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Avs Mailbag: Kadri comeback, lineup questions, and more

Evan Rawal Avatar
September 10, 2021

Absolutely. I anticipate the Kadri we see this season will be extremely motivated. For one, he’s a pending unrestricted free agent, so there’s a lot for him to gain if he has a really strong season. Having played on a pretty team-friendly deal for the last handful of years, you know he’d like to cash in on what is likely to be the biggest contract of his career.

Beyond just his contract, the last time Kadri was suspended in the postseason, he was traded to the Avs, and we all know he was very motivated that next year. Not only did he have a strong regular season, but he followed it up with 18 points in 15 postseason games.

Last season didn’t end the way Kadri would have liked it to. Even before the playoff suspension, he was stuck in a massive slump for the final 15-20 regular-season games. Regardless of all that, I have no doubt he will come back and be a strong player for the Avs.

I could certainly see them experimenting with it a little more this year, but everything always leads back to the top line ending up together. We’ve seen it every year for the past four seasons. The big hole on the left wing on the second line could lead to them wanting to move Landeskog around the lineup a bit more to spread things out, knowing that MacKinnon and Rantanen can hold their own, but I don’t anticipate any of these moves to last long-term. This team is built around a dominant top line, and the staff knows it.

Compher had a dreadful start to the 2020-21 season. For the first half of the year, he was pretty much a black hole in the lineup, providing very little and seeing his role dwindle as others emerged. After he got injured and missed a handful of games, he came back and pretty much produced at the same rate he has for the last three seasons.

At 26, Compher isn’t likely to see a massive jump in development, so I think what you see is what you are going to get. He’s a decent finisher (though he doesn’t generate enough shots on net), and the staff feels he can fill a handful of different roles in the lineup, but he’s inconsistent offensively and has never really been a great penalty killer. Without Donskoi and Saad around this year, they will need him to drive offense a little more if at all possible, but ultimately, he’ll likely finish the year with his usual 30-35 points.

NHL 94 gets all the love, but I put a lot of time into NHL 97, 98, and 99 growing up. I also have a soft spot for NHLPA 93 and the 2K NHL games in the mid 2000’s.

Worst? I find the current iteration of EA’s NHL games to be horrendous. It’s been the same game for 5-6 years, and their idea of new modes are modes that they took out of the game a while back, only to re-introduce them in hopes that they can fool fans. The games don’t sell nearly as well as the Fifa or Madden games, so EA doesn’t put a ton of money into them, but there’s no reason to buy the current EA games every year since they’re nothing more than roster updates.

MacDermid. I’m not convinced Johnson is getting a contract, and I am pretty sure MacDermid is going to play a decent amount of games at forward. I hate either answer but that’s what I see is far more likely.

https://twitter.com/StrictlyRandy/status/1435651002426744834?s=20

My biggest fear is the same thing that excites me, and that’s the potential competition for a handful of players upfront to make the team out of camp. Last year, the Avs entered training camp set at forward, so there really wasn’t much wiggle room for anyone to sneak in. That’s not very exciting, from a story point of view.

This year, it’s very different. With no Saad and no Donskoi, there seems to be room for at least one young forward to make their way onto the team, and that’s not even including Mikhail Maltsev, who I anticipate starts with the team out of camp given the Avs targeted him in that trade. Is a guy like Alex Newhook going to get a legit shot to start the year next to Kadri and Burakovsky? Is this the year Martin Kaut actually makes the team out of training camp? Could someone like a Shane Bowers or Sampo Raanta actually fight their way onto the opening night roster? It just feels like there actually might be a competition this year for someone to make the team that maybe you wouldn’t have expected.

On the flip side, there seem to be a few holes in the forward group that you might not like to see on a team that is looking to compete for the Stanley Cup. The biggest one, of course, being that sixth forward to round out the top two lines. Saad was the main guy in that role last year, but beyond him, the next option was usually Donskoi. Without either of those guys, there’s a ton of guys who may not be ready for that job. On the third line, we anticipate Jost and Nichushkin to be glued at the hip together with the way they finished the season, but neither of those guys are big scorers, so how do they round out that line with some more skill?

It’s exciting and worrisome all at the same time, but you just have to let it play out, and that’s what I can’t wait to see happen in training camp.

I’m not sure the organization can have a mindset where they draw a line in the sand of “if we don’t make it past a certain spot, we need to make changes”. There are too many variables at play for that. I think what will matter more is how the team plays and how they go out. If the Avs finish this season blowing another 2-0 series lead in the playoffs, then yes, it’s probably time for some changes. But if they battle into another game 7 in the second round and lose because of injuries or something else flukey, it’s not all the same.

It’s a big year for Bednar and his staff, as the best forwards on this team are right in the primes of their careers and you don’t want to waste it, but “how” they go out is more important than “when” they go out, at least in my opinion.

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