For the previous entry in this series of 2022-23 season previews where I cover the Chicago Blackhawks, click here.
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Your defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Colorado Avalanche. All of the hype surrounding Colorado over the last few years has finally paid off, as the Avalanche lifted their first Stanley Cup since 2001. The Avs opened up the 2021-22 NHL season as betting favorites to win it all, and they steam rolled their competition from opening night all the way up until the sixth game of the Stanley Cup Final.
Colorado finished last season with a 56-19-7 record, totaling 119 points, just three points behind the President's Trophy winning Florida Panthers. They swept the Nashville Predators in the first round, eliminated the St. Louis Blues in 6 games in the second round, swept the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference Final, and finally capped it off with a 6-game championship clinching Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Just pure dominance from start to finish.
Does Colorado have what it takes to repeat, though? We've seen repeat champions a few times in the last decade. The 2016 and 2017 Pittsburgh Penguins repeated, and the 2020 and 2021 Tampa Bay Lightning repeated. So it's not like winning it all over again is out of the question for the Avs.
Colorado's roster is about as stacked as you can be under the strict $82.5 million salary cap, even after Nazem Kadri signed with the Calgary Flames after putting up career numbers last year.
Captain Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon who is a top-5 player in the NHL, Cale Makar who is not only the best defenseman in the league but quite possibly a top-5 player in the entire world, Valeri Nichushkin who was a folk hero for the Avalanche during the playoffs last year and just signed a massive 8-year, $49 million extension with the Avs, and last but certainly not least, Mikko Rantanen. Colorado also brought in forward, Evan Rodrigues on a 1-year, $2 million deal.
Colorado's departures are such stars as the aforementioned Nazem Kadri, who signed with the Calgary Flames, Andre Burakovsky who went to the Seattle Kraken, Nico Sturm who joined the San Jose Sharks, and probably most notably, their championship winning goaltender, Darcy Kuemper, who signed with the Washington Capitals.
The reason I call Keumper's departure from the team the most notable, is because his replacement came via trade with the New York Rangers, that saw a third-round and fifth-round pick in the 2022 NHL draft, plus a third-round pick in the 2023 draft go to New York in exchange for their backup goaltender, Alexandar Georgiev.
Now, as a huge Rangers fan who watches every game, I have seen mostly every single start that Georgiev has made in his NHL career, and I can confidently say that going from Keumper to Georgiev as your starting goalie is a downgrade. Not to take anything away from Georgie, he had a sluggish start to the season last year that made him a major liability in the eyes of Rangers fans whenever he got the nod in net, but toward the middle/end of the season, Georgiev made a string of starts in Igor Shesterkin's absence where he was absolutely brilliant, even posting a shutout against the very dangerous division rival Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh.
Consistency is going to be key for Georgiev this season. If he can find his groove and stay in it, he'll find success in Colorado. If he gets off to the same slow start he did last season, the Avs might find themselves worse off this year than they were last year. Georgiev finished the 2021-22 season with a 15-10-2 record, 2.92 GAA, and a .898 SV%