The Colorado Avalanche were tipped by many to win the Stanley Cup last season, but ultimately, they fell short at the final hurdle. However, this burgeoning team appears to be set up in a way that will ensure they can challenge for years to come.
Since their playoff defeat by Vegas, the Avs have suffered numerous key departures. Can they still contend, or will we see them take a step back this season?
The Team Core Remains
The good news for fans of the team is that the core remains, thanks to the last-minute deal that kept captain Gabriel Landeskog with the team. That alone is enough for this team to be a playoff team, and many believe simply by having this core in place, the Avs will once again contend.
Led by Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, Mikko Rantanen, and Landeskog, this team is stacked, and not only are these four some of the best in the league right now, but they also have great chemistry together. These four together play a big part in why the latest NHL betting odds have Colorado +450 favorites for the Stanley Cup this coming season.
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Who Needs Replacing?
Three key players from the 2020/21 lineup have departed the Avalanche: Philipp Grubauer, Brandon Saad, and Joonas Donskoi. The first two named left the Avs in free agency, with Grubauer signing a big-money deal to play for newcomers, the Seattle Kraken. He will play alongside Donskoi, who was taken by the Kraken in the expansion draft.
Grubauer was excellent last season and made it to the Vezina final, an award for the best netminder in the league. His replacement is Darcy Kuemper, who has been brought in from Arizona and tasked with putting up performances to match what Grubauer gave the team last season.
Brandon Saad played on the second line for most of last season, putting up 24 points from 44 games in the regular season followed by eight points from 10 playoff games. His replacement appears to be youngster Alex Newhook, who played a total of 14 games last season but will have far bigger expectations on his shoulders this coming season.
Lastly, Joonas Donskoi played on the third line predominantly but was used higher up the line up to fill in when injuries occurred. His ability to do that was always key for the team, and now someone else has to fill that role.
This will likely drop onto the shoulders of JT Compher, Valeri Nichushkin, or Tyson Jost, though none of those have shown consistency when it comes to putting points on the board. The Avs haven’t replaced Donskoi with one player, instead, they will call upon their depth to combine together and fill this gap.
Questions remain over the Avalanche and their Stanley Cup chances for the coming season. With their core, you certainly cannot discount them, but compared to last year, they don’t seem to have as much depth, and have a question mark over their netminding, with a new goalie on board.