In 2013-14 the Colorado Avalanche went nuts, winning 52 games and then won 39 games in back-to-back seasons, only to be the worst team in the NHL by a mile last year.
Former goaltender and head coach Patrick Roy must have seen it coming because he walked away from the team before it even started and Jared Bednar led the team to a 22-56-4 record. The Avalanche had a poor year despite improving in their CorsiFor% from 45.1 to 48.6 CF% (via hockey reference). Where the Avs struggled was keeping the puck out of their own net. With Semyon Varlamov out, they Avalanche turned to Calvin Pickard, Jeremy Smith and Spencer Martin in goal and the Avalanche had the second worse team SV% (.894) in the league. When you combine that with a league-worst on-ice shooting percentage (7.2%), you get 22 wins in 82 contests.
Coming into 2017-18, Varlamov is back as the team’s No.1 goaltending option and Jonathan Bernier was brought in on a one-year deal to be his backup. The Bernier signing was necessitated by the Vegas Golden Knights selecting Pickard in the expansion draft. Varlamov has had some good years, but consistency and injuries have been an issue for the 29-year-old. Varlamov had a dreadful 3.38 GAA and .898 SV% before getting hurt last year and will have a little more pressure for starts with Bernier now in town. Playing behind another netminder who had problems with injuries last year, Bernier was 21-7-4 with a 2.50 GAA and .915 SV% in Anaheim. Bernier has a nice .915 career SV% and could end up being the No.1 for Colorado before this season comes to a close.
The most noteworthy thing the Avalanche did this summer was the non-trade of Matt Duchene. The trade winds were swirling throughout the spring and summer, but Duchene remains in Denver and will resume his role as the team’s No.1 centre. The only other moves the Avs made were rather minor. They acquired Colin Wilson from the Predators and signed the much maligned Nail Yakupov to a one-year deal. All of the attention will remain on Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. MacKinnon has been a bit of a disappointment in terms of fantasy value after a great rookie campaign. In three years since, MacKinnon is tied for 89th in the NHL in points (143) and tied for 111th in goals (51)—and that’s just not what we expected. Landeskog is in the same boat. His point totals have been unspectacular, but he still carries some extra value in leagues that count hits and PIMS.
Outside of the big three, the Avalanche have another trio of young forwards that have people getting excited. It starts with Mikko Rantanen, who was arguably the only bright spot in a terrible 2016-17 year. Rantanen is known more as a playmaker, but he was able to tally 20 goals and 19 assists (39 points) in 75 games and comes into 2017-18 hoping to avoid a sophomore slump. Rantanen is joined by 2016 No.10 overall pick Tyson Jost, who has loads of speed and was over a point-per-game player at the University of North Dakota last year. The 19-year-old has a chance to land a top-6 role immediately because the Avalanche are desperate for some game-breaking talent. JT Compher is the third member of that group that should make an impact this season. He is a bit more of a two-way forward than the other two, but he showcased plenty of offensive ability at the University of Michigan and should push for a bunch of ice-time in his first full season.
On the blueline, the Avalanche still need a lot of work. Tyson Barrie is a quality offensive-defenseman, who has been a consistent producer and is tied for 14th among defensemen in points (178) over the last four years. Erik Johnson is their only other blueliner who should be heavily considered in fantasy circles, but his injury concerns are a big problem for the Avalanche. Lastly, Mark Barberio is not a name you hear a lot, but now in Colorado he has a chance to make an impact. The 27-year-old has bounced around from the NHL and AHL throughout his career, but playing for a terrible team could mean a career-year for Barberio. He should be afforded more power-play time that he’s ever seen and if his AHL numbers are any indication, he could make a reasonable impact.
The Avalanche didn’t do much to improve this offseason while the rest of the Central Division remains loaded with talent. The Avalanche are going to have a very difficult time climbing out of the basement in the Central, but might not be the worst time in the league in 2017-18.
- Chicago Blackhawks
- Colorado Avalanche
Fantasy Rankings (Top 350)
- Nathan MacKinnon-#97 (#17 RW)
- Matt Duchene-#98 (#28 C)
- Tyson Barrie-#118 (#24 D)
- Gabriel Landeskog-#156 (#26 LW)
- Semyon Varlamov-#207 (#32 G)
- Erik Johnson-#235 (#56 D)
- Mikko Rantanen-#256 (#46 RW)
- Tyson Jost-#293 (#69 C)
- Mark Barberio-#320 (#81 D)
- Carl Soderberg-#338 (#75 C)