Last year, the Avalanche were one of the feel-good stories of the NHL year. After they finished dead last in the Western Conference, people were excited to see the once proud franchise making a playoff run. So, when this season started, it seemed natural that expectations should be a bit higher for this team. After all, from one season to another, especially with a team this young, generally you expect improvement from year to year.
Start of this season comes around and things were a bit slower than last year. But you can't expect the kind of fast start that the Avs had last season every year. Twenty games go by, 30 games go by, the Avs are right there in the conversation and are hanging with the Canucks. We start thinking, ha! Vancouver who? We're going to hit our stride and then go flying by those guys.
Only something different happens. More and more games go by, and instead of that energetic, never-say-die team that we had become so used to seeing, we start seeing a team that can't start a game to save their lives, plays horrible defense and can't climb back into games the way they used to. We start to think, "Hey, they're bound to hit a slump at some point. They'll rebound."
Well, we're still waiting for that rebound. The Avs dropped another today, this time to the Anaheim Ducks. Another game marked by taking bad penalties, poor defensive zone play, and a lack of offensive intensity. It's something that has marked their play for the last month, or more, of hockey. Then I remembered something.
This Avs team is still rebuilding. This is a team that is still nowhere near their full potential, and will probably take a couple of more years to get there.
Last year, we experienced something that probably shouldn't have happened. If it weren't for the insanely amazing play of Craig Anderson, last year's Avs would have been nowhere near the playoffs. The defense was just as inconsistent, the offense experienced similar ups and downs, the big difference was that Anderson was able to make all those insane saves that he had no business making.
It's like that guy you play poker with that everybody hates because he goes all in with stupid hands, but wins each time. Eventually, you know that guy is going to run out of luck—it's just a matter of time. It seems that time has happened this year.
So, to all Avs fans—and this is just as much for me as anybody else—yes, the Avs are not a very good team right now. Yes, we're most likely going to miss the playoffs with this type of poor play.
Let's all remember, we haven't seen the best that these guys can offer yet. Stewie hasn't shown us a full season of what he will be, neither has Duchene. Neither have a lot of these guys, but their talent is there and they are still learning. Eventually, our front office will help us get bigger and more skilled on defense. Eventually, our goalies won't have to know from the beginning that they have to win the game for us.
Rebuilding is not a fun process for a team, but if you do it right, that time will pay off. Just ask the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks. They both spent a decent amount of time at the bottom of the NHL. The Avs will get there, I'm convinced, but we as a fan base need to make the trip with them and not give up on our boys.