Colorado Avalanche’s next man up mentality testament to job done by Joe Sakic

Colorado Avalanche right wing Logan O'Connor (25). Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Colorado Avalanche right wing Logan O'Connor (25). Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Avalanche continue to march on and that is testament to General Manager Joe Sakic.

We’ve been here before, haven’t we? The Colorado Avalanche seem the most snakebitten team in the NHL when it comes to injuries and, having had to battle through their fair share last season, they are already having to adopt the next man up mentality in the opening weeks of the 2020-21 season with the considerable depth put in place by Joe Sakic certainly paying off.

Of course, every single team suffers its fair share of injuries throughout the course of a gruelling NHL season, but the Avalanche seem to have rotten luck on that front and you only have to study recent events to understand exactly what we’re talking about.

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I mean, the Avs have listed six players as week-to-week with different injuries recently, including defensemen Devon Toews (lower-body) and Erik Johnson (upper-body), goaltender Pavel Francouz (lower-body) and forwards Matt Calvert (upper-body) and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (upper-body). Then to make matters far worse, star forward and franchise cornerstone Nathan MacKinnon was announced as week-to-week with a lower-body injury this week.

MacKinnon is obviously the biggest blow for the Colorado Avalanche, and everyone connected with that franchise will be praying and praying that the elite center is back sooner rather than later given just how important he is to this team. After all, he’s the heartbeat of this organization and everything runs through him, while he already racked up 14 points (2 G, 12 A) in 10 games prior to going down hurt.

However, the Avs passed their first test by beating the Minnesota Wild 2-1 on Tuesday night in what was the first game of life without Nathan MacKinnon and, while it wasn’t always pretty, they got the job done and General Manager Joe Sakic has to take a lot of credit for that, as well as Head Coach Jared Bednar.

Philipp Grubauer (31)
Colorado Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer (31). Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

Colorado Avalanche General Manager Joe Sakic to thank for next man up mentality

There is a clear reason why many view the Colorado Avalanche as not only a Stanley Cup contender in the 2020-21 season, but for the foreseeable future. And that reason is their impressive roster which is built to win multiple championships over a sustained period of time.

General Manager Joe Sakic has drafted incredibly well, including selecting Nathan MacKinnon with the first overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, and he’s built an impressive supporting cast around his franchise cornerstone using the Draft, Free Agency and the trade market.

From drafting a bevy of elite defensemen in Cale Makar, Bowen Byram and Conor Timmins to trading for and then further developing the likes of Ryan Graves and Samuel Girard, Colorado boast one of the best and deepest backend units in the NHL and their forward group is as equally impressive if not more so with star forwards Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog forming the bedrock of this team alongside MacKinnon.

But Sakic has added impressive depth around his three-headed monster, making big trades for center Nazem Kadri and winger Brandon Saad in consecutive offseasons, in addition to acquiring other key depth pieces and using the Draft to develop home-grown talent in the likes of Tyson Jost, Martin Kaut and Alex Newhook, players who can make a significant impact both now and long in the future in the case of the latter two.

Basically, Sakic has built this team to withstand injuries to even its top stars, where goaltending and a next man up mentality can carry this team through any kind of adversity and that is why the Avalanche are seen as legit contenders because they have a plethora of players who can step up and get the job done.

I mean, look at last night’s win against the Minnesota Wild when this team grouped together and fought back in the absence of their Captain and franchise leader, sparked by a stellar 27-save performance by goaltender Philipp Grubauer, who was acquired in a trade from the Washington Capitals and has really unlocked his potential with the Avs.

Then look at the two goalscorers for the Avalanche. On a night when they needed a response and needed others to step up, their secondary and depth scoring clicked into gear as Logan O’Connor, a Free Agent signing in 2018, and Valeri Nichushkin, who has been somewhat of a reclamation project of Sakic’s, scored the goals that sealed a big win for the Avs last night and moved them to 7-3-1 on the year.

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It just highlighted how much depth is on this roster and just how many players the Colorado Avalanche have that can elevate their game and provide significant contributions in the biggest moments, as was the case on Tuesday when the entire lineup combined to ensure that the loss of Nathan MacKinnon wasn’t going to be too costly. That is testament to both Head Coach Jared Bednar who works with these players on a daily basis and ensures that each and every one is ready to step up in a big spot when called upon, and General Manager Joe Sakic who has built this roster on both talent and a boatload of depth and it is the latter ingredient, coupled with this team’s next man up mentality, that should ensure they float rather than sink without their heartbeat, however long he is out for.