In last year’s strike shortened NHL season, the Avalanche (Avs from here on out) has a frigid record of 16-25-7 in the 48 game season, a record good for a whopping 39 points. The NHL points system is how standings are determined where wins in regulation/overtime/shoot out net 2 points, a tie and loss in shoot out nets 1 point, and a regulation loss awards 0 points. Personally, I prefer a three point system where a regulation win would give 3 points instead of 2 but I also think the winner of a fight should only receive a 2 minute penalty while the loser gets the full 4 minutes in the box. Anyways, with only one game left in the season, the Avs are 52-22-7 and started the season 6-0 and 12-1, good for 111 points. While there have been a handful of roster changes and the addition of a stand out rookie in Nathan MacKinnon, the core players more or less did not change over the offseason. So, why the return of great hockey to the mile high city…changes in the front office and most importantly a change of head coach.
In the front office, long time Avalanche all star, Joe Sakic was promoted of Executive VP of Hockey Operations, similar to John Elway with the Broncos. On the bench, enter former Avalanche goalie and winner of 2 Stanley Cups with the Avs, Patrick Roy (pronounced waa…he’s from Quebec). While, I’m not privy to everything that goes on behind the scenes and in the locker room, the record speaks for itself, the team has responded to Roy’s coaching style. He has the Avs clicking on all cylinders each night (well maybe not in last night’s 5-1 beat down at San Jose) and the Avs have locked up home ice advantage for at least the first round of the playoffs. Even when players from the top lines, went down with injury, Matt Duchene (knee, out 6 weeks, few weeks left), Paul Stastny (briefly), and P.A. Parentau (knee, just return after about 3-4 months), other players have stepped. For example with Duchene out, a huge playmaker for the Avs, Stastny has been finding the back of the net as well as defenseman Tyson Barrie, who has 5 game winners in the past month or so. It’s awesome to see a team like the Avs (who used to be a proverbial top team in the NHL) back at the top and it’s amazing what a coach can do (obligatory nod to Frank Vogel), especially when that coach might have a bit of crazy streak in him.
First game of the 2013-2014 season
Yes, he just deked the great one, Wayne Gretzky
Oh and by the way, the last time the Avalanche won 52 games in a season was 2000-2001 and Avalanche brought Lord Stanley’s Cup back to Denver.