Is new Colorado defenseman Josh Manson the man to get the Avalanche over the hump? On the eve of Game 1 of the NHL first-round playoff series between the Avalanche and the Nashville Predators, that is what many are asking.
Former Avalanche player and current general manager Joe Sakic added Manson and three other players to the roster before March’s trade deadline in the hopes of ending a troubling trend: Colorado has been eliminated in the second round for three consecutive seasons despite being one of the best regular-season teams.
This year’s version of the Avalanche (56-19-7, the most points in the franchise’s history) has the best record in the Western Conference, giving it the No. 1 seed for the playoffs.
— z – Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) April 29, 2022
“Our team has done a really good job of getting better every year and making ourselves relevant in a lot of the discussions about being contenders,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said in a recent press conference, “and now it’s up to being able to go and play our best hockey at the key time.”
The 30-year-old Manson has played in 22 games since being traded from the Anaheim Ducks, scoring two goals, adding five assists and bringing an aggressive physicality from his defensive position. The Avalanche are 14-6-2 with Manson in the lineup.
Before he was traded to the Avalanche, Manson had played only for the Ducks during his eight-year NHL career, never having advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals. He made it as far as the conference finals in 2017 before losing to the Predators. Manson last appeared in the postseason in 2018, when the Ducks were swept in the first round.
Now, he finds himself needing to adjust to a team with aspirations to win it all, and the spotlight is on him to be one of the missing links.
As he grows in his new role on a new team, Manson is also growing in his walk with Christ.
He grew up in Hinsdale, Illinois, completely unaware of Jesus. Yet when he met his now-wife, Julie, and she made it clear her relationship with Christ was the first priority in her life, Manson began to learn more about faith. He read books like “The Case for Christ” and others. When he finished reading “More than a Carpenter,” he accepted Christ for himself.
“Mine has been a slow progression of learning and reading more and becoming more interested in it,” Manson said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in December 2020. “… I’m not to the point where I want to be — I don’t know if anybody is truly — but I have a lot of learning and growing left to do in my journey and I can say that honestly.”
He’s learned more and more about God as he’s intentionally talked and asked questions to people who have been walking with the Lord for years. That included Julie’s parents and people at their church, who he noticed from the beginning were different.
“I realized these were the types of people I wanted to surround myself with. These were the types of people who cared about you and wanted to get to know you. It was a different connection. I knew that was the type of person I wanted to be like, and if Jesus was the answer, that’s the path I wanted to go down,” he wrote for Sports Spectrum in December.
Manson then really felt God’s love for him when the couple had their first child.
“When I held my baby for the first time, I thought, ‘Wow, this is how Jesus loves me.’ If my child ever walked away from me and distanced herself, that would make me so incredibly sad. I would want to bring her closer to me,” Manson wrote. “That realization really brought things into perspective for me because I know my Heavenly Father feels the same way about me.”
“When I held my baby for the first time, I thought, “Wow, this is how Jesus loves me.”
— Sports Spectrum (@Sports_Spectrum) December 14, 2021
Now, as Manson prepares to experience playoff hockey for the first time on his new team, he knows it’s ultimately in Jesus where true acceptance is found.
Game 1 between the Avalanche and the Predators is Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
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