Kids…Don’t Try This at Home!
What an unbelievable season this has been for the Colorado Avalanche. Now the word “unbelievable” gets grossly overused by hockey people, but in this case it is apt. From 29th in the league to being just 2 points out of 1st in the West. And this is the West, the far tougher conference. But while I can rave about what a turnaround it has been in Denver, I’m still scratching my head and asking “HOW?!?!”
Any Avs fan who may read this might view this as a shot at the team. It’s far from that. It’s a shot at ownership. It’s a shot at Greg Sherman. But it sure as hell isn’t a shot at the players or Patrick Roy or Joe Sakic. I just don’t know how the hell this has gone THIS way. Let’s go all the way back to the 2011 season when things were blowing up.
First thing they messed up (Sherman did anyway) was the Craig Anderson situation. Here was a goaltender who carried a bunch of nobodies to the 8th seed in the West in 2010, and yet they refused to give him a contract extension after doing so. Talks got messy during the 2011 season, and they ended up dealing him to Ottawa for Brian Elliott who was terrible for the Avs, and they found themselves going into the off season without a goaltender.
Then that same season, Sherman pulls off what everyone deems to be a simply moronic trade. Chris Stewart, Kevin Shattenkirk and the Avs 2011 2nd for Erik Johnson and the Blues 2011 1st. The focal point of the deal was Shattenkirk and Johnson. Sherman traded more for a D-man who already wasn’t as good. Shattenkirk has been awesome for the Blues, and while Johnson’s numbers are up this season he still really isn’t near the number 1 D-man he was projected to be.
And he still wasn’t done. THEN Sherman decides to fix the goaltending problem on July 1st, 2011 by trading his 2012 1st and 2nd round pick for an inconsistent and about to be departing for Russia Semyon Varlamov. No, he wasn’t going to Russia just to go home for the summer, he was about to sign in the KHL. He was basically useless to the Caps, and here come the Avs having just picked 2nd overall and looking like a complete mess giving up their 2012 1st in what at the time was projected to be an incredible draft. Chances were that Sherman could have got Varlamov for two 2nd’s, not the extreme price he paid.
It looked like it was going to be Burke/Kessel 2.0. But the Avs completely lucked out on the deal, at least as much as they could. They actually had an ok 2012 and the pick ended up being 11th overall in what turned out to be a down draft year thanks to a lot of big time prospects getting hurt (Galchenyuk, Rielly) or completely falling on their faces (Nick Ebert…projected top 5 pick going into 11-12, ended up being the very last pick of the draft). Add to that, Varlamov looked like the kid who shined for the Caps in the 2009 playoffs.
But then they sunk right back to the bottom last season. The Ryan O’Reilly situation was handled horribly and even after getting the gift from Jay Feaster that would have netted them the 6th overall pick AND keep O’Reilly (because as you likely remember O’Reilly would have had to clear waivers) they got badly exposed as an organization for not having done their homework on the new CBA and made the ridiculous decision to match the offersheet and keep a player who desperately wanted out.
Then finally, last year’s draft. People think because I hammered them for not taking Jones that I hated MacKinnon. Hell no! Always had them even, love Nathan MacKinnon and I was the guy defending him in the middle of last season while Jonathan Drouin was getting all the love that MacKinnon’s game was better suited for the pro’s and his upside was MUCH greater than Drouin’s. And that isn’t to piss on Drouin either, but we’re talking about potential superstars. ANYWAY, I maintained the whole way through that the Avs needed to take Jones. They already had Duchene, Stastny and O’Reilly down the middle (pretty elite) and they had next to nothing on D. Not to mention Jones was the hometown kid and how often will the Avs ever get to take a hometown star player? But they went with yet another center and failed to even touch the blueline in the off season.
Oh yeah, and then there is the PR moves. Sakic and Roy, as big of strictly PR moves as it gets! The Kroenke’s whole plan was to just get the stars of their glory days back to being faces of his organization in hopes of filling the seats. Sakic had been in the front office for a little bit of time, but wasn’t really qualified to be the President of Hockey Op’s (seems like hardly anyone given that title is). And then Patrick Roy, while he had SOME success coaching in Quebec with the Ramparts, wasn’t turning the CHL on it’s ear by any means.
But yet, through ALL of this, the Avs are contending for the top spot in the West. I’m sorry, but that is as much of a fluke that this team isn’t right there with the Islander and Oilers as the league’s biggest shit shows as I’ve ever seen in hockey! Greg Sherman is STILL this teams GM (although most believe he has very little say). And again I’m not saying these players are flukes, they have a lot of talent especially up front. I’m definitely not saying Roy has been a fluke, he’s got his 12 forwards committed to play a 200 foot game which has allowed the D to jump into the attack and when D-men in today’s game can get that active they usually end up playing great in their own zone as well because their feet don’t stop moving.
Who knows if they’ll fall back next season and this is just a season where everything has bounced their way. I mean, analytics guys will tell you that they simply will not get this kind of goaltending out of Varlamov next season (he will at least be nominated for the Vezina). Who knows if their young forwards continue to have complete buy in, and weather or not this blueline can produce at this clip again. But full credit to what the players and coaches have accomplished so far this season!
It is mind blowing that these kids weren’t affected by this mess and things have turned around THIS dramatically THIS soon. I’m sure Avs fans would have gladly taken being in the playoff hunt this season. Now they will have home ice in the 1st round, and might have home ice throughout the first 3 rounds should they go that far. For the record, everyone is suggesting the Hawks will walk right through them should that be the 1st round matchup. Maybe it’s just a matter of going the other way from the public and media, but I have a feeling the Avs will pull the upset in 7. Nobody would play the “us against the world” card like St. Patrick.
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