Colorado Avalanche: Give Me Hope


Please tell me why I should have hope for the Colorado Avalanche this season. I’m listening.

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Last year, after being knocked out by the Minnesota Wild in Game Seven of the first round in the playoffs, at home, in overtime, the Avs opened the season against those same Wild. They promptly came out and laid an egg, getting shut out by a score of 5-0 and mustering a measly 16 shots on goal. After stewing all offseason about that bitter playoff defeat and getting the chance to extract some amount of revenge, the Avs got pushed around by the superior team.

It set the tone for the season.

The were shutout in their following game, once again against the Wild, and got off to a miserable start that pretty much doomed the season before it started.

After finishing the year strong, going 24-14-4 in 2015, the lessons were supposed to be learned from last seasons poor start.

This might be a young team in terms of age, but not in terms of NHL experience.

All offseason, the team talked about growing up and having that will to win. Matt Duchene is no longer a promising young talent, he’s supposed to be a star. Gabriel Landeskog is no longer a young captain, he’s supposed to be a leader. Erik Johnson is no longer trying to live up to his #1 overall pick hype, he’s supposed to be a #1 defenseman. This might be a young team in terms of age, but not in terms of NHL experience.

They had the chance to prove that they were ready for primetime on Thursday night.

After a poor preseason that saw them get shut out in four of their last five games, I didn’t have much hope going into the home opener against Minnesota. I thought it would be ugly. Like last year’s home opener ugly.

And it was. Actually, it was far worse than I imagined.

The first 40 minutes were beautiful. The Avs played with a sense of urgency on every shift. The power play, which was 29th in the league last year, scored on their only two chances. The fourth line, which was a black hole of suck all last season, responded with a goal after Minnesota cut the lead to 3-1. Everything was coming up Avs.

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Taking a 4-1 lead into the 3rd period, the Avs seemed to be in good shape. All they had to do was keep playing with that same sense of urgency. Don’t let Minnesota back in the game. Remember what happened in the playoffs two years ago. Remember what happened in the opener last year. Put this team out of their misery and prove the doubters wrong.

It didn’t happen.

Zach Parise outplayed the entire Avalanche team in the third period. He put his team on his shoulders and showed why he’s earning $7.5 million a season. He did what star players are supposed to do. He was good in the first 40 minutes. He was the best player in the league in the final 20.

Where was that will to win from the Avs? Patrick Roy and the players can preach it and talk about it all they want, but sooner or later they have to show it.

No “expert” looks at them as a serious contender. And it’s games like Thursday against Minnesota that makes you see why.

Roy can’t keep making poor lineup choices or stupid decisions like using Cody McLeod as an extra attacker, Landeskog can’t take bad penalties, Tyson Barrie can’t roam around in the defensive zone, Duchene can’t lose important board battles, Varlamov can’t continue to leave his net and play the puck (and yes, icing should’ve been called, but that doesn’t excuse Varlamov from turning the puck over every single time he stops it behind the net).

On paper, this is a talented team. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t challenge for a playoff spot. But no “expert” looks at them as a serious contender. And it’s games like Thursday against Minnesota that makes you see why.

I know what you’re saying, “it’s game one of a 82-game season. Don’t overreact.” And sure, maybe this is an overreaction. But is it really game one? This has been going on since Game seven of the 2014 playoffs. It’s like that game completely demoralized every player on the team and instead of doing something about it, they just sit there and look dumbfounded.

What’s so different about this team compared to last year’s? They have some new players and a new coaching staff, but it’s the same core, a core that can’t figure it out when they need to. A core that, after surprising everyone and winning the Central Division two seasons ago, proved to be frauds last season.

I don’t get into advanced stats. I know that the numbers say that the Colorado Avalanche are a terrible possession team and terrible possession teams can’t win. I honestly don’t care what the numbers say. I watch the games. I know what my eyes tell me. And after Thursday, they’re telling me that this team is no different than last year’s team.

Maybe I’ll be wrong. You don’t know how bad I want to be wrong. Maybe it was just one game and the team will forgot about it on Saturday, beat a good Dallas Stars team, and move on with the season. But why should I believe that will happen?

Next: Colorado Avalanche Season Preview

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