Our Colorado Avalanche 2021-22 Preview is a part of our 2021-22 NHL Team Preview Series. Starting September 9th, we have covered one team per day in the leadup to the 2021-22 season. After a crazy busy offseason with a ton of player movement we need something to help summarize what happened and give an outlook of the impact on each team. Make sure to check back each day for the next team in the list!
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Colorado won the President’s trophy as the team with the best record in the NHL last season, much to the chagrin of Vegas fans, since the Knights had the same record, but lost the tiebreak. Colorado finished 39-13-4 with 82 points. The team’s powerplay was 8th in the league at 22.7% and the penalty kill was 83.1% also for 8th in the league. They finished first in the league with a goals for of 197 and were excellent defensively with the third best goals against in the league with only 132. The Avalanche were damn good.
They cruised into the playoffs and swept the St. Louis Blues in the first round. Then they faced the Vegas Golden Knights in round 2 and lost in six games. Which was a major disappointment for the team.
The offseason had one major surprise for the Avalanche. Their number one goaltender, Philipp Grubauer had just come off a career year where he finished third in Vezina Trophy voting for the league’s best goalie. He had a career high 30 wins, a 0.922 save percentage, and a 1.95 goals against average. He tied for most shutouts in the league with 7, was second in the league for wins, second in the league for goals against average, sixth for goals saved above average, and was a top 10 goalie for save percentage. He was a priority to sign, but actually ended up signing with the Seattle Kraken as a free agent with a $5.9 million dollar six year contract. That stings to lose, and it meant the team had to give assets in Conor Timmins, a 2022 1st round pick and a 2024 conditional 4th to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Darcy Kuemper (with $1 million retained by Arizona). Kuemper is a good goalie, but to lose to a Vezina finalist that way must hurt.
The bright side is that with some of the money they saved from that the team was able to re-sign Gabriel Landeskog, and Cale Makar, and let’s be honest, their defensive prospect pool can absorb the loss of Timmins.
The team had a few players struggle at times but they were a definite favourite to win the Stanley Cup. So let’s take a look at all the moving pieces this off season.
- Darcey Kuemper
- Darren Helm
- Kurtis MacDermid
- Ryan Murray
- Mikhail Maltsev
- Philipp Grubauer
- Devan Dubnyk
- Joonas Donskoi
- Brandon Saad
- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare
- Ryan Graves
- Patrick Nemeth
- Matt Calvert
- Carl Soderberg
- Conor Timmins
The top line is amazing. Obviously the trio of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog will account for the majority of this team’s forward production. Rantanen was the team leader in points with 66 in 52 games, MacKinnon had 65 in 48 games, and Landeskog had 52 in 54 games. The three of them accounted for 70 goals in total, so 35.5% of the team’s totals. To have three guys essentially at or above a point per game pace is ridiculous. These guys will remain the top unit, and the offensive breadwinners of the team.
Behind these three is where it may get interesting. There’s been a lot of shuffling from this point. Andre Burakovsky was 4th on the team in points with 44 points and scored 19 goals. He really seemed to shine last season and should earn himself a stable top six winger spot. Aside from Bruakovsky we could see some new looks on the team. Nazem Kadri seemed to struggle at the second line centre role last season, and earned 32 points in 56 games. Do we see a kid like Alex Newhook who looked very promising last season, bump him down a line? Brandon Saad left town after an up and down season so a new winger will be required on that second unit too. A key loss could be that of Joonas Donskoi, who has a scoring touch and could play anywhere in the lineup. Do J.T Compher or Val Nichushkin move up? The team brought in Darren Helm and Mikhail Maltsev to add into the bottom six to fit in with Tyson Jost, and Logan O’Connor. Dylan Sikura, Kiefer Sherwood, Martin Kaut and Shane Bowers could try to eek out a spot also.
The loss of secondary scoring will hurt the team. Donskoi and Saad’s production will need to be replaced and I’m not sure how the young rookies and replacement players will fare with that goal.
The Avalanche are set on defense.
They’ve likely got a cast of Devon Toews, Cale Makar, Sam Girard, Erik Johnson, Bowen Byram, Ryan Murray, Kurtis MacDermid, and Jacob MacDonald.
Bowen Byram should get a full time spot this season with the loss of Graves, Nemeth and Timmins. He’ll probably get some sheltered minutes until he finds his game. Erik Johnson didn’t play last season, will he look good this season? I think he’ll be reunited with Sam Girard on the second pairing. That’s the only real question going in, and the team has the depth to make up for it with MacDermid and MacDonald being solid replacement blueliners.
Grubauer was in Vezina contention and now he’s gone. Kuemper has been good in the past so how will he look behind a much better team? In the 2019 playoffs the Avalanche had a rough go when they had to use Francouz and then Hutchinson for their third stringer. Seems like on paper they have a bit better depth at that location right now but there are some questions. Kuemper’s had injury problems so can he stay healthy enough to backstop the team for a full season? He put up respectable numbers on a far worse team on the Arizona Coyotes, and has actually had great numbers on that team two and three seasons ago. Pavel Francouz didn’t play all last season. How will he look? Has he recovered from the injury fully which kept him out? I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out for the Avalanche. With the defense they have its a solid position to be in for any goalie, especially if you consider the run support the top line is likely to provide game in and game out. Johan Johansson is the third, so it seems like they have solid option in case of injury also (although don’t ask anyone in Buffalo if he’s the worst goalie in the league).
Colorado Avalanche 2021-22 Prediction
1st-2nd Central Division
While I don’t believe they will repeat as President’s Trophy winner, Colorado is likely to retain the division leader status for this upcoming season. They’ve perhaps gotten a bit worse depth-wise offensively, but the defensive depth and the best line in hockey should be enough to win games and the addition of Darcy Kuemper could make up for the loss of Grubauer in net. Perhaps a bit more fight in every game for Colorado could be just what they need to overcome the disappointing playoff exits they seem to be repeating each season as Cup favourites.
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