Kiz: Coach Jared Bednar is correct. On too many nights early this season, the Avs have been a joke. And it’s not funny ha-ha. A team with the top-tier talent of Cale Makar, Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon has no excuse for getting blown out on a regular basis. Is this a leadership problem? Do the Avs miss captain Gabe Landeskog more than we can possibly know? And how does Bednar fix it?
Masisak: For a team that spent training camp talking about the standards and culture here, including new guys gushing about how the grass was actually greener, the noncompetitive losses are startling. Bednar didn’t shy away from taking a minor jab at the leadership core after the meltdown against St. Louis. There are two reasons for optimism. One, the underlying numbers are still very good. And two, this team was in the weeds for a while last year and eventually looked like a Cup contender again in the final two months. This core has shown it can figure things out before.
Kiz: The glory of their names etched on the Stanley Cup for winning the championship in 2022 is forever. And I do believe the Cup is the hardest trophy in North American sports for any pro team to win. But I also firmly believe this: A team as talented as this group in the Colorado dressing room has underachieved during the last four seasons, when the Avs have been bounced early in the playoffs three times. Is there some flaw in the makeup of this organization that makes any hope of a dynasty a pipe dream?
Masisak: As long as the Avs have those three guys mentioned above, plus Devon Toews, they are at a roster-building advantage that no other NHL team has right now. Getting the complementary parts right in a hard cap world is difficult. Landeskog’s injury — not to mention the uncertainty of what he’ll be if/when he plays again — is a potential pothole. But they’ve avoided bad contracts for non-essential guys, which is another plus. I wouldn’t trade those four stars for any other quartet in the league, and as the cap rises the next couple of seasons, it will be a shock if there aren’t multiple deep playoff runs to come while these guys are still great.
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Kiz: If the group fragments, athletes wallowing in self-pity quit on the ice and execution is a joke, that is first and foremost on the Avalanche players. But it also reflects poorly on the coach in charge. Any coach in the history of this franchise could’ve won the Cup with the Avalanche team of 2022. Bednar is highly competent at his job. But he needs to come up with better answers to the issues facing the Avs than throwing them under the bus after a tough loss. I want to hear solutions from the coach more advanced and nuanced than a fierce demand to try harder.
Masisak: A couple of other media members who have been around him for longer felt Bednar was as angry as they’d seen him after the St. Louis loss. That’s interesting, given how early it is in the season. Part of that might have been because the team played well for two games after the first embarrassing loss but didn’t sustain it. Given that he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday night, Avs fans have probably been thinking more about Pierre Lacroix lately. We know he’d probably try to make a foundation-rattling move if this continues. Whether or not the current regime would, or can given the financial constraints, is a tougher question to answer.