Deen’s List: Avalanche’s season comes to a screeching halt

Jun 10, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (41) and left wing Gabriel Landeskog (92) meet with Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nick Holden (22) and defenseman Brayden McNabb (3) following the loss in game six of the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

What a season it was. But it sort of reeks of disappointment, doesn’t it?

The Avalanche dropped their fourth straight contest to the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday, a 6-3 loss at T-Mobile Arena, to lose their second-round series in six games. It was Colorado’s first four-game losing streak all year and was preceded by six consecutive victories to start the postseason.

The Avs also won their first Presidents’ Trophy in 20 years — since the 2001 Avalanche team hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup — and were still unable to make it to the final four for the third straight season.

An all-around disappointment, despite all the accolades.

Nonetheless, it’s hard to call losing to the team that tied Colorado in regular-season points an epic failure. But the Avs certainly don’t feel good about themselves. They took a commanding 2-0 series lead and dropped both Game 3 and Game 5 despite leading in the third period.

Now, the only thing the Avalanche can do is look ahead to October. With disappointment comes another crack at hockey’s holy grail and despite the roster turnover expected during the upcoming accelerated offseason, the Avs are still within their window to win.

There’s no question, the team won’t look the same. General manager Joe Sakic has a laundry list of tasks, which starts with the expansion draft and continues with new contracts for stud defenseman Cale Makar, captain Gabe Landeskog and goaltender Philipp Grubauer — assuming all three return.

But that conversation is for another day. We’re going to close the season on five memorable comments from the Avs after a disappointing end to a season that could’ve been so much more.

The Deen’s List

Nathan MacKinnon: “I’m going into my ninth year next year and haven’t won shit.”

Feel old yet? I sure do.

MacKinnon didn’t have his best showing during the series. He failed to score over the last five games and had just three assists after the Avalanche came out strong in Game 1. But for the Hart Trophy finalist, it’s been a whirlwind of an NHL career.

His rookie season was a success but was met with three years of pain, growth and development before he grew into the superstar he is now. All he’s missing is a Stanley Cup.

Gabriel Landeskog: “I’m real proud of that group in there. Proud of the season we had. You’re never going to be satisfied, you’re never going to be happy until you win that final game of the season. It sucks. It stinks.”

Landeskog is a pending unrestricted free agent but it would be silly to believe he’d do anything but re-sign. Like MacKinnon, Landeskog has endured a career that has seen it all. The Avs were the worst team in the NHL in 2017 and the 29th worst in 2013. He didn’t experience playoff hockey until his third year in the league and then missed three more seasons after that.

When other core players were asking to be traded, Landeskog wanted to stick around. And he continues to be the leader that drives this machine.

He is proud of his teammates. But Avalanche nation is proud of you, Gabe.

Mikko Rantanen: “Nobody wants to play good in the regular season and then lose in the second round.”

What’s most surreal about this quote from winger Mikko Rantanen is just how quickly the Avalanche have developed a reputation as a powerhouse regular-season team. Sure, it would be nice if they could advance past the second round but not too long ago, Rantanen was a rookie and endured the NHL’s worst regular season in the modern era.
But he’s got a point. Winning the Presidents’ Trophy and then going on to win just six playoff games is a gut punch.

Jared Bednar: “If people want to point the finger at someone, yeah, I hope it’s me.”

Many are pointing fingers at Avs coach Jared Bednar. And in some ways, it may be warranted. But like Tampa Bay when it was swept in 2019 and held on to coach Jon Cooper, firing Bednar would be a colossal mistake.

This is a man that knows it’s his duty to lead this team to greatness. And wants to be around long enough to do it.

Jared Bednar: “I’m confident I can guide this team. I’m dedicated to this team with my preparation, my relationships with the guys.”

Here’s to 2022 being Bednar and the Avalanche’s year.

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Aarif Deen is our Colorado Avalanche beat reporter. He covers Avs games live from Ball Arena and attends practices, media availabilities and other events pertaining to the Avs on the daily beat. He is also a co-host of Hockey Mountain High: Your go-to Avalanche podcast. Deen joined Mile High Sports upon completion of his bachelor’s degree in journalism and master’s in business administration from the University of Michigan – Dearborn. Before Mile High Sports, Deen worked for the Michigan Wolverines Athletics Department as the assistant sports information director.

Follow him on Twitter @runwriteAarif

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