There’s a Gabriel Landeskog-sized hole on Avs roster for three months. Who steps up to fill it? “They’re going to have to do it by committee.”


If Nathan MacKinnon represents the heart, then Gabriel Landeskog is the Avalanche’s soul and spine, the last link in a mighty chain that finally dragged Lord Stanley’s Cup to its rightful plinth a mile high.

But Keith Jones, like a lot of hockey pundits these days, is admittedly curious:

How strong will that Avs chain be, with the rest of the NHL gunning for the defending champs, without that link holding everything together? How far can a ship sail with its captain, o captain, sidelined for three months as he recovers from another knee surgery?

“The way (Landeskog) plays the game is obviously something not a lot of players around this league can do,” Jones, the former Avs forward and Turner Sports hockey analyst, told The Denver Post when asked about the captain’s extended absence.

“You start to look around the locker room and there really isn’t the type of player that Landeskog is — they’re going to have to do it by committee. They’re going to need a lot of different players to contribute, not just in producing points, but playing the game physically, saying things when things need to be said. Again, those types of qualities are the reason he’s the captain and a big reason why the Avs are going have a tough time filling that void.”

Which is not, Jones notes, a detriment or a slight on the current roster so much as a compliment to the 29-year-old Swedish winger, a franchise anchor who’s averaged 0.99 points per game since the fall of 2018.

“(Landeskog has) been around, and we have some guys that have really grown into leadership roles here,” Avs coach Jared Bednar noted before Friday night’s tussle with Seattle at Ball Arena.

“We’re missing (his presence) on the ice the most, this time I think, just because of the depth of our forward group (and) some of the struggles some other guys have had — again, I’m not worried about them, but we’re just trying to fix them as fast as we possibly can.”

As much of a galvanizing force as he is inside the locker room, Bednar continued, Landeskog’s impact is rooted in his varied skills on the ice. The combination of pace and physicality. Harassing d-men in front of the crease. Blocking a goalie’s line of sight. Seeking hockey justice when an opponent commits a misdemeanor at game speed. Giving a fast, skilled roster a blunt, balancing force.

“This year (at) this particular time, with the departure of some guys and some other injuries, I think we’re missing (him) the most on the ice,” Bendar continued. “We could really use a player of his caliber playing right now …

“But missing him, it kind of has taken away a whole line for us right now. But we’ll need some other guys to step up and we’ll push them into getting there and hopefully we can get there quickly.”

If there’s any comfort, it’s that they’ve been here before. The Avs shelved Landeskog for the final six weeks of the ’21-’22 regular season after March 14 knee surgery, a run of 23 games. With home ice largely assured for the postseason to come, Colorado went 15-6-2 down the stretch without Landy, scoring five goals or more seven times.

But the gap is going to be longer this time. The Avs are slated to play 36 of their 82 regular-season tilts — 46% of the schedule — before New Year’s Day. That’s a long road to try and traverse while seeking a soul and spine to brace you.

“I think the things that need to be said, when they need to be said, are still being said,” veteran Avs defenseman Erik Johnson countered. “It just comes from sometimes a different voice.

“So I think the leadership is by committee. Even with Gabe, it’s by committee, and he can’t do it all himself when he’s the captain and playing. And we’re not going to do it all by ourselves. So yeah, we’re we’re more than capable, I think, with him out. But we definitely wish he was here.”

As far as personalities go, MacKinnon is a cheetah on skates and a bull shark of a competitor, backing down from no one and demanding teammates match — or try to match — that hunger. Veteran forward Andrew Cogliano, acquired late last March, is another one of those powerful voices. The 35-year-old was often cited as a source of focus, calm and purpose during last spring’s championship Cup run.

On the ice, power forward Valeri Nichushkin over his first four games had already played a career-high 21:20 per tilt, running with the top line in Landy’s absence and largely picking up right where he left off last June (five goals, eight points in four appearances entering the weekend).

Jones isn’t expecting Big Val to act like a captain out there. But he does think the Avs could use a little captain clutch.

“I think the best leadership takes place when you’re playing the game,” Jones said. “I would say the on-ice stuff (from Landeskog) will be missed the most, because he’s a heck of a hockey player and brings an element that not a lot of guys do — not just in Colorado, but even around the league.

“(He’s) that kind of power forward that can make plays and produces in all situations and knows when to step up in key moments of the game. Those are the elements that they’ll miss the most.”


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