COMMENTARY | Longtime Colorado Avalanche fans remember the heyday of Avalanche hockey. We got spoiled early - we inherited a great team finally able to put the pieces together to make a credible Stanley Cup run. Well, not just a run, but able to win the Stanley Cup. Technically, we, as fans, didn't earn the level of NHL hockey we got. We didn't have to spend years watching our team build and rebuild -- while losing, of course.
Colorado Avalanche Heyday
Avs fans inherited a team with the near-right mix of superstars, great players and grinders. Then, because the team had changed conferences, we were able to add the final, all-important piece: Patrick Roy.
That completed the dream team:-Joe Sakic: Level-headed, highly motivating team captain with a goalie-beating wrist shot.
-Peter Forsberg: Big, physical forward with perpetual ice-vision goggles on.
-Adam Foote: Gritty, stay-at-home defenseman with the work ethic of a Clydesdale.
-Patrick Roy: Most valuable goalie ever, except to the Canadiens, it seems.
In addition to these key players, naturally the Avs had a solid foundation of great players and grinders, the special brew that supported the stars. Again and again they were tops in NHL playoff standings. That brew brought them a Cup the first year and another just a few years later.
The Avalanche Drought
Then we Avs fans began paying the piper. Avalanche hockey turned into long years of mediocrity and, finally, rubbish.
The Avs had their worst record to date in 2009-2010. Then, in the 2010-2011 season, the Avs' NHL playoff standings were so dismal they failed to even make them. They finished 29th out of 30 NHL teams. They repeated that performance in 2012-2013, finishing dead last in the Western Conference again and second-to-last in the entire league again. The Avs had hit rock bottom.
The Avs' hockey style has always been about having high-scoring players and relying on the goalie to, literally, save their butts. Again, they got spoiled early having a superstar goalie in Patrick Roy and some of the NHL's top scorers. The Avalanche's style became stars in front, superstar in the back and not much in between, except workhorse Adam Foote.
That didn't work once Roy was no longer in net and Sakic and Forsberg were no longer up front.
The Avs tried to change their style of play. However, even phenom Matt Duchene, who was drafted during the drought - the Avs had a lot of high picks for awhile - understood it was not the right style. He told the Denver Post, "There were very few people in this [dressing] room who were happy. Our style of play, it wasn't right for this team… For myself, it was really hard to look at what we were doing and think it would keep on working."
Earning 29th place in the 30-team NHL twice - Duchene was correct in saying it wasn't working.
New Era for the Colorado Avalanche
Colorado Avalanche hockey has been about "rebuilding" for a long time. However, with those many first-round draft picks, the Avs truly have been building a team back up. They drafted Matt Duchene in 2009, a young man who immediately became a fan favorite when Avs fans saw footage of his reaction to the Avalanche draft: "Yes!" They picked up Ryan O'Reilly the same year. The Avs drafted Gabriel Landeskog in 2011, and named him captain in 2012. In 2013, they drafted 18-year-old Nate MacKinnon first overall.Here's the Avalanche's new era: -Matt Duchene: Soft-handed goal scorer with rockets in his skates.
-Ryan O'Reilly: Two-way forward with radar ice vision.
-Gabe Landeskog: Level-headed forward willing to grind away at play.
-Nate MacKinnon: Flashy goal-scorer not afraid to get physical.
While the Avs have an athletic goalie who's had the supreme good fortune to study under Patrick Roy and goalie coach Francois Allaire, there's no superstar back there. Luckily they have solid defense in Jan Hejda and an offensive defenseman in Erik Johnson to help out in the back end.
The Colorado Avalanche Dynasty
This core of young faces will provide the Avs with years of excellent NHL hockey, if retained. They may even create a team dynasty. They are not the key players of the franchise dynasty, though. Those key players are the same as they've always been.
Joe Sakic is back in a leadership role. The Avs named him executive vice president of hockey operations. In this role, he gets the final say in matters relating to hockey personnel.
Adam Foote is back to being a workhorse. He works where the Avs need him most: as a defensive coach. He's still protecting his players, or teaching others how to do it.
Patrick Roy is back in the thick of things. He's the Avalanche head coach and vice president of hockey operations. He has the final say in all things hockey. By player accounts, Roy is just the coach they want. During a radio interview with NHL Live website, Matt Duchene said, "The biggest thing he's preached from day one is that he wants to be our partner. He's on our side…he really has our backs so much as a coach with his players."
Peter Forsberg is absent from this lineup. He's probably not coming back, and that's a shame.
Nonetheless, the Colorado Avalanche now have all the pieces in place to further their dynasty. I'm not necessarily proposing that it will be a Cup-winning dynasty. True, Patrick Roy in his cocky best stated he only had one New Year's resolution this year: Win [another] Stanley Cup with Colorado. That may or may not happen. However, whatever else you see from now on, it is Colorado Avalanche hockey.
Long live the Avalanche dynasty.
Nadia Archuleta is a native Coloradan and professional writer. An Avalanche fan since their beginnings, she has a sports blog, Hockeygrrls on Blogger, and writes content for several websites.
- Sports & Recreation
- Ice Hockey
- Colorado Avalanche
- Patrick Roy
- Matt Duchene