Given the Avs roster turnover and the fact they could improve massively in many statistical categories and still end up last in the league, it’s a bit difficult to guess where they journey to in the next 7 months. But we’re hockey writers as well as fans and this is what we do. We set our opinions down in print to be ridiculed down the line, but we’re a confident lot and we can take it.
I’ve thrown out a few questions for our staff to ponder on this eve of the NHL season and this is where we stand.
How many points will the Avs have this year? What place in the Central?
How many 20-goal scorers will they have?
How many games will Bernier start (hint: a lot is bad)?
Make a prediction on a team goal metric you consider important and why.
[points/place] 75 points, 7th in the Central, 27th in the league (ahead of Vegas, Vancouver, New Jersey and Detroit)
[20 goals] Four 20 goal scorers: Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Nail Yakupov, Matt Duchene
[Bernier] 23 games for Bernier
[goal metric] 5v5 goal differential is the metric to watch for me. Last year the Avs were -79 in 5 on 5 play, that averages to giving up almost 1 more goal than you score 5 on 5 every single game. I’m not expecting the Avs to be particularly good this coming season, but I am hoping they will be competitive and have exciting and close games. To do that you have to be able to keep up 5 on 5, I still think the Avs will be in the negative somewhere, I’m hoping for somewhere around -25. A mark like this would mean they are at least in the majority of their games. If they manage to put together respectable special teams performances along with this they may even be able to push the team through the .500 mark.
[points/place] This is tough. Part of me expects not much and to say like 65 points and the other part of me says they’ll ride the youth wave and a mini miracle year to something nuts like 87 points. I guess split the difference and call it 76. They’ll finish ahead of one central team not named Winnipeg, I’ll go with Dallas.
[20 goals] I’m going with 5 to hit the mark. The usual suspects in MacKinnon, Rantanen, Duchene because he will still be here, Landeskog because he’s hit that mark four times in his career and was only two shy last season, and one rookie. I’ll cheat and hedge my bets on either Compher or Jost, likely which one gets the better linemates and PP time.
[Bernier] 20 games for Bernier, which would be solid. I’m sure they’d prefer to rest Varly and start Bernier a touch more than that but that third goalie, whoever it is, will be tough to avoid the ice entirely.
[Goal metric] It’s not fancy but just plain old Goals For. I know the hope is to eventually find statistical evidence of progression indicators but the first step is to actually score the goals, then we’ll tackle where they are coming from and how. It’s no coincidence that the years the past decade in which Avs managed above league average goal production they made the playoffs. All other years a supposed “high-octane offense” languished in the bottom half of the league if not right at the bottom in goals for. A median league average season is about 230 goals, which sounds like a tall order to increase from the Avs’ pathetic 166 goal output last season but it is not an unrealistic goal to hope for average NHL offense. I would like to see the team approach that mark as my indicator that things are indeed turning around. There is enough goal scoring skill and offensive talent on this roster, multiple players who can and should hit 20 goals and even 30 if things go right, there’s no reason the offense should continue its impotence.
[points/place] 75-79, good for 6-7th in the central. They may edge out dallas. May.
[20 goals] 4 players will score 20 goals. Mack and Mikko and Landeskog +1. Duchene may score 20 too, but not all with the avs. If ya gnome sayn.
[Bernier] 35 games. (hint: a lot is bad)
[goal metric] 5v5 matters the most, that goes without saying. But since we aren’t expecting a playoff team here, I’m most interested in their power play goals. The team had no scoring at 5v5 either, but the complete inability to capitalize on what chances other teams (and refs) did give them just compounded the problem. Having the capability to go 3 for 5 on the power play a couple of times a year can add standings points to help cover up that -79 GD at 5v5 mentioned by others. Will it add a lot, no, but if you can’t even score with a numbers advantage how are you supposed to do it at even strength? Last season COL scored 4.35 goals per power play hour, good for last in the league and a meager ⅔ of the median PP scoring rate, which was about 6.8 G/60. It’s not a perfect predictor by any means–Buffalo and Tampa were both in the top 6–but this team should be fast enough to draw penalties and that’s completely worthless if they can’t capitalize on them.
[points/place] 80-85 / 6th-7th in the Central
[20 goals] Rantanen, Yakupov, Compher, Landy, darkhorse: Jost (I am not putting Duchene because I dont think he will be with the Avs)
[Bernier] 35-40 (Varly gets his groin injured again)
[goal metric] If the preseason is any indicator (and I think it is) of how the officials are going to call the games this season, then special teams are going to be huge. I want to go back to the season where the Avs were top 5 in PK. Granted, a lot of that was due to goaltending, but the Avs need to kick PK into high gear. This is going to be tough because the Avs have so little defensive forwards. For god sakes, they are putting Colin Wilson on the PK. That is not good. They need to work with the bottom sixers and get the PK locked down. The PP also needs to improve a lot. When was the last time the Avs were above the bottom third in PP? With the addition of Ray Bennett, hopefully the Avs will come up with a completely new PP system and Yakupov can be the Iginla from a couple years ago. Special teams make or break playoff teams in the past couple years and this season looks to call penalties very tight. The Avs will rise or fall with Ray Bennett this season.
[points/place] 94 / 5th in the central (8th in the West) This place isn’t called Burgundy Rainbow for nothing. Many know me as a pessimist (I like to think realist) when it comes to how this team is. However last year, everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong. Murphy’s Law might as well be renamed the 2016-17 Avalanche Law. This year, anything that can go right, will go right. There was already a training camp injury, and it was to AJ Greer. Last year, that would have been Matt Duchene. EJ Only tends to get hurt every other year, so this should be his healthy year. I’m going all out with a new attitude, the youth movement, and all the fat that was trimmed.
[20 goals] Rantanen, Yakupov, Andrighetto, Landeskog, MacKinnon, Duchene (if he stays). This team is going to capitalize on the increased power play attempts. Specifically, that’s where Yakupov and Andrighetto will make their money. The rest will fall into play. This all changes if Duchene is actually ever traded, but until then, we’re going to act like he isn’t.
[Bernier] 25 games. Going with our, everything good that can happen, will happen, is Varlamov not getting injured. This keeps Bernier from having to take on a heavy workload and allows both players to have their value maximized.
[goal metric] Goal Differential -112. That was the goal differential for the Avalanche last year. The Avs need to capitalize on the power play, be aggressive on the penalty kill and continue to be creative in the offensive zone. If the year goes how I am wildly predicting it to go, expect this number to be closer to 0 than anything else.
[points/place] 84 – This looks like a .500 team as a lot of the “younger” aspect continues to develop. 6th in Central, St Louie in 7th.
[20 goals] Yup, the usual suspects: Mac, Rants, Landy, Dutchy (he’ll be with them most of the year). Yak is my dark horse.
[Bernier] 33 games – I don’t think this is so bad. That’s a 60-40 split on a team that wants to keep Varly healthy.
[goal metric] Basic goal differential for a simple guy like me. I find it interesting how well regular GD matches up with standings. Well have a pretty good idea of the where the Avs will end the season standings-wise by Thanksgiving.
[points/place] – I think that this is still a bottom of the pack team. I see the points ending up at 75 and that will culminate in a last place finish again this year. It’s not all doom and gloom from me though. I see us picking up the majority of our points in the second half of the year once all the youngsters have a chance to gel leading to great optimism for the future of the team.
[20 goals] – I see the team putting up 3 20 goal scorers with a few more coming close. Rants and MacK are my locks and 1 of Duchene/Landy/Yakupov will get there too.
[Bernier] – Burgundy Rainbow glasses being what they are I see Bernier getting 22 starts this year. In this scenario Varly is healthy and needs lots of games to get into a rhythm. Bernier gets back to backs and a spot start here and there.
[goal metric] – For me, the goal metric that I’m looking at most closely is Goals For @ Even Strength. This will be the best indicator to me that this young team will be ready to take a positive step forward in the next few seasons. I’d love to see an increase in the power play output as well, but that comes secondary to seeing what this team can muster at even strength.
[points/place] – I mentioned on our latest episode of Burgundy Radio that the Avalanche would snag 84 points this season. Most of the obvious “passengers” were jettisoned, and the returning members are sure to have a bit of extra push in their stride after last season’s humiliating results. Captain Gabriel Landeskog surely doesn’t want to be seen as the figure of leadership for another underperforming club, and the newest members on the team are sure to bring a new dimension of spark to the organization. They won’t be a playoff team at 84 points, and will most likely wind up in last place again this season, but they certainly won’t be the laughingstock of the league.
[20 goals] – The sure bet on this one will be Mikko Rantanen, but I’ll also call this as Nathan MacKinnon’s coming out year as well. I also think that Landeskog will crack the twenty goal barrier. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to see a twenty-goal effort from Nail Yakupov as well, but that will be contingent on how long he rides shotgun alongside Matt Duchene.
[Bernier] – While Semyon Varlamov will definitely be the starting goalie, I do expect Jonathan Bernier to get a modest amount of starts this season. If the Avs are concerned about burning out Varly (or his hips), I can see Bernier getting between 25-30 starts this season, and certainly being played during back-to-back nights.
[goal metric] – The only metric that counts in my view is the one that puts points on the scoreboard: goals for. This team desperately needs to find its offensive production this season. The Avalanche were beyond reprehensible last season, earning more shutout losses (12) than victories in which they scored more than three goals (9). Point production can do wonders in the standings but also in the locker room. Players are happy when they feel they are contributing to team success. We see it all the time after a goal is scored. All five players crowd around each other. The bench rises together and fist-bumps their teammates as they skate by the bench. This locker room can thrive off of that positive reinforcement. There may be no official statistic that can measure morale, but scoring goals can certainly boost it, and this locker room can definitely use some added boost to its confidence that can only come by putting pucks in the back of the net.
[points/place] 78, 6th in Central. Not real optimistic but I’ve been hurt before. It’s very possible they beat this easily but 60% points improvement is a good start
[20 goals] 5. I think anyone out of 11 guys can hit this so that might be pessimistic!
[Bernier] 30. Staff want Varly around 50 games and I think Bernie plays the JSG role and is stout enough to make 30 decent starts
[goal metric] I’m a big believer in goal differential but considering last year’s scoring disaster I’m going with straight up goals for. The Avs have struggled to score for the last 10 years so if they’re going anywhere soon it’s going to be because they can hit 225+ and improve from there. Given Jared Bednar’s low-event suppression scheme this becomes especially important to his future. If they can’t hit average, which is around 219, then he’s probably not the guy long term.
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Mark these down my friends, someone here’s got to be right. What’s your take? Do we see marginal gains or is it time to plan the parade? Let’s see your predictions below!