The 2013 – 2014 season for the Colorado Avalanche is going to be about one specific thing, change. The Avalanche have revamped their front office in an attempt to change the culture of the organization and the way they appeared to the fans. They changed their head coach to bring change the attitude that the team brings to the ice on a nightly basis. To go along with these big organizational changes the Avalanche will also be changing divisions.
The new Central Division will consist of the Colorado Avalanche, Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild, Winnipeg Jets, Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators. A collection of teams that, from top to bottom, doesn’t really have a weak spot. This is going to be a very tough division.
Where Do the Avalanche Stand?
There is no doubt that this division will start off as Chicago’s division. After all, they are the reigning Stanley Cup champions and they will be the team against whom everybody will measure themselves. It’s a distinction that they have earned and one that the Avalanche will look to earn over the coming years.
Sadly, that isn’t going to be something that happens any time soon. Coming into the new season, and Avalanche fans might not want to hear this, the Avalanche are the low man on the totem pole. Yes, the new coach and new system and new attitude of the team should help the team to improve a great deal; but the Avalanche have a long distance to climb. Colorado has the potential to make some noise in this division, but that potential has to stop being something we all talk about and become something that is finally happening.
Benefits of the New Division
Perhaps the greatest benefit of this new division is the fact that there really isn’t a weak link in the division. Chicago and St. Louis are both immensely talented teams with fantastic coaches that expect to go deep into the playoffs. Winnipeg and Dallas are two young teams with a lot of solid, developing talent. The Avalanche have had trouble beating Minnesota consistently and Nashville has one of the best defenders and goalies in the league year in and year out. Now if your team is one that is just coming off a year as a bottom feeder then you might not see this as a good thing, but let’s look at it differently.
One of the biggest issues the Avalanche has had over the past few years has been consistency. They would show up for some games and sleep through others. One thing they usually did pretty well was show up for the games against the big dogs. Now, knowing that this is a division full of teams that are bigger dogs than them, and having a coach who demands that the team believes themselves to be the biggest dog out there, will hopefully help the team to show up on a more consistent basis. While it’s a good thought, the team has bursted that bubble before.
Travel is another advantage to this division. Even though the Avalanche will be the third most-traveled team in the league in 2013-2014, where they are traveling will benefit them a great deal. Rather than flying primarily west for divisional games, they will be flying the other direction most of the time. Why does this make a difference? Time zones. When playing a game in Vancouver, the games generally began 7 pm Pacific time, 8 pm in Denver. Meaning the game didn’t end until around 11 in Denver. Then traveling back the team loses an hour and allows the players one fewer hour of rest and recovery that night. This year, most of that will be working in the exact opposite way, allowing the players to gain the extra time coming back rather than losing it.
Who is the New Rival
While rivalries are truly defined in the playoffs, that definitely doesn’t stop teams from gaining a healthy dislike for each other. I can’t say that the Avalanche will gain a rivalry with the Blackhawks quickly because the two teams are absolute light years apart right now. As the Avalanche improve, we could see things get a bit more heated. Minnesota would be an easy time to assume a rivalry could emerge seeing as the Avalanche have already played in a division with the Wild for years now. Even though there is some animosity between the fans, there really hasn’t been anything on the ice to suggest a long standing, ugly rivalry with the Wild.
To me, the place where we’re going to see a rivalry emerge in a serious manner is with the St. Louis Blues. The Blues already have several former Avalanche players, and the Avalanche have had some pretty intense games with the Blues in the past couple of seasons. While the Avalanche haven’t had any recent playoff series with the Blues, seeing them six times a season is going to make things very interesting. I could see the Avalanche and Blues turning into something intensely ugly.
The new division is an exciting one and we’ll see how the Avalanche fit in as we go forward.