October 24, 2022
For the past four seasons, as the NHL coped with COVID,
the Avalanche gradually slid up the league's marquee. It isn't just a case, either, of winning the Stanley Cup and automatically
becoming the NHL's top draw.
that has a lot to do with it, but the star power of Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar plus, to a lesser extent, Mikko Rantanen
and Gabriel Landeskog, makes it reminiscent of the pre-cap time when the Avalanche unloading of the bus at the arena on the
road was a Hall of Fame roll call.
The Lightning were the reigning Cup champions the past two seasons, but my impression is the Avalanche already are
(*) more of an attraction than Tampa Bay ever was.
In part, that's what I wrote about in my Avalanche season preview story for the new Hockey and Hoops edition of Mile High Sports Magazine. It's not giddy adulation to acknowledge that; it's sensing, spotting and conceding reality in an evolving hockey marketplace with
so many evolving ways to focus attention on teams and stars.
But the Avalanche start to the 2022-23 season has
been less than glittery. After the 3-2 overtime home-ice loss to the Seattle Kraken Friday night, Colorado was 2-2-1.
I asked coach Jared
Bednar if this was a figurative -- with heavy emphasis on the "figurative" -- Stanley Cup hangover.
through some stuff right now," Bednar said. "There's no excuse. We're on to a new season. I feel like we turned
the page. The communication in our locker room has been good. I feel like guys look like they're focused, but it's not translating
on the ice right now."
The Avalanche came back in Las Vegas the next night to beat the Golden Knights 3-1
and are 3-2-1 heading into a challenging stretch that starts out with the three-game swing to the New York area to face the
Rangers Tuesday, the Devils Friday and the Islanders Saturday. Then it's off to Tampere, Finland for back-to-back games against
the Blue Jackets. Their next home game isn't until November 10 against Nashville.
The 2022-23 schedule was in the
works for months -- long before the Avalanche won the Cup -- but the New York swing's timing is not the result of dart-throwing.
It's a publicity tour to the Big Apple media capital in advance of the trip to Finland. It wouldn't be shocking if MacKinnon
made an appearance on "The Late Show" with Stephen Colbert.
The Avs still are adjusting to the roster
transition following the departure of Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky, Darcy Kuemper and Jack Johnson. Alex Newhook is being
given an extended tryout, in essence, as the second-line center. Bednar framed it that way in part to take some of the pressure
off. It's also apparent that after the shortest of offseasons because of the delayed start in 2021-22, the Avalanche will
back off a pedal-to-the-metal approach all season. They'll stop short of pulling a Gregg Popovich with healthy scratches for
the sake of load maintenance. But giving stars the night off because of bumps and bruises that could be waved off in normal
times isn't out of the question.
In the meantime, the spotlight will be shining on them on this trip.
(* Here, "Avalanche" will be treated as plural.)