Colorado Avalanche: 6 Reasons They Will Make the Playoffs in 2012-13
This young team is beginning to turn into one of the most talented teams in the league, yet they continue to get no respect.
Despite the many positives the Avalanche showed down the stretch of last year's NHL season, The Hockey News predicted that they would finish 14th in the West at the end of this season.
Some of us liked their collection of youth and presume a step forward - others looked at the goaltending and lack of reliable star power and saw a bottom-feeder.
Here are some reasons why the Avalanche not only won't finish at the bottom of the West, but will make the playoffs.
A Shortened Season
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With the likelihood of a lockout looking more and more likely, the Avalanche and the rest of the teams in the NHL must be hopeful that not all of the season is lost.
If there is a shortened season, this will benefit many of the younger teams that have an abundance of energy.
With fewer games to spend your energy, the younger players will be more refreshed in the stretch run.
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As people love to point out, the Colorado Avalanche are one of the youngest teams in the NHL.
This youth has stymied a few seasons, but Ryan O'Reilly, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog are primed to become major players in the NHL over the coming years.
O'Reilly's development was on display last season as he led the Avalanche in scoring. His work ethic and team-first mentality will provide excellent leadership for his teammates.
Gabriel Landeskog was arguably the most complete rookie in the NHL, and possibly the most complete rookie the Avalanche have seen since a guy named Joe Sakic.
Landeskog's style will only make him more dominant as he continues to mature and get stronger.
Matt Duchene may have had a year to forget last season, but he has used this as motivation to move forward.
As this team matures, they are maturing together as a unit. Their chemistry will only continue to grow, and the team itself will only get better.
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The Avalanche didn't land Zach Parise, Ryan Suter or even Alex Semin. Still, they have made very solid additions to their team over the past year.
Bringing in guys like P.A. Parenteau, Jamie McGinn and Steve Downie have made this team one that is more difficult to play against.
Both McGinn and Downie burst onto the scene in Colorado and racked up points after their arrival. While their torrent pace of point gathering likely won't continue in the extreme fashion it did, their production should be solid.
P.A. Parenteau might be one of the best under-the-radar signings of the whole year. Parenteau had only two fewer points last season than Zach Parise, who was given $100 million by the Minnesota Wild.
Based off of where both guys will be playing, and whom they will find on their lines, I wouldn't be shocked at all if Parenteau ended up with more points than Parise this year.
The moves made haven't been big splashes, but they have been smart and have improved this team.
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Semyon Varlamov had an up-and-down year last season, but he finished off the regular season as one of the hottest goalies in the NHL.
It was because of him that the Avalanche continued to stay in the playoff hunt for as long as they did.
He then went on to be a dominating force at the IIHF World Championships. Varlamov is moving in the right direction and stands primed to have a fantastic season for the Avalanche this year.
Plus, the Avalanche still have Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who was the biggest stabilizing force on the team last year.
If Varlamov falters, the Avalanche know that they can rely on Giguere to steady the ship. And Giguere has been a fantastic mentor to Varlamov as he matures and learns what it takes to become a top-tier goalie in the NHL.
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For a young team to succeed and grow, they need to have solid leadership.
The Avalanche are finally beginning to find the extra leadership that they have needed for a couple of years now.
Milan Hejduk provides that veteran calm of a guy who has seen and done it all, but he isn't exactly the best leader.
Ryan O'Reilly has become the biggest leader on the Avalanche squad both on and off the ice. O'Reilly's work ethic is inspiring to his teammates and to the fans.
J.S. Giguere brings the leadership that is capable of stabilizing a locker room, as he did in November of last season when it looked like the Avalanche might lose their season entirely.
Paul Stastny is one of the most underrated leaders in the league. He's a guy that just goes out and gets things done. For as much grief as he gets from fans in Colorado, there was no forward on the team that was hotter than Paul Stastny coming down the stretch of last season.
Erik Johnson has become the captain of the defense and is becoming a dominant force on the blue line.
This team is getting great leadership in a lot of different places.
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Not necessarily from Joe Sacco, but Sacco has two brand-new assistants next to him this season.
Tim Army and David Quinn will be flanking Joe Sacco this year, and I think will do a better job than both Sylvain Lefebvre and Adam Deadmarsh.
Deadmarsh came in after being a video coach and without much other on-bench coaching experience.
Tim Army is also stepping in after being video coach for the Avalanche, but he also has some head coaching duties to his credit. Army was head coach for Providence College and for the Portland Pirates of the AHL.
This experience is likely to make Army a much more valuable asset on the bench.
David Quinn is coming up to the Avalanche after being the head coach of Colorado's AHL affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters.
Quinn already has a lot of experience with these players, so they know his voice and his message. He's also been an effective coach in Lake Erie and has done a lot of positive things in developing many of the Avalanche prospects.
Quinn will likely be in charge of defense and the penalty kill, and he should be better than Lefebvre.
Quinn is also a more vocal guy. Having watched him on the benches at training camp, Quinn will not hesitate to get in your ear and let you know when you aren't doing your job. That is something the Joe Sacco lacks, big time.
The addition of these two solid coaches should help the Avalanche develop.