well Scott I thought the article was well written and had good points but according to the people who commented there really is no reason to watch Avs games next year because according to all the experts this team as currently constructed will be lucky to even make the playoffs so I enjoyed your writing see you in two years

Richard Trujillo

We can’t watch the games anyway because ownership won’t pull their heads out…

troian

https://www.nhl.com/news/nhl-most-improved-teams-after-draft-and-start-of-free-agency/c-325874724?tid=277548856

About right. Vegas has taken severe hits just like Colorado…looking like next year might finally be right for McDavid…but probably 7-8 of the top 10 teams in the league will be in the east, to include the three favorites (Tampa, New York I, Boston).

TR

Very well outlined and surprisingly sobering for a segment of the Avs fans, Scott. In a salary cap era, Joe has built a core group of elite players for seasons to come and managing the other pieces very well. Next season the Avs core will be a year more mature and having EJ back healthy and MacDermid as part of our six D corp will give us the physical attributes to handle any team that tries to play dirty. Good luck with these teams as they try and stop our other three D stars, and Bo will only compliment their… Read more »

ricoflashback

EJ is one hit away from another season lost. I don’t think his body will hold up. Too many hits, too many surgeries and too many injuries. A healthy EJ would be a Godsend but I don’t think it’s in the cards based on his past history and age.

Yan Girard

All the players are one hit away from a season lost. You are complaining that Avs doesn’t have enough physical defensemen and you criticize those that are yet in the team. Continue, it’s going well your business.

David Chavez

Did the Avalanche get better on paper this off-season? No. Simply, no. But this isn’t the whole story, is this Avalanche team better than the Avalanche team of 2 years ago? I think this can be argued as yes with all the deft signings Joe managed in-between. You also cannot evaluate how good a team will be the next year without accounting for the cap-onomics. Joe was never going to be able to bring his entire team from last season into this season; there was not enough cap space for the market value of his guys. Through one lens this… Read more »

DK

A convincing argument. I’m trying to stay positive…my only real hang-up being the loss of Saad and PEB.

I totally agree about Kuemper. There is absolutely nothing wrong him that can’t also have been wrong with Grubauer. I have always felt that Grubauer appear stronger that he actually was, mainly due to rest of the team limiting shot attempts on him.

I believe that if the ‘Lanche can do for Kuemper what was done for Grub, then there will be nothing left to cry about.

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