Colorado Avalanche: The 2013-14 Season Blew Everything out of Proportion


If the 2013-14 season had never happened, the Colorado Avalanche would be exactly where we thought they would be. They are a team with a young, talented core, that is floating around in the playoff bubble, trying to find a way in.

In the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, the Avalanche finished dead last in the Western Conference, missing the playoffs for a third time in a row. For a rebuilding team, that was nothing too surprising, but it was reason enough for a leadership overhaul.

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First, head coach Joe Sacco and most of his assistants had been relieved of their duties, making room for Avalanche legend Patrick Roy and his new assistants. Then, another Avs legend, Joe Sakic, was named Executive VP of Hockey Operations. Last but not least, Josh Kroenke, son of Avalanche owner Stan Kroenke, succeeded Pierre Lacroix as the club’s president.

The team’s roster, however, didn’t see much change at all. As a result of their horrible performance during the season and a little bit of luck, the Avalanche was “awarded” the first-overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft — which would turn out to be center Nathan MacKinnon.

Even back then, the defense was regarded as the team’s biggest issue. Therefore, the pick of MacKinnon over American defenseman Seth Jones, who went on to be picked fourth-overall by the Nashville Predators, came as a surprise to many. Instead of picking Jones, the Avalanche decided to sign free-agent D-men Andre Benoit, Cory Sarich, Nick Holden and Nate Guenin — none of which are as good or talented as Seth Jones — as well as forward Alex Tanguay.

Feb 3, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) celebrates a goal against the Dallas Stars during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Avalanche defeat the Stars 3-2 in the overtime shootout. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

So, the leadership group was new, there was a new prospect in the system, and some depth free agents were added as well. What does that sound like to you? Probably a team that will be better than the year before, but shouldn’t be anything more than a bubble team. And then that.

The Colorado Avalanche was able to beat just about everyone, racing to a Central Division title, with MacKinnon, Roy and Ryan O’Reilly winning awards along the way. Sure, they were unable to beat the Minnesota Wild in Round 1 of the playoffs, which is one of the reasons why the franchises developed a rivalry, but the season still exceeded everyone’s expectations — by far.

In the 2014 off-season, the Avs lost free agent center Paul Stastny to their division rival from St. Louis, while adding Jarome Iginla, Danny Briere and some others. Everybody knew that Stastny was an important part of the team, but with Duchene, O’Reilly and MacKinnon still on the roster, the center position still seemed to be more than just good. Plus, the club signed one of the NHL’s best scorers of all time in Iginla, and MacKinnon should be even better than last year — so how could the team be any worse?

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After a season like that, while Semyon Varlamov played the season of his life, it was hard to expect anything else than another playoff spot in 2015. And bam — fans and players were brought back down to earth. Loss after loss, no playoffs and a top 10 draft pick the year after the division title.

The Colorado Avalanche still is in a rebuild. However, even though they should better than they were in the 2012-13 season, having strengthened the defense with Francois Beauchemin and Nikita Zadorov, they still won’t be anywhere near No. 1 in the division. If they manage to improve their possession numbers, as well as their power-play success rate, they should be at least very close to the playoffs again.

And isn’t that what we would expect from this team, if it hadn’t been for the 2013-14 season? They are slowly working their way up, while downs will also be part of the way. Teams don’t just go from last to first in a season and stay there.

The 2013-14 season blew everything out of proportion. But the Colorado Avalanche is now back on track, being a bubble team in the Western Conference.

What do you think would be realistic expectations if it hadn’t been for 2013-14? Let us know in the comments!

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