The National Hockey League has barely vacated their created bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton. But already, the tide and attention have turned to next season.
As the Tampa Bay Lightning hoisted the Stanley Cup for the second time in franchise history, the circus that was the 2019-20 season swiftly came to an end, and the league breathed a sigh of relief. All of this past seasons’ problems were washed away as Tampa Bay was handed the crown jewel of professional hockey. But Gary Bettman and the rest of the league executives, teams, and personnel didn’t have much time to appreciate their accomplishments in continuing a season that was postponed in March of 2020.
No, with the final whistle of a Tampa Bay victory, the season concluded and the hunt for a new Stanley Cup champion began. The entire league is gunning for Tampa, and oddsmakers have already released Stanley Cup champion odds for 2021.
The defending Stanley Cup champions have received love from the oddsmakers, but they don’t own the best odds to win in 2021. That honor goes to the Western Conference’s Colorado Avalanche.
According to Betway Sports (as of October 13th, 2020) the Avalanche are listed at +700 to win the Stanley Cup in 2021. For a team that was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs, Colorado is receiving some love from Betway.
The unmistakable voice of hockey! Congratulations on a great career, Doc. https://t.co/pf5MgZnqxc— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) October 19, 2020
Colorado owns the best odds of any team and also has the advantage over Conference rival Vegas Golden Knights (+750). Colorado has been bounced in the second round of the NHL playoffs in consecutive seasons, so a trip to the Stanley Cup finals would be an immense jump in playoff success.
What is the difference between the Colorado Avalanche of last season and the Avs of present-day? Comparing the roster of last season and the projected roster of this season, not much has changed within the Avs’ organization.
With that being said, a few simple moves made during free agency was enough to give Colorado the edge over their competition. While the vast majority of Colorado’s roster has stayed the same, the Avalanche upgrades put them above many teams in the West.
The NHL was put on notice that Colorado was done fooling around thanks to a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks. On October 10th, the Avalanche added depth-piece Brandon Saad, who is a two-time Stanley Cup champion. Saad’s presence helps Colorado address scoring depth issues.
This season proved that Colorado relied heavily on their main guys to do the brunt of the work. While that is expected, Colorado failed to see much scoring outside of their top-six forwards.
Even with the addition of Saad, Colorado knew they had more to improve on. Two days after acquiring Saad, the Avalanche added depth to their defensive end. An exchange with the New York Islanders saw Colorado add defenceman Devon Toews, a sophomore that has continued to impress in his first two seasons of professional hockey.
Toews has experience manning the blue-line on the Power Playin New York and logged big-time minutes against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference finals. Toews is currently a restricted free agent, so look for the Avalanche and Toews to agree in the coming days.
Colorado had blaring issues that needed to be addressed and they had no trouble plugging holes in their lineup. With Toews and Saad, the Avalanche become deeper than previous seasons during a time when they can be elite.
It’s nice to focus on the present-day roster of the Avalanche, but you cannot shy away from their prospect pool as well. Colorado has several exciting up and coming prospects that are ready to make the jump to professional hockey. These players (like Alex Beaucage) may need to spend some time in the American Hockey League, but Colorado has enough NHL talent to develop prospects into the players they want to be.
It’s an exciting time to be a Colorado Avalanche fan. With a core that finds the back of the net consistently, featuring some of the best players in the world, the time is now for the Avalanche to strike. There top guys of MacKinnon, Landeskog, and Rantanen are hitting their stride in Colorado, but they needed help (outside of the top six). Consistently receiving love from hockey analysts around the globe, the Avalanche may be hockey’s future champion. Bookmakers and experts alike believe the window for Colorado to succeed is now – but can they lift the holy grail of hockey in 2021?