A month into the 2009-10 NHL season, both teams have done a 180. The Colorado Avalanche are atop the conference with 22 points, and the Kings are right behind with 17 points, good enough for second.
Instrumental in both teams' resurgences is a trade that took place between them in the offseason: the Avalanche sent forward Ryan Smyth to LA in exchange for defensemen Kyle Quincey and Tom Preissing.
Fans and members of the media questioned this trade from both perspectives.
Could the Avalanche afford to give up such a large part of their offense, especially after the retirement of Joe Sakic? And how could the Kings trade such a good young player making peanuts for a 33-year-old with a large contract?
So far, the critics have been silenced.
When Colorado signed Smyth, he was expected to be a large part of the offense and their were "whispers" that he would succeed Joe Sakic as Avalanche captain when the time came.
Unfortunately, Smyth never gelled well with the Avalanche. His two seasons in Denver were plagued by injury and inconsistent play.
Now with L.A., Smyth seems to be back in his groove. His six goals and 15 points through the first 13 games have helped the Kings to eight wins, and maybe more importantly helped 22-year-old star center Anze Kopitar come out of a scoring slump that troubled him all of last season.
Quincey has had similar positive effects with the Avalanche.
His 25:26 average ice time leads all Avalanche players, and his eight points lead all Avalanche defensemen. Solid defensive play has been a big impact on the amount of goals the Avalanche have given up, an average of 1.96 per game (second fewest in the NHL). Last year, the Avalanche gave up 3.04 goals per game (fifth most in the NHL).
Like Smyth, Quincey has also rubbed off on a fellow teammate.
Scott Hannan, signed by Colorado the same day as Smyth, until recently has had a bumpy ride with the Avalanche. Over the past two seasons, he only scored three goals and was an eye popping minus-26.
Now that he's paired with Quincey, Hannan leads all Avalanche defensemen with a plus-9 rating. He's also chipped in with six points, surprising considering the stay-at-home defenseman only scored 10 points all of last season.
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