Even though the Colorado Avalanche were shocked in a seven-game loss to the Seattle Kraken in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there are still positive takeaways from the 2022-23 season. In many ways, it can still be considered a success, especially considering all of the adversity the club faced. The Avalanche battled through injuries and suspensions, some pretty significant roster changes, and a losing spell, to win the Central Division title, which is hardly a small feat. While they didn’t get the postseason success they were looking for, the Avalanche can still consider the 2022-23 NHL season a success.
Avalanche Won the Central Division Title
In December, the Avalanche were out of a playoff spot entirely, bested by the Dallas Stars, the Winnipeg Jets, the Minnesota Wild, and a ton of Pacific Division clubs (including, for a stint in the regular season, the Kraken). Analysts were speculating that the reigning Stanley Cup Champions would not even make the postseason. The first half of the season, to put it bluntly, was dismal.
Still, the Avalanche managed to turn it around and prove their talent and power to the top of the Central Division. “I would bet on Colorado making the playoffs,” Calgary Flames coach Darryl Sutter told reporters at the end of January, “and I’d bet on them being one of the (top) three in their division.” It was a bold comment by Sutter, considering that, through 43 games, the Avalanche had a 3.07 goals against average (down from the 4.14 GAA they carried through 43 games of the 2021-22 season) and a 23-17-3 record. But the Avalanche proved Sutter correct and powered through to collect a 51-24-7 record to finish the season with 109 points, just two behind the Vegas Golden Knights, who nabbed the Western Conference title.
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That record proves that in the remaining 39 games of the season, the Avalanche only lost seven games in regulation and four in extra time — an impressive feat and certainly a success to draw from.
Battling Through Injuries Was The Avalanche’s Season Story
Of course, the story of the Avalanche’s season was injuries. When speaking to the media following the first-round exit, general manager Chris MacFarland shed even more light on the adversity the Avalanche really faced throughout the season and into the playoffs. He even revealed that a few team members underwent offseason surgery.
“Pavel Francouz had a procedure done on an adductor. Artturi Lehkonen, he broke a finger and then he broke a toe right when he came back early. He played through that. Josh Manson had a procedure done last week as well. These are guys that were playing through a lot of stuff through the year, and then we had a few other guys,” MacFarland said. The team also lost several man games to injuries to key players like Cale Makar, Val Nichushkin and Nathan MacKinnon, leaving Mikko Rantanen as the only core player to compete in all 82 games this season.
And, of course, MacFarland talked about the most-discussed injury of all, the knee issue that sidelined the team captain for the 2022-23 season and the upcoming 2023-24 season. “Gabe Landeskog is a really special player in the NHL, and for our team, his importance transcends to the ice,” he said. “He’s a power forward that touches every conceivable game situation. In terms of replacing him, it’s really hard to replace your captain, and what he does off the ice is as good of a player as he is on the ice. He’s a hard guy to replace.”
All things considered, MacFarland noted that he still regards the season as a success, especially given the injuries. “The group dealt with a tremendous amount of adversity this year, in large part because of injury, not just games either. There were a lot of guys that were dealing with injuries all year and battling through,” he said. “From that standpoint, I think Joe [Sakic], myself, our coaches, it’s been said that they were incredible.”
Avalanche’s First-Round Exit Doesn’t Mean Failed Season
All things considered, the Avalanche should mark the 2022-23 season as a success, though the First Round exit was certainly not a part of the plan and even unexpected, as the Avs were the heavy favorites. But, despite injuries and a massive number of call-ups and issues, the team clinched the Central Division title and made it to the postseason again, continuing a streak that has seen them enter the playoffs every year since 2017.
But there is still work to do, and with a massive number of pending free agents this offseason, MacFarland has his work cut out for him.