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Scattered Avalanche Thoughts

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Darcy Kuemper

We’re still about five weeks away from the first Avalanche regular-season game, which is still a decent amount of time. You can forget sometimes how long the NHL season is. And the thing is: the real season won’t even start until next spring. I say this kind of thing always with the goal of everyone keeping perspective about what’s ahead. A full NHL season is a grind. (I must be in a mood to use italics a lot on this Labor Day).

First off, Labor Day: I used to hate it a lot. It was always the last day of summer vacation when I was a kid in school, and I just hated having to go back after three months of daily whiffleball with my buddies, waking up at 11, eating frozen pizza for breakfast and blasting Kiss vinyl albums until 2 a.m. on my stepfather’s very, very good headphones. (This, I’m sure, has contributed to what I would estimate to be about a 30-percent hearing loss in my left ear now).

Today, it was just another day for me, although my wife and son both had the day off from their respective job and school. I spent about four hours of the day driving for Lyft, completing a 25-ride weekend in which, if you did, you got a $325 bonus on top of what you made on the rides. I don’t drive much for Lyft, but I think it’s a good summer side hustle where I can get out of the house, drive (which I like to do anyway) and talk with strangers, all the while making some cashola. Lyft is just throwing lots of bonus money at drivers right now, because apparently there’s a big driver shortage. So, I thought, “yeah, I’ll take an easy $325 bonus).”

So, I had a very profitable Labor Day. I may or may not write another installment of the Lyft Chronicles about the ride, but in case I don’t, here are two of the rides: one was a 20-year-old guy who I was driving to his shift at a well-known Japanese hibachi chain. I told him of a place I knew was desperate for a new chef/cook and he, on the spot, decided to chuck his three-year tenure at his job and ask for the number of my buddy who runs the joint, and had me take him back home. He said he wanted a change, and would call my buddy to ask about being his new main cook. He said it was something of an epiphany for him and that it might be fate. He said he was making $78,000 a year at his job too. I said to him, “You sure you want me to do this?”

He said he did. I guess I’ll find out from my buddy whether he’s got a new cook or not, or whether my guy, once he got back home, said, “Wait, what the hell did I just do?”

Another ride was three young people, high as kites, on their way to the Phish concert last night at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. They were funny and nice, but they also stunk up my car with the smell of cannabis.

Bonus Voucher!

OK, one more ride: a guy who was pissed that I picked him up on the wrong side of the road, and made grunting, halting aggravated small talk with me for about 10 seconds until we both settled awkwardly into our roughly six-minute ride to Buffalo Wild Wings in Northglenn, where he was going to watch the Notre Dame football game. Somehow, we chatted about something about the shortage of drivers, which led to something he said about the government, then about Chicago where he’s from originally.

I casually mention that I’ve been to Chicago a lot on business. He asks what I “do” and I say I’ve been a sports writer most of my adult life and cover hockey and been to the United Center a lot. His entire being changes, to him saying what a huge Blackhawks fan he is. I say a couple things like, “I’ve talked a ton to Chris Chelios” and “I once got a picture taken at the organ of United Center/Chicago Stadium, with the famous organ player.”

He starts really rhapsodizing about the Hawks, and starts asking me about this hockey thing and that hockey thing. But the ride is up at six minutes, and he says he wished the ride was an hour or more so he could keep talking hockey. I give him the name of this site and tell him to keep in touch.

So, my original plan for this post: Just some scattered thoughts on the Avs, as I’ve been in my veritable summertime self:

  • A guy I trust in hockey told me today that he thinks Jack Johnson, who will come to Avs camp on a PTO, might become a true undiscovered gem for this team. No, it wasn’t his agent. Myself, I’m a bit dubious he can find meaningful minutes or a role here, but we’ll see. My guy I trust, though, is a really big name in the hockey world. (He said, very pretentiously).
  • I guess one of my thoughts of upside-down-frown on this is, if Jack Johnson is playing regularly for the Avs at this stage of his 34-year-old life, then there’s probably something very wrong with one of the top-4 guys. It would seem like a net loss, but let’s see what happens.
  • I keep thinking about Alex Newhook and the role he’ll probably be asked to play for this Avs team, which is second-line left wing, and I wonder: “Is this too much, too soon for him? If he falters numbers-wise at the start, will Jared Bednar bury him on the fourth line and start a yo-yo career path from there?”
  • I don’t play fantasy hockey, but if i did, I’d be taking as one of my top picks, if not the pick, Darcy Kuemper.
  • I just think he’s going to have a monster year. I think he’s a real good goalie who will love playing behind this top-6.
  • Assuming that top-6 is healthy, of course.
  • I think Nazem Kadri will also have a very good year, but I think this is probably it for him in Denver either way. He’ll be a UFA, and it might make more sense to move Newhook to 2C next season.
  • I’m a Kadri fan, by the way. I think his last suspension was overly harsh. I think Justin Faulk put himself in a vulnerable position, though the fact is Kadri did hit him too high. But I think it was a split-second thing, and the media that got themselves into a tizzy over it don’t really know much at all about hockey, in the final analysis.
  • I think the Avs should go with a fourth line of MacDermid-Helm-O’Connor and crush everything around them. The Avs need a pain-in-the-butt line that gets opponents off their games mentally, instead of vice-versa.
  • I do think the Avs will miss P.E. Bellmare’s fourth-line presence, though. I thought he was excellent in the dots and added a strong leadership quality to the team. I worry that ex-Red Wing Helm might just be playing out the string mentally and physically.
  • I still can’t quite believe the Avs team of last year didn’t get past the second round.
  • I really did buy into the notion that this Avs team would win the Stanley Cup, that they seemed to have everything going for them. The fact that they lost to Vegas, after being up 2-0, still seems sort of unfathomable to me.
  • That’s why, to me, there is sooooooo much pressure on a guy like captain Gabe Landeskog this year. And, probably, the next two or three years. If he doesn’t win a Cup – or at least, get to the finals – there is going to be a massive void in his career biography. He got his money this summer, despite another second-round wet-noodle finish for his team. He insisted on being paid champion’s-level wages this summer, but the fact is Gabe Landeskog has only captained his team to a bunch of early-round playoff disappointments.
  • The second-round loss to Vegas is a real stain on his and this team’s current legacy. That team was supposed to have “learned from the past.”  But it apparently hadn’t.
  • There’s just a lot of pressure on this team, period. If Jared Bednar doesn’t get this team past the second round, at least, this season, he’s almost certainly gone. That’s why, to bring this post around to its semi-conclusion, it’s so important to not get too high about anything until late next spring. This team will absolutely be considered a failure if it doesn’t make it past two rounds – and that is a tough thing to do in hockey, for any team. But it’s something this team must do, if it is to retain its highly-paid-, to-the-cap roster.
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Adrian Dater - Kiss and Larry Bird fan. Writer with @Gambling and @Bookies. Previously Denver Post, SI, Bleacher Report to name just a few.

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Yan Girard

A.D. On paper, the Avs had definitively the team to win Stanley Cup the last season. But the losses of Kadri, Johnson and Byram has been an important factor in the loss against Vegas. Also, there were important signs that the team has not been able to manage well the pressure (Grubauer, Mackinnon, Landeskog, etc.) in right time. In more, Bednar has not been able to do appropriate adjustments. In season, except the injuries, the Avs didn’t have great adversity. The season has been too easy. The team is always very young and I am very confident that the players… Read more »

Ricardo

Great read, but the thing about the Avalanche next spring makes me really, really nervous.

Matt Briggle

My money is that they start Newhook on Kadri’s left side with Burakovsky on the right. If everything goes well then they’ll start spotting him in at C as things go along but I bet he’s a wing this year then they will have to decide if he’s ready for a 2C role next year or if they need more insurance in that area. The third line to me seems to be Jost between Nuke and Compher so that 4th line will be pretty interesting. Where does Maltsev fit into the mix? I sincerely hope Jack Johnson can come in… Read more »

PhatMatt

I think we underestimate how big of a loss Kadri was in the playoffs. He wasn’t hurt, which makes guys come together and say “I’ll step up”. He he fouled out… for eight games. And that has to be more seething, with each game passing, as things started to go south. It’s getting pissed vs digging for passion/grit. It was a mental loss. And that second line was not the same without his skill, which is why we sought to get him. We needed him there. The other thing that got me, was Bednar’s reliance on that power play design.… Read more »

Last edited 13 days ago by PhatMatt
ricoflashback

RE: “I guess one of my thoughts of upside-down-frown on this is, if Jack Johnson is playing regularly for the Avs at this stage of his 34-year-old life, then there’s probably something very wrong with one of the top-4 guys. It would seem like a net loss, but let’s see what happens.” The Avs weakest link is their lack of physicality, grit and undersized defense. They were used and abused in the Vegas series. Hammered down low and unable to protect the net or clear pucks on a consistent basis. Hammered in the offensive zone, unable to generate scoring chances.… Read more »

Last edited 13 days ago by ricoflashback
Yan Girard

If Erik Johnson is injured, you have Jack Johnson to replace him. It takes two Johnson to fill a single place in the alignment 🙂   Except NY Islanders that lost Anders Lee, what team of NHL did important trades at the trade deadline? When a team has a solid alignment like Avs, the trade deadline allows to add depth player in case of injury. To get a good player at the trade deadline, Sakic didn’t want to change the alignment that finished at the first place overall in the NHL standings. Sakic didn’t want to change the chemistry that… Read more »

Nathan Edwards

I do like the idea of your 4th line in MacDermid-Helm-O’Connor that is one heck of a pain in the butt line. I do feel it’s time for Mackinnon and Landeskog and Rantanen to step up to the plate in the playoff once all of the Power play dancing in the regular season expires. I am still a Kadri fan and I have faith he will respond this season. I would even offer him a contract depending up what happens. People whining that Sakic did not do enough dah! There is only so much salary to go around ya know. And… Read more »

Yan Girard

It’s impossible to consider to trade Byram or Girard for a 2nd line player. That would be undoubtedly another trade at the Ryan O’Reilly. 2nd line player is easy to find on free agent market or many other ways. For example, the cost for Burakovsky has been only 2nd round pick, 3nd round pick and Scott Kosmachuk before the draft. The worth of Byram and Girard is extremely high because they are jewels. All the teams of NHL would be ready to give a high price to get one of its players. Most of teams don’t have that type of… Read more »

Nathan Edwards

Yes that is why you sell high right now on Girard.. I am sorry, he is not worth much when playoff time comes around. They have Byram who can take his place easily. Can’t have 3 rovers on Defense in the playoffs and expect to win 4 rounds. Don’t be so sentimental in your logic. Makar and Byram are enough of a puck moving presence.

Yan Girard

Byram doesn’t present the same style than Girard and Makar. Byram will be more physical. If the development will go as planned, Byram will play on first pair with Makar in about 2 years. Have Makar and Girard in the same team is a luxury. Since Girard plays for the Avs, the Avs didn’t stop improving. The speed of the team has moved up a level. If you don’t have Girard and Makar is injured, the Avs becomes an ordinary team. Many defensemen in the NHL are puck moving defensemen. But Girard and Makar aren’t only puck moving defensemen. They… Read more »

Last edited 12 days ago by Yan Girard
idavsfan

Sorry – Have to disagree with Girards value, he’s too undersized. But let me toss this out – would you trade Girard and mabye Compher for Tarasenko and maybe a 2nd or 3rd rounds in 2023?

Yan Girard

A player can be undersized. That’s not a problem. The important is what the player brings at the team. The size isn’t a measure of the efficiency of a player on an ice rink. To answer at your question, Tarasenko was available at expansion draft and Seattle didn’t select him. This demonstrates you the value of Tarasenko on the market. Tarasenko will be 30 years old in December while Girard is only 23 years old. Tarasenko come from Russia and it remains only 2 years at his contract while Girard has again 6 years at his contract. Tarasenko was injured… Read more »

Nathan Edwards

I would make this trade , but it might be too hard if Tarasenko demands too much cash. And to be frank, at this juncture, it would be a straight up player for player, no Compher or other pics needed. Blues know he does not want to play there, and the want to unload the money. I would lean for a better player type of scenario

Yan Girard

You would be disappointed of this trade very quickly. You would regret this trade your whole life. You don’t trade a player among the best the NHL that is only 23 years old in Girard against a player like Tarasenko that is on the decline with his injury history. The best of Tarasenko has already passed. This isn’t the type of players than Avs needs to improve his alignment. Not at 7.5 M at least. Maybe at 1M – 2M but no more. The worth of Girard isn’t similar at Tarasenko. You underestimate hugely the worth of Girard. Do you… Read more »

Nathan Edwards

Nobody is saying Girard can’t move the puck and control the play. Problem is with it, come playoff time he melts under opposing pressure, and if you re watch the Vegas series , you clearly would see they don’t need him on the team with guys like Makar and Byram. What makes you think Sakic would not get a valuable piece back in return. He better prove his critics wrong this coming playoff season let me tell ya with his play starting in round 1

Yan Girard

Girard excelles under opposing pressure. You have never noticed that the Avs doesn’t spend much time in the defensive zone? You have never noticed that the opponent isn’t able to take off the puck at Girard? You have never noticed that Girard makes passes always on the stick of his teammates? You have never noticed that Girard reads the play and possesses an exceptional vision? You have never noticed that Girard spend much time on ice? You have never noticed that Girard controls often the puck? You have never noticed that Girard release very few the puck by the band… Read more »

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