After a disastrous 2016-17 campaign that saw the Colorado Avalanche finish with the NHL’s worst record since the shootout was instituted, general manager Joe Sakic and his staff systematically disassembled the underachieving group in the offseason.
Now, after the Matt Duchene trade completed the Avs’ re-invention, it’s hard not to notice that the team — in the mix for a playoff spot at the season’s halfway point — that the youthful roster is well worth watching.
In an interview with Eric Goodman and Les Shapiro of Mile High Sports AM 1340 | FM 104.7, Altitude TV’s Peter McNab said that even though it feels like it at times, the Avalanche didn’t evolve overnight.
“If you go to back to the plan — and a lot of the time, the plan can get adjusted, changed, whatever — the plan was to get younger,” McNab explained. “And I think, with the Avalanche, they suffered miserably — as did all their fans last year — with how the season went. Everybody got caught up in the Duchene deal, as far as, ‘oh, the Avalanche haven’t done anything,’ but if you had looked at what they had actually done over the course of the summer, they had basically gutted the bottom half of their lineup. There [were] probably 10, 12 guys with the Avalanche last year who aren’t, and the majority of players that are with the Avalanche this year are younger, faster — it’s a more dynamic club.”
There’s one player in particular that’s stood out: forward Nathan MacKinnon, who ranks fifth in the NHL in scoring with 48 points in 39 games and has clicked with linemates Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen. “[MacKinnon] has become maybe a top-five, top-seven player in the game,” McNab said. “Landeskog’s playing well, Rantanen’s playing well, so they have a top scoring line.”
“Since [the Duchene trade], he’s the leading scorer in the National Hockey League,” McNab said of MacKinnon, who’s still only 22 years old.
Click here to listen to the full interview with Peter McNab, including what he had to say about injured goaltender Semyon Varlamov, ironman defenseman Erik Johnson and more, or listen to the podcast below.
Catch Afternoon Drive with Goodman and Shapiro every weekday from 4p-6p on Mile High Sports AM 1340 | FM 104.7 or stream live any time for the best local coverage of Colorado sports from Denver’s biggest sports talk lineup. Download the all-new free Mile High Sports Radio mobile app for Apple or Android.