Nathan MacKinnon didn’t mince his words.
If there was any doubt what he and the Colorado Avalanche foresee this 2021 season, he removed all of it.
As the Avalanche center said to the media on Monday:
“Our expectation is to win the Cup, not just claw and scrape our way into the playoffs. That is what we are here to do. It started today, and I thought we had a great practice today and got off on the right foot. Every day we are going to need to get a little bit better and come together as a group, play for one another, hold each other accountable. You know, we feel good. I think everyone’s ready; everyone is in great shape. Pressure is obviously a nice thing to have.”
Avalanche Stanley Cup odds
The sportsbooks agree with MacKinnon. Colorado is the consensus NHL betting favorite to win the Stanley Cup this season. If the Avs aren’t the favorite at the sportsbooks, they’re in the top three.
That’s been the case since early October, shortly after the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Cup to end the bizarre 2019-20 season.
That’s welcome news to the Colorado sports betting market that just watched the Denver Broncos miss the NFL Playoffs for the fifth straight season.
But with expectation comes pressure. Is Colorado ready for the hockey world to put it under the microscope?
The Avs open the season on Jan. 13 against the rival St. Louis Blues. Colorado will play 56 games this season in the new West Division.
As Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said to the media on Monday:
“I think we’ve earned that as a team, and I don’t think that is something that we should shy away from. I think last year we had those expectations for ourselves, and maybe there wasn’t the outside pressure, outside expectations from around the league until we got going as the year went on, but now I think that is a good thing. We want the pressure. We want to be considered one of the favorites. It still becomes about the process and what we need to do to improve to make sure that we get the opportunities that we want come playoff time.”
Game 7 loss serves as motivation
What helps Colorado is the experience from last season — and what serves as a driving force is the crushing disappointment over how the season ended. As painful as it is for fans and those betting on the Avalanche to remember, let’s go back to early September.
It was Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals against the rival Dallas Stars. Colorado had a 4-3 lead with less than four minutes remaining in the game. The Avalanche seemed on the verge of the Western Conference finals.
Then, in a mere 10 seconds, the game was tied, and the playoff bubble eventually burst in overtime.
What still makes that loss sting is that the Avs believed it was their year. To get so close only to get gut punched is why this team has one goal.
New Avs bring new spice
The other aspect that helps is the players Joe Sakic added in free agency.
Here’s a glimpse of what Colorado’s executive vice president/general manager has done, summed up perfectly by Dimitri Filipovic on Twitter:
- Replaced defenseman Nikita Zadorov with defenseman Devon Toews
- Added left wing Brandon Saad
- Retained left wing Andre Burakovsky, defenseman Ryan Graves and right wing Valeri Nichushkin
- Didn’t use any top prospects, firsts or future financial flexibility to do so
Both Toews and Saad were acquired via trades, with the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Islanders, respectively.
When thrown all together, that’s why the Avs are the favorite to win the Stanley Cup.
As Toews said to the media on Monday:
“One hundred percent, this team has what it takes. I think it comes down to commitment through and through. We’ve already gone through video of different things that happened over the last year, and I obviously wasn’t here, but it’s clear to me to see and translate that. I obviously saw different things that we (New York) did wrong against Tampa and things they did so well, and I feel like this team can do a lot of the same things Tampa can do.”