Avalanche reloads, ready to defend Stanley Cup with 2022-23 NHL season approaching
The Colorado Avalanche will start their defense of the Stanley Cup on Oct. 12.
After an intense training camp at Family Sports Center, the roster has changed from last season, but the hunger is still there to repeat.
“Your character has to shine through in situations like this,” Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said. “They know how difficult it is, they’ve been through it, they know what it takes, that can be a positive. If they’re willing to dig in do all of the right things, the process of what it will take for us to have success will be very similar. You have to do with consistency, and you have to hone your craft in the regular season in order to be able to have success in the playoffs.
“I think we have a really good understanding, now it’s time to go put in the work.”
Gone are forwards Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovksy, and Nico Sturm and goaltender Darcy Kuemper, but new players, including forwards Lukas Sedlak and Evan Rodrigues and goaltender Alexandar Georgiev, are ready to compete for a repeat.
“Honestly, I was thinking after we won and when some of the dust settled, I was like, ‘How am I going to get ready to play this year? How do you do this again?'” Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson said. “As the summer started ramping back up, I was like, ‘I am so ready to start again.’ I haven’t been more ready for a season in maybe forever. I didn’t know how I was going to feel after we won, but I’m so excited. I just want to do it all over again. It was such a blast. Every guy in that locker room’s dream came true. The only way to top that is to do it again.
“I think we have a team that can do it again. That being said, we’re going to get every team’s best game all season long.”
One injury note to start the season has Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog on the shelf with a lower-body injury.
“He’s not ready to go,” Bednar said in late September. “We don’t have a timetable yet for putting him on the ice. He won’t skate anytime soon.”
Landeskog underwent knee surgery in March, but returned to the lineup for the team’s eventual Stanley Cup-winning run where he dressed in all 20 postseason games and totaled 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) in that span.
Heading into the season, Bednar noted that each game will be a “different challenge.”
“Our team came in really determined and focused ahead of last season because of some of the disappointments in previous years,” Bednar said. “I said it at the end of last season when people always said, ‘You have to lose before you win,’ but I think it helped drive our group. Personally, I had a lot of fun. Winning was great and I want to do it again now that I’ve had a taste of it here at this level. In talking to some of our guys, I know they feel the same way. Now, it’s about putting in the work it takes to have success in this league and try and repeat.
“We have our teams that we circle on the calendar and use as measuring sticks. We will again this year. I think we’ve been one of those teams for teams out west for a while now, I don’t see a huge there. But we can expect our opponent’s best on any given night for a multitude of reasons. We’re used to that. It should just help us raise our game.”
One player the Avalanche will rely on as much as ever will be forward Nathan MacKinnon, fresh off signing an eight-year contract extension in the offseason that makes him the NHL’s highest paid player annually.
MacKinnon boasted that last year’s title run won’t be the team’s last.
“We’re not planning on just winning one,” MacKinnon said. “There’s always pressure. We have experience now. We’ve been through a lot as a group. We have most of our guys back. There’s no reason why we can’t repeat.”
The 2022-23 season begins Oct. 12 at Ball Arena versus the Chicago Blackhawks at 7:30 p.m.
— Matt Mackinder
(October 5, 2022)