Final Report Card for the Colorado Avalanche's 2013-14 Season
The Colorado Avalanche were eliminated by the Minnesota Wild in the first round on Wednesday night, but the Avs had an amazing season. It featured the rise to stardom of Matt Duchene, the success of rookie Nathan MacKinnon and the return of Patrick Roy to the franchise.
There are a lot of reasons for fans to be happy with this team, but the sting of defeat will remain for at least a few days, if not weeks. The season is unfortunately over for the up-and-coming Avs, but here is a look back on what should be considered an amazing season.
The Avalanche were successful this season because of their offensive depth.
They had one 70-point scorer, four 60-point scorers and five others with at least 30 points. Their depth offensively was impressive, and players such as Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O'Reilly and Nathan MacKinnon are all very young players who will only get better from here.
Omitted from this list is free agent-to-be Paul Stastny, and there's a chance someone could pay him a hefty sum if he chooses to go to market.
Outside of the top players, the Avs' secondary players really stepped up.
Players such as P.A. Parenteau, Jamie McGinn and John Mitchell all contributed in a secondary role, and they are players who helped make the Avs deep in the bottom portion of the lineup.
The Avalanche as a team scored 2.99 goals per game throughout the regular season, and that was good enough for fourth overall in the entire NHL. The Avs have a solid amount of depth, and given their youth and overall talent, they should be a contender in the coming seasons.
Offense Final Grade: A-
The Avalanche defense was pretty solid this season, but the team should look to make some upgrades in the offseason.
Its top four rearguards were able to put up points offensively, and they were all plus players. 2006 No. 1 overall pick Erik Johnson had a renaissance season, and Tyson Barrie broke out in a big way.
Offensively, the Avalanche have a solid defense corps, but they arguably still need another legitimate top-four defender who can play a solid shutdown game. During the season, the Avs as a team allowed 2.63 goals a game, and they ranked 15th overall.
Being in the middle of the pack is OK, but being more secure in that department would certainly make the Avs an elite contender. They will have cap space this summer, and they should consider adding another defender to shore up the blue line.
It showed in the playoffs after the Avalanche were unable to hold leads, and more depth certainly could help their quest for the Cup in 2015.
Defense Final Grade: B-
Until Game 7 against the Minnesota Wild, Washington Capitals fans were probably feeling down because of their former goaltender's brilliance during the 2013-14 regular season and playoffs. After Game 7, however, Caps fans had smiles on their faces because they realized that Semyon Varlamov was in a situation he had been in before.
Make no mistake, Game 7's loss doesn't fall solely on Varlamov's shoulders, but there were a couple of goals allowed that he needed to stop.
During the regular season, Varlamov was one of the league's best. He won 41 games, only lost 14 and had six decisions where his team lost in overtime. He was nominated for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the league's top netminder, despite a gaudy 2.41 goals-against average, but in his defense, he did log the fifth-most minutes among goaltenders this season.
With a loss in Game 7, Varlamov's playoff record slipped to 13-13-2, and his GAA increased to 2.57. The season certainly didn't end the way he wanted it to. All in all, Varlamov had a solid year, but he didn't make the saves he needed to make to get the Avalanche to the next round.
Goaltending Final Grade: C+
The Avalanche showed their true colors when it came to special teams this season. On the power play, they finished fifth overall in the NHL with a 19.8 percent success rate, and that makes sense when you consider they had the fifth-best offense in the league.
With an offensive arsenal that included Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon, it is understandable why they were successful. That didn't translate to the postseason, as the Avs ranked 12th overall with a 12.0 percent success rate with a man advantage.
Although the Avs as a whole were great with an extra man, they were absolutely dreadful when they were a man down. Their penalty kill ranked 24th this season with an 80.7 percent kill rate, and that is something that needs to change.
That can be attributed to the Avs' lack of a true top-four shutdown defender, as their top two defenders are natural offensive players.
All in all, the Avalanche were average on special teams because they excelled at putting the puck in the net, but were lackluster at keeping the puck out of it.
Special Teams Final Grade: C
Patrick Roy set the tone early on as the bench boss of the Colorado Avalanche. A fiery shouting match with Bruce Boudreau during the Avs' opener became a memorable moment of the early season, and it really sparked the team throughout the early months.
Many wondered if the Avs would be able to keep up their hot play, and some stated that their hot start was a mere fluke. They finished the season with the fourth-best record in the NHL, going 52-22-8 with 112 points, so it was clear that they were more than just a fluke.
Roy did a good job managing his team during his first season behind the bench, and many players thrived under his tutelage. Nathan MacKinnon—a rival of Roy's during his time in the QMJHL—had a career year, Tyson Barrie thrived on the back end and Semyon Varlamov had a Vezina-worthy season.
The Avs' bench boss pushed the right buttons during his first season, and his team should be even better next year because of the amount of talented young players on the roster.
Coaching Final Grade: A
No matter how you slice it, 2013-14 was an amazing year for the Colorado Avalanche. The 2012-13 Avalanche team tallied 39 points in 48 games, only three more than the lowly Florida Panthers.
They were the worst team in the Western Conference, and they moved up from No. 2 at the NHL draft lottery to earn the right to select Nathan MacKinnon at the 2013 NHL draft.
This season, the Avs were the third-best team in the NHL in the standings, they had the fifth-best offense, they received solid goaltending and they accomplished all of this under a rookie coach. No one predicted that they would go from 29th to third in the NHL, and that is an amazing accomplishment.
Anything the Avs did after their regular season could be looked at as icing on the cake. Would it have been nice to win a series? Of course it would have been, but this year they simply were unable to close out a veteran team.
Colorado didn't have what it takes to close out a series. The Minnesota Wild were full of veterans such as Zach Parise, a player who reached the Stanley Cup Final two years ago. The Avalanche have tons of talent and youth, and this year they gained valuable playoff experience.
The Avs are on the rise, and it is fair to say that they are now a more attractive team for a free agent to sign with in 2014 than they were in 2013. This was an amazing building year for a talented young squad, so fans should be proud even though it was knocked out during the first round.
Overall Grade: B+
All stats cited are from NHL.com.