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Can This Bored Avalanche Team Flip the Switch Like Last Year?



Landeskog trade deadline avalanche

It may not be what fans of the team want to hear, and Avalanche players may not admit it publicly, but I think it’s the truth: the Colorado Avalanche are bored of the regular season.

“Not many lessons,” Nathan MacKinnon said after Thursday night’s loss. “There’s so many games. We play four times a week, so games (like that) are going to happen.”

He’s right. There are so many games (too many, if you ask me) in the regular season, that you can’t over-analyze every single loss. Some nights, you have it. Some nights, you don’t.

While Avalanche players haven’t said it publicly, past championship teams have. It’s hard to get up for 82 regular season games after winning the Stanley Cup.

And I think it’s completely normal.

You go through the intense grind of the playoffs, where every game matters. You fight like hell to reach the top of the mountain, and when you do, there’s no greater feeling in the world.

Then, just a few months later, you turn around and the grind starts all over again.

Except, the grind of the regular season is much different than the grind in the postseason.

“You come out as a player, coach, whatever (after winning the Cup),” Jared Bednar said after a practice this week. “You’re getting as prepared as you can possibly be, but you’re looking at the schedule going ‘Wow, I gotta do that again for 82 games now?’ It’s hard to get to that spot mentally where you’re competing as hard as you can.”

I think it’s fair for players to get bored during the regular season after winning the Cup. It’s only human nature. That doesn’t mean they don’t care, but having won it all, they can now see the bigger picture. Look no further than how Tampa Bay has approached the regular season the past few seasons.

But I also think it’s fair to wonder: Is this year’s team going to be able to just flip the switch like last year?

“We’ve put more importance on it as the season goes on,” Bednar said of his team cranking it up. “It’s why I think the best of our play is yet to come.”

Last season, the Avalanche steamrolled their way through the regular season. With about 10 games left, they started to rest guys. Gabriel Landeskog took some time off to clean up his knee, and various players were given nights off to rest for the playoffs. Losses started to pile up, and fans were concerned about the team being able to just flip the switch when the playoffs rolled around.

We know how that ended.

This season, it’s a little different.

Landeskog hasn’t dressed once, and no one knows if he’ll be back. Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky are gone. And the Avalanche haven’t come close to dressing a full lineup in months.

Can this season’s team crank it up when they need to?

The team looked like they were in trouble in the middle of January. They weren’t in a playoff spot, and after losing seven of eight, there was legitimate concern about them making the playoffs.

The Avalanche did flip a switch, and ripped off a 14-2-2 run.

Now, the question isn’t so much, “Will they make the playoffs?”

The question is more, “Is this team capable of turning it up for another playoff run?”

“I think we’re going to be in a good spot, mentally and competitively, going into the playoffs,” Bednar said. “And if we’re good enough, we’re good enough. If we’re not, we’ll have to re-adjust and figure out why.”

And we’re going to find out real soon if this team is good enough.

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