The lockout is over, and now we can all get back to focusing on our teams and the season that is to be played. The season will be an abbreviated one, about 50 games, and will likely be an all in-conference schedule. While every team will be bound to feel some effects of the lockout, the Avalanche will be able to overcome this and make the playoffs at the end of the season.
There are so many situations in the NHL where youth is your enemy, but a shortened season is not one of them. The Avalanche are still one of the youngest teams in the NHL, but the youth that is on this team now have a couple of years under their belt and the valuable experience that comes with it. Yes, the Avalanche are young, but they are no longer the type of young players that are going to be making silly rookie mistakes.
Plus, while the season will be abbreviated, we will likely see not very much time in-between games with several back-to-backs to get all 50 games played. A youthful team with young legs that don’t need as much time to recover is a huge benefit, especially down the stretch.
What has been one of the more inconsistent aspects of the Colorado Avalanche since the retirement of Patrick Roy is finally shaping up to be a team strength, once again. After experiencing several ups and downs throughout the season a year ago, both Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere really found themselves as a dynamite tandem towards the end of last season.
After a strong finish to last season, Semyon Varlamov then went to the IIHF World Championships and backstopped Team Russia to a gold medal. Varlamov has spent most of the lockout back in the KHLwith Yaroslavl Lokomotiv and has posted fantastic numbers. He’s appeared in 16 games, has an 8-4-3 record, 1.74 GAA, and a .946 save percentage. Varlamov is primed to have a huge year with rock-solid Giguere backing him up.
Just before the lockout started, the Avalanche named Gabriel Landeskog the newest captain of the team. This move officially passed the torch to the young core of the Avalanche; it is now their team and they must be the ones to lead it back to the mountain top. This core showed that they were ready for this responsibility a season ago and the likes of Landeskog, Duchene, O’Reilly and Johnson will energize the rest of this roster.
The leaders of this team are the hardest working and most tenacious people on the ice, and those are exactly the people you want setting the example. We saw Landeskog and O’Reilly demonstrated their ability to carry the team when they needed to and also make people around them better. This will continue this season and the whole team will benefit.
While the Avalanche have struggled against teams within their own division, against the rest of the Western Conference the Avalanche have seen a decent amount of success. Last season, the Avalanche were 8-14-2 inside their own division, something that will obviously need to improve. With the rest of the Western Conference, however, the Avalanche were 20-18-3. Not a brilliant record, but a winning record nonetheless.
Staying in the conference will help this young team in the long run as they will get very familiar with all of the teams they play. This familiarity will help the young roster get a taste of playoff hockey where you must learn to adapt quickly. In this case, we have to hope that coaching doesn’t hold the team back.
This Avalanche team is ready to turn the corner and, once again, become a playoff contender. The leadership, solid goaltending and youthful core of this team will take that next step this season and lead the Avalanche to the playoffs.