If the Colorado Avalanche finish in the top 8 of the West this season, several recent factors can explain. Semyon Varlamov dominating the crease, increased defensive play from last year (the Avs were dead last in goals against in 2010-11, and rank 12th this season), and an impressive recent penalty kill streak all spell out success for Colorado. However, even with a much improved defensive game, the Avalanche offensive attack struggled for most of the 2011-12 campaign. The trade deadline benefited this franchise arguably more than any other. One of the reasons why is an under rated reason for Colorado’s recent success.
Paul Stastny, one of the major threats in Colorado’s attack, suffered through a season long slump until the team acquired his new line-mate, Jamie McGinn. Since the Avs game March 3rd against Pittsburgh, just a couple games after the deadline, Stastny has 11 points in 13 games, nearly a point-per-game ratio. He had been well under that number for most of the year, which goes against his career trend. Stastny has a career .88 point per game average. In recent games, the line of David Jones-Paul Stastny- Jamie McGinn has been arguably the team’s most productive, right along side of the “Orlando” line, consisting of Gabriel Landeskog- Ryan O’Reilly- Stevie Downie.
An important note of Stastny’s recent resurgence is how the new second line effects Colorado’s lineup. With those top two scoring lines, Colorado developed something the team hasn’t said since 2001: actual depth. Left to play on the Avalanche third line are Peter Mueller- Matt Duchene – Milan Hejduk. This line may have been considered the team’s top line heading into the year, since their offensive production saw them as 3 of the top 4 scorers on the team outside of Stastny (assuming Mueller could be healthy). Given that much depth, the Avalanche essentially have three lines capable of scoring at any time, as well as providing sold defensive play and any added grit that may be required.
Since being drafted in 2005, Stastny has been one of Colorado’s main offensive threats, so there is no surprise that the team struggles offensively when he does. The last six games of the season are arguably the most important stretch of games the organization has had in years. They enter this offseason with 14 current roster players as either restricted or unrestricted free agents. Making the playoffs and performing well could entice players who wanted out of Denver to stay. With all the rumors of problems between players and team staff members, Kyle Quincey’s departure for example, nothing would cure those differences better than winning. With his improved play, Stastny seems determined to make sure Colorado returns to respectability.