These are all adjectives I’d use to describe Colorado Avalanche hockey to start 2021-22, a year in which the Avs are—or were—billed as the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. Though it certainly doesn’t look that way right now.
But I’m going to state something so plainly obvious: there are 76 games left on the season. Last year’s team, a club that ended up finishing the shortened regular season with the league’s best record and a consolation prize called the Presidents’ Trophy, started their campaign 2-3-1 through its first six games.
After falling to the Vegas Golden Knights at home on Tuesday, Colorado’s record regressed to 2-4 to start the year. So, the point here is that there is time. How much of it? Well, that depends. You’d be surprised how hard it is to fight back from just two games back, even with 76 games to go.
Am I concerned? Not quite. Is there at least some writing on the wall? Yes. As colleague Terry Frei said, something just doesn’t feel right. I’d have to agree.
Look, we can make every excuse in the book. The Avs haven’t been entirely healthy. Sure, but such is life for Avalanche hockey—you should be used to this by now. There’s been a big disparity in calls (or non-calls) going against my poor, innocent Avs this year—it’s just not fair! Cut the woe-is-me attitude, my friends.
No one in the Avalanche organization is making these excuses. They’re better than that. They’ll play off this slow start as any athlete is programmed to do. They’ll give you the “we’re not worried” schtick, or the “there’s still plenty of time left in the year to right this ship”, as Cale Makar mentioned last night after being asked about the team’s slow start to the season.
And, yes, there is still time, sure. But as a I said earlier, even a two-game deficit this early in the season can take weeks or months to climb out of. Jared Bednar knows that too. “We’ll see how long it takes us just to get back (to .500). Could be seven days, could be 10, could be a month, I don’t know,” he said after Tuesday’s loss.
We don’t know.
And judging by the way the season has started, it could be longer timeline to scratch and claw their way back to .500 hockey.
The Avs have allowed the sixth-most (tied) goals to opponents this year, while scoring the fifth-fewest (also tied). Power play is third-worst in the league. PK is middle-of-the-pack average. The Avalanche are among the bottom in average shots per game (which is usually a strong point of theirs), and among the top when it comes to shots allowed.
These are all trends you don’t want to see. But I’ll repeat it again: yes, we’re only six games into the year. But trends and patterns are things humans innately pick up on, and I’m sensing some poor patterns.
This year’s Colorado Avalanche club does not have the firepower they did last year. The hope was it wasn’t going to be that much of a regression, but, again, it’s not trending favorably. Not right now at least.
Alex Newhook, who was expected to push for a top-six role in training camp, fell flat and was sent down to the Eagles almost immediately. Martin Kaut, Newhook’s replacement, doesn’t look like an NHL hockey player. The Avs bottom-six have scored a combined three goals. On the backend, leaders like Makar continue to look out of sorts (team-high minus-nine through six games). Ryan Murray looks like a traffic cone, and for some reason coach Bednar continues to ride Kurtis MacDermid for seven minutes a night.
“What are we supposed to do?,” Bednar asked rhetorically about playing MacDermid. “I mean, we’re playing the best lineup that we feel’s going to win tonight with the options that we have.”
And that is the concerning part. If this is truly “the best lineup” and best options Bednar thinks they have, then I fully expect this negative trend we’re seeing to continue on the decline. And for a coach whose in a contract year—and probably feels his seat is warming—I get the frustration. The Avalanche really do lack the depth, at all positions, to compete with the Avs team of last year. But Bednar must make due with whatever he has. Whatever that is.
Look, slow starts are nothing new the Avalanche. You know that by now. Do I expect the Avs to finish the year sub-500? No, I think they’re a better team than that. But right now, this looks like a team that’s ceiling is a probably just a few games above the average mark. Maybe enough to just squeeze in the postseason.
This is a better team than one that “squeezes in” though. Right now this looks like a confidence issue to me. They look discombobulated and out of sorts now. I trust the Avalanche will pull it together.
But it needs to be quick…82 games really do fly by.