The Colorado Avalanche are coming off of a 2020-2021 season in which the team swept the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the NHL playoffs. The team won the President’s Trophy but failed to win the Stanley Cup, becoming yet another team to fall short of the ultimate goal. The last team to win both was the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2012-2013 season.
Center Nathan MacKinnon scored six goals in the four games during the series. This included a hat trick in game two of the series. MacKinnon scored 20 goals and added 45 assists during the 2020-2021 regular season in 48 games played. Those 65 points were only one behind the 66 that Mikko Rantanen scored. The fact remains that MacKinnon has yet to win a Stanley Cup, the ultimate measure of success in the National Hockey League, making the playoffs with the Colorado Avalanche only five times.
Changes needed for Colorado Avalanche
So, what needs to change for the Colorado Avalanche moving forward? The Avalanche ranked first in goals scored in the National Hockey League during the 2020-2021 season. MacKinnon will have to step up his offensive output as the Colorado Avalanche had two veterans leave in free agency. Brandon Saad signed a five-year, $22.5 million contract with the St. Louis Blues in the offseason at the age of 28. Saad scored 15 goals and added nine assists in 44 games played for the Avalanche during the 2020-2021 season.
MacKinnon will play on the first forward line with Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen again. This line has had success playing together in the past. This is due to the three players on this line have varying playing styles. Having more playing time together will only lead to more success not only individually for each player but also the team as a whole. The issue again is that the team has not had success in the playoffs. One thing that the Colorado Avalanche brass, as well as every other team, has to focus on is the salary cap.
The salary cap for the 2021-2022 season is $81.5 million. Teams did not have fans in their buildings during the abbreviated 2020-2021 season. This was due to the coronavirus and the salary cap is tied to revenue. Joonas Donskoi was selected by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft. The 29-year-old right-winger scored 17 goals and added 14 assists in 51 games played for the Colorado Avalanche during the 2020-2021 NHL season. The team let him go because they only have $1,521,869 in salary cap space for this season.
Avalanche looking for PTO success again
In 2019, the team brought Valeri Nichushkin into training camp after the then 24-year-old played one season in the KHL, Nichushkin earned a full contract with the team. Nichushkin scored 13 goals and added 14 assists for the Avalanche during the 2019-2020 season. This is the second-most points he has scored in his young career behind only his rookie season in 2013-2014 in which he scored 14 goals and tallied 20 assists for the Dallas Stars and finished the season in the top 15 of Calder Trophy voting as the rookie of the year.
Colorado is looking to make another splash in the PTO (professional tryout) realm for the 2021-2022 season. The team will bring in veteran Artem Anisimov, who played the last two seasons with the Ottawa Senators, and is looking to return to the form that saw him score 15 goals before the 2019-2020 season was shut down due to the coronavirus pause. The 33-year-old will be looking to earn a spot with the Avalanche as they undertake a youth movement.
The captain of the Colorado Avalanche, Gabriel Landeskog, signed a contract extension through the 2028-2029 season. Behind Avalanche legend Joe Sakic, Landeskog is the second-longest tenured captain in franchise history. He is coming off of a season where he scored 20 goals and added 32 assists which were the third-most on the team. The contract negotiations did get ugly for a while and Landeskog said that he was disappointed that the two sides were far apart. The 28-year-old said that he always wanted to stay with Colorado.
The Avalanche will have to lean on Gabriel Landeskog and a collection of veteran additions for the 2021-2022 NHL season. Nathan MacKinnon is a talented player that has not proven that he can lead his team to success in the playoffs. The talented rookies in the Avalanche organization will eventually be able to provide help for the 26-year-old.
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