The top 20 Colorado sports stories of 2020: Nos. 6-10
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:
10. Arenado and Bridich feud in spring training
Less than a year after signing an eight-year, $260-million contract with the Rockies, Nolan Arenado wasn’t happy. The five-time All-Star was unhappy that the organization hadn’t done anything during the offseason to improve the club, standing pat after a disastrous 71-91 season.
The organization had reasons for not making sweeping changes. For one, there was the chance that the 2019 season was an aberration; after all, Colorado made the playoffs the previous two seasons. In addition, they were stuck in some bad contracts, deals that would come off the books in a year.
Instead of explaining this to Arenado, however, Jeff Bridich took a different approach. He dismissed the third baseman’s concerns, alienating him in the process. When spring training rolled around, Arenado reported at the 11th hour, sending the message that he wants out. His days as a Rockie seem numbered.
9. Avalanche lose to the Stars in round two
When the NHL resumed their 2019-20 season in two “bubbles,” the Avalanche didn’t miss a beat. They played well during the round-robin tune-up, earning the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. And in the first round of the playoffs, they steamrolled the Coyotes in five games, including back-to-back 7-1 wins to clinch the series.
As a result, confidence was high that Colorado could knock off Dallas in round two. Getting past the Stars would put them into the Western Conference Finals, a place they hadn’t been since 2002. It would be another big leap for the Avs.
Things didn’t turn out that way, however. For the second-straight year, Colorado lost a Game 7 in the second round. This time around, it was even more heartbreaking. The Avalanche scored the go-ahead goal with 3:40 to play in the third period, only to squander the lead and lose 5-4 in overtime.
8. Garett Bolles get a contract extension
During his first three seasons in Denver, Garett Bolles was largely considered a bust. The former first-round pick struggled mightily at times, drawing the ire of fans by leading the league in holding penalties on multiple occasions.
But at the end of the 2019 season, the left tackle started to turn things around. There was a glimmer of hope, signs that the talented-by-inconsistent offensive lineman was finally turning the corner, thanks in large part to the tutelage Mike Munchak.
When the team didn’t pick up his fifth-year option, however, the conventional wisdom was that Bolles’ time in Denver was limited. That proved incorrect, as the left tackle had a great season in 2020. As a result, he inked a four-year, $68-million extension with the Broncos, an amazing turn of events.
7. Nuggets overcome 3-1 deficit to the Jazz
When the NBA season resumed in the “bubble” in Orlando, the Nuggets were a bit of a mess. They had players who were late to arrive, including Nikola Jokic, due to Covid-19 protocols. They had injuries, including Will Barton. And they were out of sync from a multiple-month layoff.
So it was no surprise that Denver finished with a 3-5 record during the seeding games. Michael Malone hardly seemed to care about winning during that eight-game stretch, as the head coach instead focused on tinkering with lineups and making sure he didn’t get anyone else hurt.
In part, this led to the Nuggets falling into a 3-1 hole to the Jazz in the opening round. But thanks to tremendous performance from Jamal Murray, including 50 points in Game 6, and Nikola Jokic, highlighted by a 30/14 showing in Game 7, Denver won three straight games to survive and advance.
6. Von Miller misses the season with an injury
After a “down” season in 2019, Von Miller appeared ready to have a monster season in 2020. Despite contracting the coronavirus, the former Super Bowl MVP appeared to have attacked the offseason. Miller was in tremendous shape, ready to prove the critics wrong.
Days before the season opener, however, the Broncos received some devastating news. On the final play of practice, Miller suffered a tendon injury in his ankle, a fluke occurrence that would end the linebacker’s season.
There’s also a chance that the setback ended Miller’s time in Denver. Coming off of an injury that cost him an entire campaign, the linebacker was faced with questions about his future in a Broncos uniform, as he’s due to count more than $22 million against the salary cap in 2021.
Next week, we take a wrap up the series with Nos. 1-5.