A lot has changed for the Colorado Avalanche in the 365 days that have passed.
A year ago, the Avalanche were coming off one of the worst seasons in franchise history and easily the most embarrassing second half since the team moved to Denver.
It was clear that a lot had to change for the Avalanche, and change it did.
The Avalanche started at the draft by selecting Gabriel Landeskog with the second overall pick in the draft.
Landeskog stepped right into the lineup and was more than the Avalanche could have hoped for, having the type of impact a solid free agent signing would have straight out of juniors.
The Avalanche added size on the defense and two brand-new goalies to solidify the crease.
Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere, though very different in style, proved to be a great tandem throughout the season.
Giguere proved to be one of the best signings for the Avalanche in the offseason. He not only provided Varlamov with a mentor as he began to grow into a true franchise goalie, but he also provided leadership for the entire team and showed the youngest team in the NHL what a true winner's mindset was like.
For a long portion of the season, Giguere carried the Avalanche and willed the team to victories, all the while helping Varlamov regain his confidence.
The team as a whole was both incredibly entertaining to watch and frustrating beyond all imagination.
If nothing else, it can never be said that the Avalanche gave their fanbase a lot of things to talk about.
One of the best things that happened for this team was they way they responded after the month of November.
After Thanksgiving, the Avalanche found themselves toward the basement of the Western Conference again and struggled to find any kind of consistency.
It would have been easy for them to roll over and accept the fact that they would once again end up with a lottery pick, but they chose a different route.
Instead of going belly up, the team began to dig deep for the first time.
They started to find out what it took to win hockey games and found an identity for themselves that they began to impose on opposing teams.
This led to the best month of December in the team's history and saw Colorado once again become relevant to other teams.
This helped push the Avalanche to what ended up being a dramatic playoff push that ultimately would fall just short but showed a marked improvement from the year before.
Several people wrote the Avalanche off before the season even began, but Colorado proved that while their team is young, they are not to be overlooked.
Along with the positives, there came a couple of negative things.
The first and most obvious negative for the Avalanche was their divisional record. The Avalanche finished the season a dismal 9-13-2 divisional record.
Things did improve on this toward the end of the season, but the futility of playing against divisional teams early in the season is something that definitely kept the Avalanche out. Even just a couple more wins against their division helps push them into the playoffs easily.
The next negative was the way that the Avalanche started off the season at home. For a long time, the Avalanche just could not win a game at home to save their lives. The Avalanche finished the season 22-17-2 at home. The record is respectable, but it took a long time to get there. The Avalanche need to start off the season better at home, especially against teams they really should beat.
The Avalanche had a long homestand in the month of November and running into December, but didn't manage to take advantage of it, going 6-6-0. If the Avalanche won just a couple of games over .500 in this stretch then they are a playoff team.
Weighing the positives and negatives from the season, there's no denying that the Avalanche are in a better spot today than they were a season ago. The Avalanche climbed 20 points in the standings, made a push for the playoffs and have a great core of talented young players moving forward.
The Avalanche are just a couple pieces short of being a serious contender in the Western Conference, pieces that might be found during this offseason.
While it's disappointing that the Avalanche have missed the playoffs for the second season in a row, it's hard to look at this team and not be excited for the future.
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