Long climb ahead for Colorado – Along the Boards
After a whirlwind 2013-14 season, the Colorado Avalanche have come back to Earth this year and are now in a precarious position.
After a four-game losing streak, followed shortly by a two-game winning streak, the Avs sit on the edge of a cliff looking up. Above their heads is the playoffs, while behind them is the chasm of a top seven pick at the draft. Looking up, the Avalanche see the Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars, San Jose Sharks, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks. If they look behind them, they will see the wreckage of teams who have already fallen into Connor McDavid sweepstakes: Buffalo Sabres, Edmonton Oilers, Carolina Hurricanes and Arizona Coyotes.
With 25 games remaining, the Avalanche will be in the fight of their lives just to stay on the mountain. The playoffs are the fevered dream of Patrick Roy but that doesn’t mean that Colorado will collapse down the stretch. Recently, the Avs have set three goals for them to achieve every game: 30 shots on net, possess the puck more than the other team and move their feet more in the offensive goals. Since they set these goals, they have scored 12 goals in their last three games.
During the four-game losing streak, Avalanche nation feared they would collapse in on themselves just like they had done under former coach Joe Sacco. Those collapses led to Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon being drafted by the team second and first overall, respectively. However, they also came with single digit wins in the last third of the season. For a team that just went to the playoffs, to collapse again would be reprehensible for the fans (and probably Patrick Roy).
Even if they are not to going to make the playoffs, the Avalanche must fight in the last 25 games to at least build something toward next year. Nothing is more important for the new regime than to establish a winning mentality. Especially inside of a rough season, if the Avs can play with a winning mentality, a Stanley Cup mentality, they will set themselves up for success in the years to come.
Last season, everything went smoothly for the Avalanche. This year, nothing has gone their way and it is in this year that the true maturation and test of the team occurs. As a coaching staff, Roy and Co. must look around the locker room and see who among the Avs are truly fighting and who is rolling over. The members of the first group should get to remain with the club (assuming they have the talent to stick on the roster) and the people who give up, they should give up on. They need to start climbing the mountain and training for it, like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky IV.
The Stanley Cup is not coming to Colorado this year, barring a miracle, but they doesn’t mean the Avs should fall into the chasm. Last year, the critics of the Avalanche said they were playing over their head and are very smug, seeing this year as proving their point. Yes, they played over their head last year but they are not as bad as they’ve shown this year. Where they are lies somewhere in between.
Climbing the mountain in front of the Avalanche will not be easy and it might take them a few more years to do it. Losers fall, winners continue to fight, and if the Avalanche want to be winners, they will have to fight harder than they ever have.