It’s true, the Colorado Avalanche didn’t end their season on a particularly high note, missing the playoffs for a second straight year. They slammed the postseason door shut on themselves and it left a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth.
But this is still a very young team with one of the youngest cores. No one expected them to compete for a playoff position this season to begin with, though they did. Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy brought this team back from the dead, and perhaps winning the Central Division title in their first year raised expectations a bit too high, too soon.
Bringing Excitement Back to the Colorado Avalanche
There are negative nancy’s out there who are ready to throw Sakic, Roy, Gabe Landeskog, and whoever else they can point a finger at under the bus. Patience is needed when starting anew, and let me point out why. You can say this isn’t anything new all you’d like but that is just not factually correct.
Sakic and Roy have been in control of this team for just two and a half seasons(lockout), and managed to bring excitement back to this proud organization in their very first year on the job. This team was a joke before they came in, and nothing positive seemed to be on the horizon. They were on their way to absolutely nowhere under the last two regimes, until Sakic stepped in and turned it all around. Remember Tyler Arnason, David Jones, Peter Budaj, and Kyle Cumsikey to name a few? That wasn’t so long ago guys!
Roy immediately took the Avs from the basement to Central Division champs in his first year behind the bench. He did that with one of the worst defenses in the league as well. I hear a lot about Roy’s inability to coach, and that is insane to me. Roy won the hardest trophy to win in junior hockey – the Memorial Cup, and then wins the Jack Adams award for best coach in the NHL his rookie season. I’d like to think that those accomplishments would squash any doubts for such a relatively young coach, and perhaps realize he deserves a bit more time to prove the naysayers wrong.
A Much Better Team
This Avalanche team, under Sakic and Roy, is the best team we’ve seen in many years, and they’re just getting started. I said these exact words before the season began, and I believe it even more so now with all the moves that’ve been made. Moves made with an eye on the present and future.
The Avalanche have gotten younger, bigger, and deeper since the arrival of Sakic and Roy. Let’s look at some of the moves made by the new management team this past year that shows just how much they’ve changed this team for the better.
First the Avalanche got a great return for Ryan O’Reilly. Yes he’s a great player, but you have to understand it’s a business, and they needed to address other areas, such as defense and bottom six depth. With Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon centering the top two lines for the foreseeable future, O’Reilly and his cap hit was never going to work out. Not if they wanted to build a championship team, which they do.
They replaced O’Reilly with Carl Soderberg, who had his best offensive season, putting up 51 points in 82 games. Colorado signed Soderberg for a lot less money too, enabling them to sign/acquire other players to round out their roster.
With the money(and drama) they’ve saved by trading O’Reilly, the Avalanche brought in that much-needed depth, and have room to re-sign other core players such as Tyson Barrie. Like I’ve stated previously in past articles, this year’s Avalanche team was almost brand new. More than half of the roster has been changed. Therefore coach Roy did not have an easy year, but a challenging one, and almost pulled it together by the end.
With all the new additions and trades made, they got bigger and better defensively(albeit by a small margin). Soderberg, Mikhail Grigorenko, Blake Comeau, Shawn Matthias, Mikkel Boedker, Francois Beauchemin, and Eric Gelinas amongst others, all were great signings or deals by management that made this team instantly better.
The next step is going into next year with top prospects Nikita Zadorov, Chris Bigras, and Mikko Rantanen. There is also the possibility of newly signed J.T. Compher(also acquired in the O’Reilly deal) making the team out of camp. So while Colorado may have missed the playoffs again, they have set themselves up for continued success starting next year. In essence Colorado took one step back, but only so that they may take two or three steps forward going into the 2016-17 season.
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) April 25, 2016
— San Antonio Rampage (@sarampage) April 14, 2016
Stay the Course
After so much change with good deals/signings, I truly do not understand the calling for new management or a new coach. The Avalanche have to stay the course, they have brought the excitement back to Colorado, and possess an incredible young core that is worth building around. Thankfully they believe so as well.
This team is in great hands, and in much better shape than most experts or fans think. Defense will be a priority in the off-season, and Sakic has already said as much. Expect this Avalanche team to be back where they belong, the playoffs, as soon as next year. With an improved defense in front of the extremely gifted Semyon Varlamov, coupled with their explosive speed and skill up front, this team remains on the right path.
This management team deserves to see out their plan, and fans need to acknowledge this.
Sebastian Noble is currently in his third year with The Hockey Writers covering the Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers. Liverpool, England, and of course Colorado Avalanche & Florida Panthers supporter. You can follow him on Twitter @SebastianHNoble