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Few, if any, prognosticators thought the Colorado Avalanche would even be a threat to make the playoffs this season after a disastrous one a year ago saw them finish with just 39 points—better only than the lowly Florida Panthers.
But the Avs are on track to finish as a top-10 NHL club thanks to a new attitude brought on by rookie head coach Patrick Roy. He has the collection of talented offensive weapons and unheralded defenders playing great hockey more often than not. He has a goaltender who is not letting an off-ice legal issue become a distraction—a situation that could easily have derailed another player's season, especially one who plays a position that requires more mental fortitude than most.
They're also overcoming an awkward contract situation with Ryan O'Reilly, who was signed to an offer sheet last season when the Avs played hardball with the restricted free agent in waiting.
The surprise started with a stellar October, when a pair of six-game winning streaks gave their fans early hope of a miraculous turnaround. Others wondered when the wheels would fall off. It hasn't happened, and the Avs are proving to be a legitimate threat on a nightly basis.
Even if you have always considered Roy to be arrogant, it's tough to hate on what the Avs have accomplished so far this season. He has his players listening to every word and willing to go through a brick wall for him, making him a clear favorite for Coach of the Year.