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Rawal: New Guys Need Time; Stars May Give Them That



Avalanche Ross Colton nhl trade

This year is supposed to be different for the Colorado Avalanche.

GM Chris MacFarland didn’t mess around over the past summer. The biggest reason why the team failed to advance past the first round of the playoffs last year was a lack of secondary scoring. The Avalanche GM knew it, so he made sweeping changes to the forward core.

50% of Colorado’s group up front is new to the team, and through three games, it’s looked like it. The only new skater to pick up a 5-on-5 point has been Jonathan Drouin, and he already saw his role diminish against the Kraken.

Does that mean this year is going to be just like last season? Is secondary scoring going to be an issue again?

Hold your horses.

I’ve seen many in the Avalanche community express concern over the lack of offense from the new guys. I get it. No one wants to see the prime years of the superstars on the team be wasted because the team couldn’t surround them with the right players.

But it’s only been three games. With so many new faces, they need some time to gel.

And the stars on this team are good enough to buy them that time.

Ryan Johansen is the biggest concern for some. Yes, skating does look like it’s going to be an issue for him with this team, but if you dig into the numbers, the team is doing alright with him on the ice. More than alright, actually.

The Avalanche are controlling a whopping 60% of the shot attempts with Johansen on the ice, and the big centerman is fourth on the team in expected goals at even strength. He was inches away from a goal against San Jose. Small sample size, yes, but if this keeps up, the points will follow. And seeing as how he’s the 2C, the points will need to follow.

The third line, in general, has looked a little discombobulated in the offensive zone. What else would you expect from a trio of brand new players? They’ve all had their moments individually, but haven’t looked to be on the same page as a line. They practiced together all camp, but nothing can simulate game action, and they may need some time to figure things out. All three are being used in very different roles than they were with their previous teams. That would be an adjustment for anyone.

Ross Colton was a shot generation machine in Tampa, but hasn’t has that impact in Colorado just yet. That doesn’t surprise me. He’s learning how to be a center in the NHL, and learning it in a brand new system.

And then you have Jonathan Drouin. He’s the only one who has a point at even strength, but he’s already been moved around a fair bit. I anticipate he’ll go back to playing with Nathan MacKinnon again real soon, but in order to stay there, he’ll have to earn that spot with his play with and without the puck.

And yet, without much offensive contributions from their new additions, the team sits at 3-0. That’s because the star players on this team are that good. Alexandar Georgiev is locked in, Makar, MacKinnon, and Rantanen look like themselves, and Lehkonen and Nichushkin appear to be healthy again. Then you have Devon Toews back on defense holding down the fort.

The core of the team is driving the bus, as you’d expect, but they’ll need help at some point. Three games in is not the time to panic, though.

No one wants this team to be top heavy again, and that certainly isn’t what the Avalanche front office had in mind, but those superstars will buy the new additions time while they get settled.

Is it entirely possible the new guys never gel? Sure it is. I’ve been over how skeptical I am of Johansen’s fit, but three games is hardly enough time to come to any sort of conclusion on him, or any of the new guys.

Give it a month, Avalanche fans. If the same issues persist after a month, it’s fair to be concerned. But for now, give the new players some time to find their game in a new setting.

And enjoy watching the stars do their thing.

Colorado's premier coverage of the Avalanche from professional hockey people. Evan Rawal, Editor-in-Chief. Part of the National Hockey Now family.

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