DROP THE MIKE

Despite the standings, it’s still too early to be worried about the Avs

Jan 6, 2023, 6:31 AM | Updated: 6:53 am
Nathan MacKinnon...
(Photo by Jari Pestelacci/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jari Pestelacci/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)

As of this writing, the Avalanche are not a playoff team. It feels kind of jarring just to see that on the page. But fear not, I don’t believe the defending Stanley Cup Champions are going to miss the postseason.

Yes, the signs are ominous enough to wonder. The injuries. The suspect defense. The unproven starting goaltending. The lack of production from young players given a chance to step up when given expanded roles and NHL minutes.

With most teams, I would question their ability to overcome these challenges. Not the Avs. Their core, when healthy is just too good. So much centers around this squad getting healthy. Assuming Val Nichushkin is back for good, and Gabe Landeskog and Bo Byram will return at some point, then all should be good. Good health equals a long, long playoff run.

Here’s another reason I just can’t summon up any panic: I know Colorado’s front office will be aggressive at the trade deadline. They were going to be aggressive even if this team was enjoying great health. They will certainly be bold just to make sure they are covered in case injuries continue to be an issue.

Don’t mistake my lack of concern for thinking it’s going to be a breeze between now and the playoffs. It feels like the next couple of months are going to be a grind. I don’t believe this team is going to be ripping off any eight- to 10-game winning streaks any time soon. This group will need to battle and win low scoring games. They’ll need to make sure they clutch up and pick off overtime and shoot out wins to nab that extra point.

Yet another reason I’m not searching for the panic button? The conference is weak. I’ve been curious to watch through the first half of the season if anyone in the Western Conference shows that they’re made of the right stuff to challenge the Avs. I’m still waiting.

Edmonton and Calgary have massively underachieved. St. Louis’ window has closed. Dallas is solid, but I don’t fear them over a seven-game series. Vegas? Nope, they aren’t the boogeymen any more. Winnipeg? Please.

So my message to Avs’ fans is enjoy the grind. Watch how this team handles these challenges. Understand the adversity they will face will only make them stronger down the road. When it’s all said and done and the marathon that is the regular season is finished, this team will be ready, no matter where they are seeded, and woe is that team that draws them in the first round. They will be ready and they will be dangerous.

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Despite the standings, it’s still too early to be worried about the Avs