With a 5-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night, the Colorado Avalanche slipped out of a playoff spot for the first time this season.
It seemed like mere months ago that the future was bright for the Avalanche. They had one of the best lines in hockey, but now they’re 22-21-8 and sitting fifth in the Central Division.
And that best line in hockey? It was held pointless against Vancouver, with Matt Calvert coming up with the lone goal.
Colorado began its current slide in December ahead of the All-Star break, so the expected rest was supposed to help recharge some batteries. But that wasn’t evident against Vancouver, with the team falling behind early after Semyon Varlamov allowed two goals on two shots. Finishing the game with a .808 save percentage is not going to be good enough to pick up a win in this league.
The loss isn’t going to sink the season, to be sure, but it has to put things in perspective for the Avalanche.
With the club very much on the playoff bubble and the trade deadline looming, decisions will be made. Or not.
General manager Joe Sakic has wisely advocated for the patient approach in Colorado and for good reason. While the team has been going though its share of struggles, the roster is still very solid and full of promise.
In other words, if you’re Sakic you don’t flinch. You stay the course.
The Avalanche could punch up the scoring, but it’s doubtful they’ll take a run at a noteworthy rental like Artemi Panarin or Wayne Simmonds. With some big decisions to make, like whether it’s finally time for pending UFA Varlamov to step aside for Philipp Grubauer, odds are that Colorado stands pat at the deadline.
They’ve got considerable cap space, but Sakic is in no mood to blow it – particularly since he has to offer a big chunk of change to Mikko Rantanen. And they’re looking mighty strong in the draft department, too, with a pair of first-rounders for 2019 – one from the Senators. They could trade one, with Ottawa’s pick looking juicier by the day.
That brings us back to Colorado’s biggest piece, goalie Varlamov. Teams seeking a little veteran help may come knocking and that could position Sakic and Co. to pick up some more parts for the future.
So, while this year has regrettably taken a turn, there’s a lot to like about this hockey team. And if they can get back on track in time to make the playoffs, the Avalanche could be dangerous in the second season.