What do you think is the most overlooked part of this current Avs team? (@Jesse_Gordo)

To me, it’s the team culture. I asked coach Jared Bednar a question on Saturday about how this team, with so much turnover, has been able to storm out of the gate. He felt they still have another gear to get to — which I agree — but it doesn’t take away from what they’ve been able to accomplish so far.

Other teams around the NHL with a lot of turnover aren’t doing what the Avs are doing. The Toronto Maple Leafs revamped their forward core with the additions of Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, Ryan Reaves, Noah Gregor and a full season out of Matt Knies. And they seem like they’re still trying to figure things out. Carolina signed two of the bigger pieces in the free agent market, Michael Bunting and Dmitry Orlov, and is struggling out of the gate. With all the changes Kyle Dubas made in Pittsburgh, his Penguins are 2-4-0 to start.

But the Avs? 6-0-0. And that says to me that the leaders of this team (players and coaches) will not and do not settle for anything less than winning. When you join this room you become engrained so quickly into what makes this team great. For example, Evan Rodrigues was on a mission last year to help the Avs repeat and he wasn’t even on the Stanley Cup team. That’s the type of stuff I’m seeing in the dressing room from all the new guys.

How good of a fit is Ryan Johansen, eh? (@brrbrrchillins)

This is going literally according to plan. We talked a lot over the summer about his faceoff ability and he’s delivered. We said he’d score a ton on the power play and he’s done it in three straight games. We felt he’d give the Avs a more stable top six and he’s provided exactly that. No question he’s the No. 2 center this team needed and I can’t believe I continue to be blown away by the front office when they pull off moves like this.

General manager Chris MacFarland got his new second-line center for free. And for half the salary retained. He found a team desperate for a change and took advantage. Solid work from the GM. And props to Johansen for being as advertised.

Are the Avs going to trust their backup? Or is Alexandar Georgiev playing 70+ games this season? (@Karlski_01)

And also…

Right now, where would you say the Avs’ confidence is in their backup goalie situation? Do they feel confident they have “the guy” in Justus Annunen or Ivan Prosvetov and they simply don’t know which one it is yet? Or is it that they don’t know what they have yet but first want to see if either internal option is a viable one before exploring the trade market? (u/MileHighCertain)

I figured I’d lump these two together because of how similar they are. To answer the first part: No, I don’t think starter Alexandar Georgiev will play that much. A part of it is because they’d be silly to do what they did last year and overwork him in the regular season. But also because they don’t need to. Call me an optimist, but I don’t think this team is looking at another 20-17-3 start while being on the outside of the playoff picture come January. They’re too good, they’re too deep, and they could afford to rest Georgiev a lot more than they did a season ago.

I do think the days off in the schedule thus far have helped keep Georgiev fresh. But with that being said, I think they added Ivan Prosvetov to give them two lottery balls — two young goaltenders who have the potential to be full-time NHLers. Whether it’s him or Justus Annunen, I suspect they’re hoping one of them pans out. It would’ve been nice to have a healthy Pavel Francouz but at this point, they need to move on and figure out who they could trust from the two younger guys.

I suspect both will get opportunities. And if neither fits in, then they’ll be in the market for another backup before the deadline, possibly soon.

Has it been good team defense, goaltending, or a combination of both for this great start? And can the Avs finish unbeaten in October? (@MrEd315)

I’d say it’s a combination of both, plus good health. This team hasn’t had to call anyone up yet. They haven’t had to move things around because of injury or force depth players into larger roles — something they did often with Rodrigues last year because of injuries.

Two games remain in October. I say they do it.

Who is a right-handed d-man the Avs could target for depth or even as a second pair to break up Byram/Girard? (@Avs960122)

I don’t have a name off the top of my head quite yet, but this is certainly something I have and will continue to monitor. I asked Bednar last week about the importance of having three right-shot defensemen and his response was, “It certainly helps.”

He did go on to mention that Samuel Girard and Bowen Byram have played together in the past. And if you remember in 2021, Girard was also Devon Toews’ first D partner in Colorado. All three of them are left-handed. I think their big addition at the deadline will be another top-four right-shot defenseman, similar to the Josh Manson acquisition in 2022. Because right now, if either Cale Makar or Manson gets hurt, the team will be riding five lefties if Caleb Jones is the next man up.

If you had to start an expansion team and could choose any player from the Avs, who are you taking and why? (@dudemanguy00)

I love fun questions and this is one of them. I’m ashamed to admit that I gave this WAY more thought than I should have. But I eventually landed on Makar. And I hate that picking him sounds like a slight on Nathan MacKinnon because it shouldn’t.

The deciding factor was twofold. First, Connor McDavid and a weak(er) Edmonton defense are struggling. And he’s the best offensive player in the world. But the Boston Bruins, led by top centers (checks notes) Charlie Coyle and Pavel Zacha, are undefeated. Why? A strong defense and structure, led by Charlie McAvoy. And secondly, players like Makar (and to a lesser extent McAvoy) are just a lot more rare than someone you can plug into a No. 1 center spot. The St. Louis Blues won a Stanley Cup with Ryan O’Reilly, who has never hit 80 points in a single season as their top center. But they were led by one of those rare breed defensemen Alex Pietrangelo.

First off I’m new to the podcast and liking it so far. keep them coming! What are your thoughts on the frequency of line shake-ups by Bednar? Do you think they’re looking for something special or will they continue to shake it up now that we have more depth? (u/moo-va-long)

I appreciate your kind words. I’m working on getting a show out more consistently but it’ll come with time. That I can promise.

I think it’s totally fine to shake things up. Again, it’s a forward core where six of 12 guys are new. It’s also a forward core that has three(!!) fresh faces playing down the middle behind MacKinnon. It’s completely fine for Bednar to use October to mix and match pairings and combinations to see what he’s got. This was something he did often in 2021-22, and even more so after the additions of Artturi Lehkonen, Andrew Cogliano and Nico Sturm.

The beauty of being 6-0-0 (and a strong team all year long in 2022), is the ability to fiddle with your lineup. When you’re so safely in a playoff spot, you’re afforded the ability to experiment. It’s a much better option than being forced to play Mikko Rantanen and MacKinnon for 25-plus minutes because they were the only guys firing on most nights.

Six games in, what are your thoughts on Fredrik Olofsson? (u/teezledeezle)

I had this weird feeling during the offseason that this would be the most forgotten savvy move of the summer. It just always feels like players like this are the ones that MacFarland and the Avs’ front office are the best at finding. Did I predict he’d be the fourth-line center, though? Absolutely not. But he’s doing an admirable job.

Olofsson is a solid two-way player who has offensive upside and a beauty of a shot, as we saw against Carolina last Saturday. If he continues to work on his faceoffs, he’ll have a spot on this team for years to come. I think he fits really well with Logan O’Connor and Cogliano and has already earned the same trust out of Bednar that a longtime veteran in Darren Helm had.

Last season Bednar experimented with three defensemen on the No. 2 PP unit because of the Avs’ abundance of offensive defensemen. Do you think they would ever try using Bowen Byram and Cale Makar together on the top PP unit? I know they’ve used that look on 5-on-3s but I wonder if it could be effective on a 5-on-4. (u/SPRTMVRNN)

This is an excellent question. The Avs have so many options on the power play now and this is a team without a healthy Gabriel Landeskog that’s also awaiting the arrival of Nikolai Kovalenko. Last year Bednar didn’t have the weapons he does now, which is why Girard and Byram are both struggling to get PP time.

But to answer this specifically, I think the only way we’d see Byram and Makar on the same unit is if (I hate to put this out in the universe) MacKinnon gets hurt. And even then, they might turn to Tomas Tatar or another guy to play the point on the top unit. It would be fun though.

How’s Drouin doin’? (u/new_nimmerzz)

He definitely hasn’t been what we thought he’d be out of the gate, but I’m not ready to write him off. Not yet. Sometimes your experiments are Nail Yakupov and other times it’s Valeri Nichushkin. I think they’re hoping it’s more the latter than the former.

But speaking of Nichushkin, let’s not forget how his first season in Colorado played out. Like Drouin, he signed a one-year contract for pennies on the dollar (for hockey standards). Drouin is coming off a two-goal season, Nichushkin didn’t score a single goal the year before the Avalanche gave him an opportunity. And Nichushkin still started off the 2019-20 season by being held without a goal for the first 18 games. And he had just two assists in that stretch. In the 19th game, in Toronto, he finally scored. And he’s never turned back.

I don’t think Drouin is eventually going to be making $6.125 million on this team, but I do think there is time for him to figure things out. There’s apparent chemistry on that line with Miles Wood and Ross Colton. I think all three of them are slowly inching towards more offensive production in the near future.

What are your thoughts on how Tatar fits into this team so far? He reminds me a bit of Toews, always making a smart, underappreciated play or pass. (u/telethebasin)

I think Tomas Tatar, similar to Johansen, is exactly as advertised so far. He’s a depth forward who can play in the top six, power play or on the third line if needed. He’s not always going to appear on the scoresheet (he doesn’t have a goal yet), but it doesn’t mean he hasn’t been effective. I like what he brings on a line with Rantanen and either one of MacKinnon or Johansen down the middle. He creates space for those guys and allows them to do their thing.

You’re spot on with your assessment, too. He makes smart, underappreciated moves that you’d expect from a veteran who’s played on some good teams with good players like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg or Jack Hughes.