The Colorado Avalanche are the Stanley Cup favorite.
The last time the Avalanche held this distinction … well, fans need no reminder of what happened. The loss to the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Playoffs still stings.
Colorado fans betting on the Avalanche are left to wonder, “What if?”
The Avs now have the hat trick for second-round heartbreak. Three years in a row, Colorado has gone home and had their Cup dreams crushed thanks to the San Jose Sharks, Dallas Stars and, most recently, Vegas.
Now that the Tampa Bay Lightning have won back-to-back Stanley Cups, it’s time to lock the disappointment in a dark room and look forward to the 2021-22 season.
Stanley Cup odds
As a side note, the fact sportsbooks don’t have the Lightning as the NHL betting favorite is a bit of a surprise. Tampa Bay is a dang machine. Granted, there’s still the offseason and NHL free agency to go through, but the Lightning shouldn’t look that different next season.
That speaks to the Avs’ talent.
But can they finally deliver on their “favorite” status?
As for how the Stanley Cup betting odds look, the Avs are the consensus favorite. If Colorado isn’t alone at the top, it’s tied with the Knights. The lowest number for the Avalanche is +450.
Avs need to get tougher
For Colorado to clear that second-round hurdle, it needs to get tougher.
The talent up and down the roster is clear.
It has the speed to pair with that talent.
Now it needs grit.
One player who offers that and wasn’t on the ice for the series against Vegas is center Nazem Kadri. His absence due to an eight-game suspension was beyond noticeable. But will the Avs want to put up with his continued antics? That’s one of the key offseason questions for Joe Sakic, the executive vice president and general manager.
But it’s not just toughness at the forward position, it’s on the blue line. The return of veteran defenseman Erik Johnson should help, but this is an area that must improve for Colorado.
Changes coming for Colorado
To make matters more difficult for Sakic, he has an expansion draft and a decision to make on which of his own players to re-sign.
As it stands now, according to Sportrac, the Avalanche have $25.5 million in estimated salary cap space. So Sakic and the franchise have a lot of money and space to work with this offseason.
In terms of the expansion draft for the new Seattle Kraken, the Avs can protect one goalie with 10 skaters (seven forwards and three defenseman) or eight skaters with any combination of forwards and defenseman.
MileHighHockey had a great breakdown and prediction on who Colorado might protect.
In terms of free agents, Cale Makar, Gabriel Landeskog and Philipp Grubauer aren’t going anywhere. As for the next tier, forward Brandon Saad shouldn’t either. He more than proved his worth to this team with how he played in the playoffs. In 10 games, Saad had seven goals. The forward came over from the Chicago Blackhawks last offseason in a trade for defenseman Nikita Zadorov.
Plus, Saad is only 28 and adds the grit and toughness the Avs desperately need. When you’re in need of something, subtraction isn’t the best strategy.
So Saad should be a priority for Sakic.
After that, let the speculation begin.
Free agent defenseman Dougie Hamilton?
Perhaps Colorado’s Seth Jones?
Can the Avs finally deliver?
The foundation is in place for the Avalanche to take the next step.
Now Colorado must add pieces that are a little rough around the edges but still make for a great fit.
The Avs are once again Stanley Cup favorites.
Now it’s time to make good on that status.