2023 team report cards: defending champion Avalanche upset in round one

Colorado Avalanche. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Colorado Avalanche. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

Last season, the Colorado Avalanche put all of the pieces together. They used their talent, depth, and past playoff failures to make a deep run through the Stanley Cup Playoffs and ultimately claim the Stanley Cup.

Jump ahead to this season and key contributors, such as Nazem Kadri and Darcy Kuemper, were no longer with the team. Health also was not on Colorado’s side, as captain Gabriel Landeskog was unavailable all season long.

The Avalanche still managed to qualify for the postseason with ease, clinching a division crown for the third straight season. As the second seed in the Western Conference, the Avs earned a first-round date with the top wild card team, the Seattle Kraken.

How should 2022-2023 be graded for the Avalanche?

Experience alone seemed like it would push Colorado into the second round. Yes, Seattle came into the series with a handful of champions on its roster, but this was the first playoff series for the second-year franchise.

As we saw when the Vegas Golden Knights made their playoff debut, the first-time playoff participants played freely and with a chip on their shoulders.

The Avalanche played a good series, but not a great one. Goaltender Alexandar Georgiev was solid, but he rarely took over a game.

Mikko Rantanen (seven goals and ten points) and Devon Toews (eight assists and nine points) led the way offensively, but Colorado only had 12 players record points in this series compared to Seattle which saw 18 players get in on the action.

In a way, this series is sort of a return to reality for the NHL. It’s not easy for a team to make back-to-back deep runs through the playoffs, much less win two championships in a row. Contrary to how easy the Tampa Bay Lightning have made it look, it’s not easy.

Plus, repeat champions have been hard to find in the salary cap era because it’s difficult to retain all of the pieces from a championship roster. Between offseason departures and injuries, the Avalanche reminded us all that winning in the postseason is hard.

Did the Avs’ postseason end earlier than they would’ve liked? Of course. As I said when writing about the Lightning, good teams are bound to lose. Coming off of a Stanley Cup championship, though, this should hardly be considered a failure in Denver.

Overall, the Avalanche were 51-24-7 (109 points) in the regular season and lost in the first round of the playoffs, four games to three.

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Without a doubt, the Avs will be back next year, ready to make another run at the Stanley Cup. This year simply wasn’t their year.

The Grade: B