By Adrian Dater | | 4 mins
Colorado Avalanche Present Favorable Odds For Division Crown
It was only a little more than two years ago that the Colorado Avalanche was coming off not only their worst season in team history but one of the worst of any team in the NHL for 20 years. The formerly front-running Avs sank to a dismal 48-point season in 2016-17 under first-year head coach Jared Bednar.It seems a mini-miracle, then, that Colorado enters this coming NHL season as a top-four favorite to win the division considered by many to be the toughest in the league - the Central.
Over at 888Sport, the Avalanche is +400 to win the Central, slightly behind Dallas (+300), Nashville (+375) and defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis at +375.
NHL Central Division 2019 Odds
|St. Louis Blues||+375||Colorado Avalanche||+400|
|Chicago Blackhawks||+1000||Minnesota Wild||+3700|
The bookmakers at 888Sport place the Avs at +650 to win the Western Conference, behind only Vegas (+375) and Dallas (+600). Here is why the Avalanche is a strong bet to win the division, but also a couple of things to worry about.
Young Defensive Studs On Way
Cale Makar came right out of the NCAA playoffs with UMass and wowed everyone in the NHL playoffs, making a real difference in Colorado’s first-round upset of No. 1-seeded Calgary. The former Hobey Baker winner has one of the fastest skating strides in the league already and seems off the charts when it comes to hockey IQ. He figures to be the power-play quarterback on the top unit, replacing Tyson Barrie and should be a top-two fixture for years.
AVS EXTEND GIRARD:— Colorado Sports Updates (@COSportsUpdates) July 31, 2019
Today the @Avalanche announced they have signed defenseman Sam Girard to a 7-year extension worth $35-million.
Girard was one of the key pieces of the Matt Duchene trade and his new cap hit will be $5-million per year. Girard will be a key memory of the D. pic.twitter.com/cxcQA7lrXA
The Avs signed good young puck-mover Sam Girard to a seven-year, $35 million deal. They have fourth overall draft pick Bo Byram signed already, and he could easily make the team for good this season. Then there’s former second-round pick Conor Timmins, who is showing signs of finally having shaken the concussion problems that sidelined him all of last season. Timmins, remember, was a star for Team Canada in their 2017 World Junior championship.
Kadri Solidifies Second Line
One of the Avs’ biggest weaknesses all of last season was their second line. While Carl Soderberg was the de facto 2C on the depth chart, there was too often a game of musical chairs on the line as a whole, and Soderberg’s better value was always as a third-line type of center.
Avs GM Joe Sakic took care of the 2C issue with the acquisition of Nazem Kadri from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Sure, it cost a lot - with Tyson Barrie and Alexander Kerfoot going to the other way - but the aforementioned young D-men was starting to make him expendable. Kerfoot was tried at the second line center at times, to little sustained success.
Leafs acquire Barrie, Kerfoot, and 6th in 2020. Going to Avs is Kadri, Rosen, 3rd in 2020. Colorado retains 50% of Barrie's $5.5 million salary.— John Matisz (@MatiszJohn) July 1, 2019
Kadri is a proven 2C, and he also adds something that the second line of the Avs has lacked - some size and grit.
Leafs move Kadri to Avs. Tough break for Bruins. Kadri agruably the Bruins MVP in Round 1 each of last two seasons.— Kevin Paul Dupont (@GlobeKPD) July 1, 2019
The top line remains one of the scariest in the league, with Gabe Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen still young and hungry (Rantanen remains unsigned, but it would be a shocker if that stayed the case into training camp).
Things To Worry About
Is Philipp Grubauer up to really carrying the full load as a No. 1 goalie? He certainly looked capable doing that down the stretch and into the playoffs, but this figures to be the first year of his career in which he goes in the undisputed No. 1. The backup, Pavel Francouz, has only some mop-up duty for NHL experience. So, goaltending could be a worry to some.
Also, Colorado’s overall scoring depth remains something of a question mark.
But there’s no question about it - the Avalanche have come an awful long way in two years.