AVALANCHE

Avalanche and Nuggets parades weren’t as close as we thought

Jun 4, 2024, 4:00 AM

The Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets weren’t as close to throwing parades this summer as we thought.

And this is coming from the guy in early April who said two of them was the goal.

Frankly, that’s what the players on each team expected as well. They just came up stunningly short.

We don’t need to revisit the Avalanche’s brutal 2OT loss to end their season or the Nuggets blowing a 20-point second half lead some 48 hours later.

But we do need to talk about what happened after that.

In the NHL’s Western Conference Final, the Dallas Stars had a 2-1 lead after three games over the Edmonton Oilers. When Dallas sent the Avs home, many felt they’d win the Stanley Cup.

Instead, an unforeseen collapse has the Stars playing golf just one round after they did it to Colorado. Dallas lost three in a row to the Oilers, and scored just four goals over their final three games.

Sound familiar? It should. The Avalanche scored only three goals total in their three games against the Stars at Ball Arena.

You could make the case that Dallas ran out of gas, but maybe Edmonton was just better? Many thought if Colorado beat Dallas they’d blow past the Oilers, just like they did in 2022 when they swept them to go to the Final.

But this is a cruel reminder that team was loaded with talent on lines one through four. This Avs squad, while better than 2023, didn’t get the depth contributions necessary to win it all.

They also had to deal with the Valeri Nichushkin headache (again) and Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar and Mikko Rantanen didn’t do enough when it mattered most against Dallas.

It’s hard to say the Avs window has “closed” when they have so much talent returning, but it’s beginning to crack shut.

On the hardwood, the common sentiment was the winner of the Nuggets and Wolves series would be champions. Heck, I wrote that opinion as well.

Yet another lesson on being dead wrong.

Not only did the Dallas Mavericks wipe the floor with Minnesota in five games, they blew them out at home to win the series. The Mavs were up by 36 points at one point in the third quarter, stunning the Timberwolves faithful.

Just like the Oilers and Avalanche, many Nuggets fans thought Nikola Jokic and company would have no problem sending the Mavericks home. We never got the chance to find out, but after watching what they did to Minnesota, it’s hard to argue that would’ve been the case.

Michael Porter Jr. was not good against the Wolves. That’s been established. Jamal Murray and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope were probably more hurt than we realized. The bench did almost nothing of note.

To say this is a critical offseason for GM Calvin Booth would be an understatement. He has to figure out the KCP situation if he declines his player option. Bringing him back should he enter free agency is a major priority. Booth then has to decide if MPJ is in Denver’s plans for the future.

After that, fixing the bench is key, as the Nuggets must get more out of their second unit in next year’s postseason. Bringing Bruce Brown home in a deal with the Toronto Raptors would be a good place to start.

Watching the Avalanche and Nuggets lose stung a town that had gotten used to titles; what happened afterwards made it even worse.

There will be no consolation prizes of “at least they fell to the champs.” For the record, I was rooting for the Oilers and Mavericks. That doesn’t mean watching the Stars or Wolves take home a championship wouldn’t have been some validation. At least they lost to the best.

Instead, our hockey and basketball teams came up short in Round 2. Their opponents did it just one series later.

That’s food for thought for both front offices, as anything from tweaks to major changes should be on the table this summer.

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