With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the surprises and disappointments for the Colorado Avalanche.
Pavel Francouz the surprising star in net
If you were to look at the Avalanche roster at the start of the season and had to pick out an area of concern, goaltending might have been the easy choice.
Philipp Grubauer is a solid starter, but is he a championship-caliber goalie? After him, their top backup was the relatively unproven Francouz who entered the season with just two appearances in the NHL and only one season of professional hockey in North American. Given his age (29) and lack of an NHL resume, there had to be at least a little bit of a question mark regarding their goaltending depth.
Francouz has, instead, turned out to be one of the single biggest surprises on this year’s roster.
In 34 appearances he owns a 21-7-4 record with a .923 save percentage and was outstanding as the starter when Grubauer was sidelined due to injury. His overall play has been so good that the Avalanche already signed him to a two-year contract extension. He and Grubauer have turned out to be an outstanding duo and the underrated star of this year’s team.
Injuries have been a major disappointment
When it comes to performance it is really difficult to find a disappointment on this year’s team. The stars have been great, the scoring depth was addressed in a meaningful way over the summer with some great additions, the goaltending has been better than expected, and the young defensemen have excelled and are already blossoming into stars.
Instead of anything relating to performance, the biggest disappointment this season has been the bad injury luck.
Obviously that is not anyone’s fault, but it has kept us from really getting a sense of just how good this team can be when it is at full strength.
The injury list this season includes…
- Andre Burakovsky for 12 games
- Cale Makar for 13 games
- Mikko Rantanen for 28 games
- Gabriel Landeskog for 16 games
- Nazem Kadri for 19 games
- Erik Johnson for 11 games
- Matt Calvert for 20 games
- Grubauer did not start a game since the middle of February
That is not only a lot of games, it is a lot of games for significant players.
Even with all of that the Avalanche have still been one of the league’s best teams and certainly builds some excitement for what their ceiling is when everyone is in the lineup.
Tyson Jost has not really taken a big step forward
If you did want to reach for a performance related disappointment Jost might be the player to look at. It is tough to say that because on one hand he is still only 21 years old and has a ton of talent. So the potential is absolutely there. On the other hand, he has also already played 200 NHL games and has not really shown significant improvement. After that many games it might be time to start wondering if this is the player that he is — a 10-goal, 20-point depth forward. Not saying he can not be more than that, and players do develop at different paces, but we are no longer talking about a small sampling of games here.
He was mentioned in trade rumors leading up to the deadline and it definitely seems reasonable to conclude that he could be moved at some point in the future.
Ryan Graves has been a great complement for Makar
The Avalanche have the potential for an outstanding long-term defense with Makar (the current Calder Trophy front-runner as the league’s Rookie of the Year), Samuel Girard, and 2019 No. 4 overall pick Bowen Byram. That trio, their talent, upside, and contract situations help make them one of the most important parts of the team’s core moving forward and will be the foundation of a potential championship team in the very near future.
There is another player that has emerged as part of that defense this season, and that is the 24-year-old Graves.
He has spent a significant portion of his season playing alongside Makar to help form an outstanding pair.
In close to 500 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey this season the Avalanche have completely dominated the shot attempt and scoring-chance metrics and have outscored teams by a 31-17 margin with them on the ice. While it is easy to conclude that a lot of that is due to Makar carrying the duo, Graves has also excelled when playing next to Ian Cole.
Basically, no matter who he plays next to, it works.
For the season, Graves has nine goals and 26 total points and is a league-leading plus-40 while playing close to 19 minutes per game.
He may not be the impact player or star that Makar is, but his play has been an outstanding development this season.