AVALANCHE

The top 20 Colorado sports stories of 2020: Nos. 16-20

Jan 4, 2021, 6:00 AM | Updated: 6:10 am
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It was a year that most people were happy to put in the rearview mirror, as 2020 was one piece of bad news after another. It was time to gladly turn the page when “Auld Lang Syne” was played. It was a year to forget.

That said, there were a lot of moments that will be remembered for years to come. Some of them were even positive ones.

On the Colorado sports scene, it was another crazy year. Here’s a look back on the 20 biggest stories from the craziest year in recent history:

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20. Nuggets trade Beasley and Juancho

The Nuggets were in the mix when the NBA trade deadline approached in February. They were near the top of the Western Conference standings, poised to potentially make a run at the No. 1 seed. So many expected them to make a splash, loading up for the stretch run.

Instead, they traded Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez, as well as Jarred Vanderbilt, to Minnesota in a four-team deal that included the Hawks, Rockets and Timberwolves. Denver received Houston’s first-round pick in 2020. The deal did nothing to improve the Nuggets immediately.

At the time, the trade was spun two ways. Some said it was just the first in what would be a series of deals. Nothing else materialized, however. Others said it was to free up money so they could resign Paul Millsap, Torrey Craig, Mason Plumlee and Jerami Grant after the season. Only Millsap stayed in Denver.

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19. Bradley Chubb returns and has a Pro Bowl season

Much was expected of Bradley Chubb in 2019. He was coming off of a stellar rookie season, one in which he record 12.0 sacks, and his new head coach was a defensive guru. People thought Vic Fangio would do for Chubb in Denver what he did for Khalil Mack in Chicago.

It never materialized, however. The linebacker got off to a slow start, recording just 1.0 sack during the first three-plus games of the season. Then, he suffered a torn ACL in a Week 4 loss to the Jaguars, ending his season.

This year, despite not having a normal offseason, Chubb returned and played well. Without Von Miller on the other side to take away some of the opposing offense’s attention, Chubb still managed to record 7.5 sacks, earning his first Pro Bowl nod in the process. It was a feel-good story in a year that needed some.

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18. Rockies start the season 11-3; Rockies collapse

The 2020 Major League Baseball season didn’t start on time, as the season was suspended during spring training due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But when play did resume on July 24, the Rockies came out of the gates fast.

Colorado eight of their first 10 and stood with a 11-3 record on August 8. In a 60-game season, they were the best team in baseball during the first quarter of the campaign. And then, the wheels came off. To put it mildly.

Twelve games later, Colorado was at .500. By season’s end, they had fallen to 26-34. That’s an 11-31 clip after their hot start. It was the tale of two seasons for the Rockies, with the second portion being way worse than the upbeat first act.

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17. Vic Fangio will return as the Broncos head coach

The Broncos had a disappointing 2020 season. Coming off of a 7-9 campaign the year before, including a 4-1 finish with rookie Drew Lock at quarterback, expectations were high. There was a belief that Denver could build upon that momentum.

It never happened. The Broncos suffered a ton of injuries to big players, lost close games early and got worse as the season went on. By the end of the year, Denver had fallen to 5-11, a step backwards in year two under Vic Fangio.

Nonetheless, it was reported before the team’s final two games were played that the head coach would be back for a third year. Apparently valuing continuity over results, the Broncos decided to retain Fangio for another season, hoping that the results will change.

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16. Avalanche beat the Coyotes in round one

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the Avalanche were riding high. Heading into the stretch run of the 2019-20 season, Colorado was 42-20-8, vying for one of the top seeds in the Western Conference. That all came to a screeching halt, however.

When games resumed in August, this time at the NHL “bubble” in Edmonton, the Avs continued their stellar play. They played well in the round-robin, tune-up games, posting a 2-0-1 record and earning the second seed in the Western Conference.

In the playoffs, Colorado continued to roll. They beat Arizona in games one and two of their seven-game series, fell in game three, and then stormed back for back-to-back 7-1 wins to close out the series. A 14-2 differential in the final two contests sent a message that the Avalanche were a legit contender.

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Next week, we take a look back at Nos. 11-15

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The top 20 Colorado sports stories of 2020: Nos. 16-20