To the dismay of the fans, the ride is over. The “Why Not Us” has come to an end. There’s no disputing that the Avs came a long way from last-place in the Western Conference to darn-near first place, but there’s a bit more to the story when reflecting on the season that was. Even though the squad improved more than any fan could ever ask for.. It’s hard to deter from the fact that the Avalanche missed out on a prime opportunity.
When reflecting on the season that was for the Avalanche, most fans would say that the team was playing with house money. After finishing in last place, earning the number one overall pick in the NHL Draft, and bringing in first-year head coach Patrick Roy.. many fans would say that the future is bright and this year was one to learn.
With that said.. it’s tough to not feel as if the Avalanche let the season slip away.
The Avalanche had a fantastic season. There’s no debating that. They hired Patrick Roy, a now Jack Adams finalist who had one of the most, if not the most, successful first-year as a head coach in the NHL after earning his worth in juniors. Then there was Semyon Varlamov, a now Vezina finalist, who bounced back from a forgetful season to break the franchise record in wins, surpassing none other than Patrick Roy. A sure-lock in my mind for the MVP of the first-round series for the Avs. There’s no way the series goes seven if Varly wasn’t there to keep the team in it. There was Nathan MacKinnon, the Avs’ number one overall pick, who at one point during the season had a point in 13 straight games, breaking Gretzky’s mark for an 18-year-old NHL player that he set during the 1979-80 season. The kid had ten points in the series against the Wild.
Those are just a select few storylines that made this season one to remember for the franchise and most importantly, the fans. It felt good to see the Avs near the top again. Four years ago, us fans had no idea that it’d be this long to see the team back in the postseason for the next chance to compete. The sports city of Denver just doesn’t feel the same when the Avs aren’t in the position that they were this year. Denver is considered a football town with our beloved Broncos, we love our Rockies and Nuggets, but there’s nothing like the city draped in burgundy and blue come playoff time.
But when playoff time rolled along, the city was prepared for disappointment. Even though the Avs finished with a division title, many fans didn’t expect the team to go very far. Why? Because they were a young team. They didn’t have what it took to actually perform in the playoffs. That’s what analysts and fans said, despite the great year. All because the team finished in last place just a year ago. It’s clear that this type of turnaround doesn’t happen everyday in the NHL. Just look at the Edmonton Oilers. They have had picks in the NHL Draft near the Avs in each of the last couple drafts, and they remain in last place.
When the Avs do something that not many teams have been able to do over the years, why shouldn’t the fans feel as if the season ended in disappointment and failure? You’re kidding yourself if you think that’s not how the players in that locker room feel. Players know that you don’t get these opportunities at every turn. Rarely can you win the division and lock up home ice for the first two rounds, and rarely can you avoid serious injuries to the key cogs to the franchise. The Avs were the better team headed into the series against the Wild. But they didn’t play as if that were the case. They were outplayed for about 5 1/2 of the 7 games in the series. They didn’t play to the style that made them successful all season long, that’s common knowledge.
So when the fans ask themselves whether or not to feel like the season was a failure, consider this. The team has the talent and coaching to be Stanley Cup Champion contenders for years to come. But when the first window opens and closes as quickly as it did in the first-round of this year’s playoffs against the Wild, shouldn’t it feel as if an opportunity was missed to not only gain experience for the young-guns, but try and contend for the championship, this season? The franchise and the fans will surely be asking themselves this question for the off-season. Regardless of how the outcome of the 2013-14 Avalanche season is perceived, the future is still bright.