How can Avs repeat as Stanley Cup champs? NHL wonks say it depends on health, development of defenseman Bo Byram


Hey, no pressure, Bo Byram.

But besides Cale Makar and Nathan MacKinnon, the hockey wonks think you might be the player that decides whether or not the Avs repeat as Stanley Cup champions.

“I think the way he came back from the head injury, the way he developed as a year went on, I thought he was fabulous for (the Avalanche) down the stretch drive,” Turner Sports hockey analyst and former Avs assistant coach Rick Tocchet said during a conference call with NHL media this past Friday.

“If he takes it to another level, I think it really helps the (Nazem) Kadri loss, because (that loss) is a tough one for the Avs, being that you know that second-line center was such a luxury for (coach Jared) Bedar. Not having (Kadri) now, he’s going to need a little bit more from different areas.

“And I think a guy like Byram, his development will just make it easy — I should say easier — for (general manager Chris) McFarland and (president of hockey operations) Joe Sakic to know, ‘Hey, we’ve got another (defensive star), maybe not as good as (Cale) Makar, but, you know, he’s got the arrow coming that way.’ That’s gonna help them even in the (trade) market, (so) they don’t have to go get stuff.”

Tocchet’s NHL on TNT desk partner, Paul “Biz Nasty” Bissonnette, also cited Byram, but admitted he was torn between the Avs defender and young center Alex Newhook, who’s a prime candidate to get the first crack at replacing the bulk of the departed Kadri’s minutes and scoring opportunities.

From a business sense, Bissonnette said, the fates of the two 21-year-olds — Newhook was born in January 2001, Byram in June of that year — could wind up being intertwined. The more Bednar and the Avs get out of Byram, who averaged 0.57 points per appearance over 30 regular-season games last season, the more it could free up arguably the Avs’ biggest trade asset for the ’22-23 season, defenseman Samuel Girard.

The 24-year-old, who appears almost fully healed from a procedure to fix a clavicle broken last May, averaged 0.42 points per appearance over 67 regular-season games in ’21-22.

“Maybe if Byram does take that next step, Girard is a type of guy where getting (his salary of) $5 million off the books could be used as trade bait,” the analyst and former NHL winger noted. “And (with Girard) being the caliber player that he is, I’m sure a lot of teams would love to have him.”

Basically, what a healthy Byram affords the Avs, other than all kinds of upside, is options. The 2019 first-round pick is expected to open the regular season Wednesday night against Chicago as part of a defensive partnership with veteran Josh Manson — one of a handful of savvy trade deadline acquisitions who helped get Colorado over the Stanley Cup hump after a handful of frustrating and fruitless postseason runs.

Byram, who made his third comeback from concussion-related issues this past spring, led the Avs in plus/minus rating during the ’22 playoffs with a plus-15, while posting nine assists and averaging 19:22 of ice time over 20 games. He told The Post late last month, just before the start of training camp, that he “felt great” and was “excited to get going” after a short summer.

“I think he’s a fascinating player,” NHL on TNT host Liam McHugh said of Byram.

“And he’s one of those players who — if he can remain healthy, and that’s been the biggest (question) — I think has an amazing future. I think (Byram) has the chance to be one of those electric defensemen (who) we’ll be talking about for the next decade-plus.”


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