Colorado Avalanche Need Sustained Success to Make Rebuild Stick

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 02: Erik Johnson
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 02: Erik Johnson /
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DENVER, CO – APRIL 26: Nathan MacKinnon /

Avoiding an Outlier Season

We all loved seeing our player idols lead our team to where we thought they deserved to be — not just relevancy but elite status. If you say anything otherwise about the 2013-14 season, you’re looking through the lens of hindsight. We were all on Cloud 9 — and 29.

That said, looking through the lens of hindsight at both 2013-14 and 2009-10, those were outlier seasons. The Colorado Avalanche weren’t as sustainably good as their records showed them to be. The outlier seasons were followed by regression years.

So, I asked how the Avs could avoid turning 2017-18 into another outlier season.

Tom Janz thinks the same way I do:

I think the best way to avoid an outlier season is to not overreact to this one. The Avs should NOT go out and add several veterans this summer, just because they have overachieved so far this year. Embrace the rebuild. I think Joe Sakic has learned from previous mistakes, and won’t overreact. The team may regress some next season, as the Oilers are now, but I think the organization will stay the course, and be better off for it.”

Colorado Avalanche
Colorado Avalanche /

Colorado Avalanche

In case you didn’t know, Mark Kinz is a fancy stats guy, and we’ve gotten into some pretty good arguments. However, Mark makes some good points:

Oh man, there are so many reasons 2013-14 was an outlier. The most talked about is that the team was one of the worst possession squads that year, and survived entirely on good shooting and Varly standing on his head. The less-talked about factor is the departure of Paul Stastny, Ryan O’Reilly (eventually), and the signing of veterans like Jarome Iginla, Brad Stuart, and Francois Beauchemin. The 2013-14 team was pretty fast, reasonably young, and loaded with skill. The years after that saw a clear move away from that mold towards a team based on veterans with size. They can avoid this season being an outlier by continuing to trust the process and allowing these young guys to continue to develop in the NHL, while continuing to buy into a system that stresses puck possession.”

Though not as high on fancy stats as Mark, Ross Kleppe echoed some of his sentiments:

This season has a few characteristics that make me believe it is much different than the 2013-2014 season. For starters, there is much more young talent on this team as opposed to 2013-2014. That season was basically just MacKinnon. This season, MacKinnon leads the other youngsters like Rantanen, Kerfoot, Compher, Jost, and Girard.

“Also, their ‘basic’ advanced numbers are much better. They aren’t getting outshot 40-18 every game and relying on Varlomov to stand on his head. They are top 10 in the league in Powerplay, top 5 in PK. Most importantly, they can exit the zone with the puck by making breakout passes instead of just flipping it 100 feet in the air into the neutral zone.

“The biggest reason I see is how they are scoring their goals. That 2013-2014 season, they scored most of their goals on the rush with that dominant Landeskog-Stastny-MacKinnon line. There wasn’t much secondary scoring beyond that line. This season, they have obvious, visible puck possession. As good as the Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen line is at hemming teams in their own zone, the rest of the forwards have shown they can control the puck as well.”

Ross Sellers talked a little about possession as well as their assets:

They are already avoiding it with improved possession numbers and by trending in the right direction with their salary cap. They have team controlled assets for the foreseeable future, and will only get better as MacK and Rants continue to progress. You’re telling me MacKinnon’s contract at 6.3 mill is normal for a guy of his caliber? That contract alone will ensure this team’s future.”

I think for this season, the key is to stay the course. I think the 2013-14 rebuild could have worked if we’d done two things — one, acknowledged it was a rebuild and not a return to form, and two, stuck with it.

The 2016-17 debacle was preceded by a total 90-degree turn in the team focus. If the Colorado Avalanche had acknowledged they were in a rebuild and kept, you know, rebuilding rather than selling off their future, I think we’d have a big, speedy team that scores on the rush en route to the playoffs.

So, we’ve shed the size and some of the rush scoring for skill and possession. The Avs need to keep building to that model in development and drafting to avoid 2017-18 being another outlier.