Avalanche’s Wheels Fall Off Despite Georgiev’s Heroics

The team was an absolute wagon. A barn burner. An icy terror. A total package.

How the mighty have fallen.

The Colorado Avalanche are not an elite team right now. They are when healthy, but the wheels have fallen off. What’s left can only roll downhill, and the most pressing question is whether it’s rolling down on its side or end over end.

At the beginning of the season, I wrote an article where outlining what the Avalanche needed to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. One of those items was relative team health, and another was the ability to survive the schedule in December. One item I didn’t put in there was goaltending because the Avs are not built around it. Nearly every element that went into that article has gone sideways. Not even the stellar goaltending of Alexandar Georgiev, who has performed far beyond expectations, has been able to save them of late.

Alexandar Georgiev Colorado Avalanche
Alexandar Georgiev, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Remember the Nathan MacKinnon wrist thing? Well, MacKinnon takes a wrist shot in Philadelphia and leaves the game. The only player in the top-six that played in Philly on Monday night or in Boston two nights ago was Mikko Rantanen, but no one could get him the puck.

Depth? What Depth?

Despite his tough talk, there really is only so much that head coach Jared Bednar or anyone else can expect from a squad when the top two wingers are…. *peers down depth chart*… Logan O’Connor and Charles Hudon. The team is counting the days to the return of Gabriel Landeskog and Valerie Nichushkin. Until then, asking a bottom-six that has scored sparingly all season to carry the load will feel like driving on two tires and two rims.

Brace yourself, indeed. Just look at that bottom-six. We might know the names of these players, but unless we are watching AHL games, we know little about them. The Colorado Eagles might be first in their division, but that doesn’t always mean much in the NHL. It just doesn’t seem reasonable to expect much, except that the wheel will turn as the wheel wills, and eventually, the team will get healthier.

Related: Avalanche Might Need Charles Hudon

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Could this have been avoided? The Avalanche currently have $3.2 million in cap space available. They could have gotten themselves a serviceable second-line center in the offseason like Max Domi to ease some of the pressure, evening out the minutes played across the team a bit better. That may not have completely saved them, but it would have given them a better durability rating. As it stands now, the decision to top load and invest less in the bottom-six, coupled with a tenacious stretch of injuries, has put the Avalanche on the playoff bubble.

Not that anyone really believes they are a bubble team or that the bright side isn’t there. Alex Newhook has another chance to elevate his play into a top-six role from now until MacKinnon’s return, and the best way to make sure the bottom-six is producing is to put them in a position where they need to produce. The top-six for the Avalanche is so good that all the bottom-six really needed to do until this point in the season was to play sound defense. This is a chance for them to really improve their play and become more complete units.

But if they don’t produce? If they somehow manage to slide 10 or (heaven forbid) 20 points out of playoff contention over the next month, they will need to sprint to the finish with limited control over their destiny. What a waste of MacKinnon’s last cheap contract year that could turn out to be.

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