Colorado Avalanche: Why They Can Make the Playoffs in 2011-2012

Gary LlewellinCorrespondent IAugust 19, 2011

After surprising the league and making the playoffs in 2009-2010, the Avalanche imploded last season and finished with a measly 68 points.

Is it really possible for them to bounce back and make the playoffs after finishing so poorly? Well, you just have to compare the state of the team now to what it was last year to find out.

The goaltending duties last year were split between Craig Anderson, Brian Elliot and Peter Budaj, and it was a mess to say the least. It looks like Colorado has remedied the situation by bringing in Semyon Varlamov and J.S. Giguere.

Giguere is coming off of a down year due, in part, to a groin issue. He has had that fixed and will prove to be a solid back-up to Varlamov. Varlamov put up good numbers for the Capitals, although he did not play as many games as he would have liked because of injuries.

Speaking of injuries, Colorado was decimated by them last year. Some notable players with injuries last season include Peter Mueller, Chris Stewart, Tomas Fleischmann, Kyle Quincey, Milan Hejduk and Craig Anderson. Needless to say, the Avs are hoping for a little more luck staying out of the infirmary this year.

Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny and Ryan O’Reilly make Colorado one of the deepest teams at centre in the league.

Duchene is on the verge of a breakthrough season. It won’t be long until he’s being mentioned in the same breath with the elite players in the league. He is fast, exciting and can dominate games. If the Avs are to make the playoffs, he needs to be the one who leads the offense. Look for him to put up 80 points or more this season.

Paul Stastny should have a bounce-back year after scoring a mediocre 57 points last season. He is a very good playmaker with solid two-way skills.

Duchene and Stastny will have support on the wings with Milan Hejduk, David Jones and newcomer Gabriel Landeskog. Peter Mueller put up 20 points in the 15 games he has played for Colorado.

Colorado also added some much needed muscle on the blue line by signing Jan Hejda and Shane O’Brien in the summer. Those two, along with Erik Johnson, signal the end of the era where the Avs defenders get pushed around by opposing teams.

One of the ways to judge whether a team can make the playoffs is to look at the teams that made it to the dance last year. It looks like seven of them are going to make it again. Without Ilya Bryzgalov, the Avalanche are superior to the Coyotes and could leapfrog them.

The odds may be against them, especially in the competitive Western Conference, but with players coming back from injuries, improved goaltending and the growth of their young players, the Avalanche may just sneak into one of the last few playoff spots.