Happy Days Are Here Again For Avalanche

(Ron Chesnoy — USA Today Sports)

(Ron Chesnoy — USA Today Sports)

The Avalanche have a Twitter hashtag of #WhyNotUs to commemorate their 2014 Stanley Cup playoff run in a few weeks. #WhyNotUs implies why anyone should count the Avalanche out when it comes to their Stanley Cup championship chances.

It’s refreshing to see the swagger is back. It’s refreshing to see the Avalanche have high standards again instead of trying to get by in the last few years. This means the Avalanche are back to their championship or bust roots going back to when they moved from Quebec to Colorado in 1995.

The Avalanche making the playoffs this year means they are back after recent years of bad hockey that almost killed the hockey fanbase in Colorado for good. Thank Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy for bringing the franchise back to life. Thank Josh Kroenke for having the foresight that Sakic and Roy can lead the team back to prominence.

The turnaround started on Opening Night when the Avalanche had a 6-1 blowout victory over the Ducks. That was a sign this was going to be a different hockey team. They were going to play with a professional effort that has been lacking under previous head coach Joe Sacco. It was what Roy demanded out of himself when he was a NHL goaltender, and it was what he expected out of his players as head coach.

For a point of emphasis that things are going to be different with the Avalanche, Roy screamed at several Ducks players and Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau after the game. He was upset Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy committed a cheap shot on Avalanche rookie star Nathan MacKinnon by hitting him in the knee. Roy not only had MacKinnon’s back, but him screaming at Boudreau shows teams will no longer take liberties of pushing the Avalanche around. It was message clear.

Not only have young players developed into stars, but they figured out how to win tight games and how to finish a team off.

The Avalanche have been consistently good all year. They have beaten elite teams, and they never had any mail-it-in effort.

When the Avalanche were off to a great start, it became clear they were going to be a playoff team this season. The team was talented enough to not make it. They have so much firepower on offense in players like Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly and Paul Stastny for them to not be a fluke. They also have a good goaltender in Semyon Varlamov, who leads the NHL with 38 wins.

The difference maker is Roy. There is no question about it. This is the same team from the last few years when they were losing. It shows how coaching is so important when it comes to developing players. He has had success in getting these guys to know how to win. His ability to match lines and put guys in a position to succeed is what stands out. He gives his players reason to believe. This is why he will win the Jack Adams Award.

No one is surprised that the rookie head coach has had success quickly in the NHL. He has always been a great coach going back to his Quebec Remparts days in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He has always paid attention to detail, and he was a natural at leading when he was in the bench.

With Roy’s success with young players in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the timing was right for him to coach the Avalanche’s young players. It was his turn to advance in his coaching career, and the Avalanche needed him to provide direction to the young players. It was a natural fit for both parties.

Keep in mind the former Avalanche goaltender was not coaching the Avalanche for nostalgic reasons. He took the job because he knew he could win the Stanley Cup with the talent the team boasts.  His belief is what makes the players and the organization believe they can hoist Lord Stanley this year.

In his role as vice president of hockey operations, Sakic deserves credit for getting it right with Roy as coach and drafting MacKinnon over popular choice Seth Jones in the 2013 hockey draft. He has fostered a trust with players and management, which was not the case when Pierre Lacroix was running the hockey operations in the last few years. He wanted the young players to understand they have to take ownership of the team in leading to excellence, and he made sure there was not going to be any acrimonious relationship with the players that took place under Lacroix.

Sakic and Roy share the same vision and passion of bringing the Avalanche to excellence. They know what it takes to win being that they had success as players on the same team. They take pride in the franchise being that they played for them, so they have vested interest in the team’s success.

They achieved success this year, but to them, it’s Stanley Cup or bust. They don’t want to settle for anything less. It’s what they have been taught all their lives, and they want to ingrain this to the younger generation of Avalanche.

Winning season, playoff appearance and high standard for the Avalanche is something to celebrate.

Contact or follow Leslie Monteiro at @LightRodWriter

Leslie Monteiro

Leslie Monteiro

Leslie is a contributor for Lightning Rod Sports. He covered high school sports in Bergen County out in North Jersey, and has written op-ed columns on sports such as Bleacher Report and NY Sports Digest.

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