An Avalanche Fan’s Ramblings: Turning the Page to 2022-23
Let me start by introducing myself: my name is Pat. I’m 37, married, kids, dog, and I live in New Hampshire. I went to the Avalanche Stanley Cup parade in June by myself. You might’ve read the piece I wrote about it that week. If you didn’t, no worries. It probably wasn’t very good.
Why am I here and why are you reading this? Great question. I’m not actually sure. But I’ve known Adrian for a few years, and he asked to contribute to the site as someone writing solely from a fan’s perspective. It remains to be seen who made the bigger mistake in this agreement. Time will tell.
I grew up a Nordiques fan for some sick sense of loyalty to my father’s heritage and stayed with the Avs after the move west when I was 10. Nothing has brought me more joy, anguish, frustration and heartbreak the last three decades than this team.
Last year, thanks to the magic of streaming services, I was able to watch all 102 games. Well, 101… I went to that terrible 5-1 loss in Boston, but we don’t talk about that. I don’t think I’ve missed an Avs game the last three years, which is a herculean feat because 9 or 10 PM games suck when you’re on the east coast. Couple that with two little kids, early mornings and my general laziness, watching every game felt on par with Cale Makar’s postseason run… not all heroes wear capes, ammight?
Okay. That’s more than enough. Let’s talk about the Avs.
P.S. – Occasionally I will use ‘we’ when talking about the team… it’s going to happen. I catch it proofing, but still leave it from time to time. Oh well.
P.P.S – I don’t know what to call this article now or moving forward, so I called it what my family usually tells me I’m doing when talking about the Avs… rambling. I’m open to suggestions: both positive and ones that tell me I suck at this.
Turning the Page on 2021-22
Here we are: October. The “Summer of Stanley” is officially over. The preseason is done, and the real defense of the 2022 Stanley Cup title now begins as the regular season is the only thing directly ahead of us.
The summer went by fast, didn’t it? It feels like just yesterday that the final seconds ticked off the clock in Tampa and the Avs players poured out onto the ice to celebrate (Jon Cooper wanted a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty for the celebration… I assume). But it was roughly 15 weeks ago!
And since that Sunday night in June, so much has changed. I went from telling people that I was in the midst of the worst 21-year stretch of my life — something I assume my wife and kids probably don’t appreciate — to proudly referring to myself as a “three-time Stanley Cup Champion!” I would, of course, follow that by saying “…as a fan…” under my breath… and if you somehow missed that part, I don’t know what to tell you because I definitely said it.
I think I watched the final minute of Game 6 and the subsequent on-ice celebration on YouTube no less than 50 times this summer. I completely redecorated my office. Gone are the pictures of the two kids and my lovely wife, replaced by framed photos of toothless Erik Johnson, the stunningly handsome Gabe Landeskog as well as the newspapers from the days following the victory. Photos of my dog remain (she’s such a good girl).
Avs fans will remember last season forever. The sheer amount of stuff I bought in the weeks that followed will make forgetting about it nearly impossible. But with it being time to move forward and focus on the 2022-23 season, I thought it would be a good time to take one final look back at the most relaxing summer of the last two decades any Avs fan has had.
Let’s examine the last three-plus months through the lenses of The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and Other.
- We won the Stanley Cup. We have no right to complain. Let the 30 other fanbases complain (Tampa can’t complain because they won the last two and complained about every goal scored against them in the Final. They used up all their complaining).
- All the social media content the team put out showing the players and staff and their days with the Cup. I can speak to this a bit as my buddy was on the Penguins in 2016 and I helped him plan his day with the Cup, not only for his personal time with family and friends, but also the event we put on for Dartmouth fans (I used to be the media relations guy for Dartmouth Hockey for a decade. We beat Denver twice in that time… NBD). Those days with the Cup are fun and awesome, but you wake up the next morning trying to remember some parts of celebrating with it the night before, relying on photos to fill in some gaps. I want to see the social media teams follow the players the day after they have it. That would be great content.
- The trade deadline proved to be worth it. Not just for the fact that the team would go on to win the whole thing three months later, but because of how it shook out this summer. Of the four names added at the deadline, we only lost Nico Sturm… and he never officially scored a goal in time with the Avs (offside goal called back and the bank shot off Cogs’ leg in the Final). To go out and get Josh Manson, Andrew Cogliano and Artturi Lehkonen, have them all make major contributions in one way or another throughout the playoff run and then re-sign them all for what should be reasonable contracts means that Mr. Sakic seemingly won the deadline… again.
- MacKinnon’s contract. Cale Makar has probably usurped Nate Dogg as the team’s best player. Landy is the team leader. EJ seems to be the most beloved player. But Mack remains the most important. The straw that stirs the drink. Getting him locked up for the next… checks notes… NINE YEARS is huge. Despite having the highest AAV in the league, that contract still somehow feels like he took another hometown discount. I want to be with Mr. MacKinnon on July 1 for the next eight years because I have a feeling he might be feeling extra generous those days and I might get a free low-calorie beverage or two from him. Him signing this contract feels a lot like Sakic’s 1997 contract situation. Once the Avs matched the Rangers’ insanely high offer sheet to the then-restricted free-agent forward, you had the feeling that he was going to be an Av for life. This is slightly different all things considered, but it sure does feel similar.
- Nuke’s contract. Outside of Kadri, no one had a better-timed season than Valeri Nichuskin. Guy goes from doing literally nothing with Dallas to scoring a series-high four goals in the Stanley Cup Final and allowing Bednar to break up the league’s top line to distribute talent across a few lines. Not too bad for a guy run out of Dallas. He earned that contract. Now we just need 4-5 years of sustained production to make it worth it and prove the last season-plus wasn’t an anomaly. Finally, and probably least important of all: my kids really like saying his name. It makes me laugh every time.
- Losing key players. Ok, we lost Nazem Kadri. We all really knew that was coming. Even as time dragged on without him signing and we all started to convince ourselves that Naz might come back at a discount to try and take another run at it, you had to know that was probably unlikely. Ok, so we lost our starting goalie, too. Look, I love Darcy Kuemper. Coming back after the stick in the eye in Nashville and missing the conference final to win the Cup was an amazing story. He did enough to win, and I’ll be grateful for his role on that team forever, but he was priced out of that roster slot after the season (the Avs clearly have a cap number in mind for their goaltenders and they don’t deviate from it), and I wish him the best. However, the trade for a younger, promising netminder behind this defense that gave more salary cap room is huge. I’ll miss André Burakovsky, but we have other options for that slot. You could see it coming with his role changing last year and how Bednar used him in the lineup. You’re going to have some people who were upset because of recency bias — something that comes with scoring a huge OT goal in Game 1 of the Final — but it was time for him to move on, get paid and get top-6 minutes in Seattle, because he was likely a fringe second-line wing in Denver this year.
- The first five rounds of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. Simply put: terrible. None of the players the Avs picked in those rounds will ever make the club.
- The salary cap remains stagnant. Obviously, this made keeping Naz, Kemps and Burky impossible. It made keeping Nichuskin, Manson and Lekhonan damn near impossible. And with MacKinnon’s contract kicking in next season, it probably means Erik Johnson is entering his last season in Colorado. But it also makes me think back to those summers in the 2000s when we would make a push for big-name free agents. Selanne, Kariya, Smyth and Hannan signings are a thing of the past. That is probably a good thing as it comes with the territory of winning and taking care of the team you already have. We no longer use summer free agency to fill glaring holes in the lineup, but more to re-sign already quality players and add depth. Joe Sakic and the front office shifted their focus of roster building to shrewd trades and not missing (much) on first-round picks.
- Those Stadium Series jerseys from the Air Force game. We won the Stanley Cup. You really can’t call anything that’s happened since ‘ugly.’ But those jerseys still make me irrationally mad for how bad they were. For that, I will not apologize.
- Joe Sakic isn’t the GM anymore. I’m torn on this, so I felt like this was the only place to put it. I’m a Joe Sakic-stan. He was my favorite player growing up and can do no wrong in my eyes. To see him finally get his due with the GM of the Year Award after having built a Stanley Cup team was awesome. Then, he was gone… kind of. I doubt much really changes in the structure of the front office other than titles and Chris MacFarland being the one to make the calls to other GM, but still it gave me trepidation to think that right after the team won, there was a shakeup in organizational structure. If moving out of the traditional GM role allows us to keep a talent and cap guru like CMac, then it’s probably the right move. After all, if Joe Sakic thinks it’s the right move, then it probably is and I’m just stupid.
I want to end these pieces with a weekly ranking that I comprise in my incredibly dumb head. These will never be “which player is the best” or “rank the top teams in the league.” That’s not how my brain works. You’ll see. So, let’s get it started with the first in this VERY IMPORTANT installment…
Top-3 Names for Dogs Based on Avalanche Players:
- Landy. In our house, it’s what we call our Roomba because it picks up all the loose junk and put it away. EJ named his horse Landeskog, but racehorse names are weird and using the captain’s full last name for a dog seems too formal. Now, if Landy gets in the trash or poops on the couch, then you can call him Landeskog. Like when your mom uses your middle name when you’re in trouble.
- Mikko. I just like it. Look at any dog and ask yourself, “Could I call you Mikko?” I have to imagine 90% of the time, you would answer yes. Big, small, male, female, happy or sad, that name works. Go ahead, think of a breed and imagine it’s named Mikko. Yup, it works.
- Mack. Nathan MacKinnon is called ‘The Dogg,’ ‘NateDogg’ or some other variation of that and it just works. You could slap an ‘S’ on the end for Macks and people will think it’s Max for the dog in “The Grinch” and you get points for naming it after a literary figure!
- Lehks. Again with the idea of recency bias. But that’s okay cause he scored two series-clinching goals. He’s here for five more years, so this works.
- Cogs. The new guy came in, called a team meeting the night before Game 6 and then helped deliver it.
- Nuke. Given the geopolitical state of our world, this one might ruffle some feathers. But it also seems to be a perfect name for a big dopey dog. I smiled while writing that.
- Tazer. As a fellow Quinnipiac alum, Devon Toews and I are basically the same person. His surname also makes a perfect nickname and reminds me of watching American Gladiators as a kid and Dodgeball in my formative teenage years. Tazer would be a great name for a slower or smaller dog like a dachshund. Makes you think of speed and quickness, then you see that little thing waddle into a room with that name and you have to laugh.
- Bernie. I mean… obviously. I love that dog.
That’s it. I’m done for now. The next time the Colorado Avalanche play a hockey game, there will be another banner or two (or three?) in the rafters of Ball Arena. And once that is complete, we can all focus on the team’s pursuit of another.
I, for one, am excited for this season and seeing how the guys can handle being the one chased and not the ones chasing with a chip on their collective shoulder.
I’m also excited to say the following sentence to my wife with frequency this season: “Sorry, honey. I can’t go to that (insert family function). I have to watch the Avs game that night… for work.”