Going into the season and continuing through the halfway point there is one buzzword that the Avs, their fans, and anyone else associated with the organization use: Process. The fans wanted to see the process, the Avalanche wanted to perfect their process on the ice, and the media has used the word enough times that it’s permanently ingrained in even the casual fans eardrums. I used B-R to weigh in on my take of the #process in my preseason preview. Now we sit at the midpoint of the season and I think we’ve done enough of that hockey. So let’s run down a quick Process Check.
Confidence, Development, Growth, Hope, Investment, Reboot or Rebuild, and Xmas: Regardless of the players on the ice or the results of the games these 7 topics encompass the things that needed drastic improvement before the Avalanche could turn the page from bottom feeder to stable franchise to playoff contenders. So where are we now:
Confidence: seizing opportunities, playing hungry, playing confident. When you look at players who have confidence one of the things you look for is keeping an even keel. Don’t get too high on the highs and most definitely don’t get too low on the lows. I think the Avs have done a good job this season of remaining confident in their ability. This season could have been derailed. If I remember correctly this team dropped to 4 or 5 games below .500 for the season on the back of a 4 game losing streak. The fans got a little clenchy, but the team did not. They fought through the tough stretch and believed in themselves, which is a pretty impressive feat for a team that is the 2nd youngest in the NHL. This one gets a (+) so far.
Development: I expected 13 players on ELC’s could make contributions this season. So far the number this year is at 11 if you count the half game that Vladislav Kamenev played in before his devasting injury. That’s an astronomical number considering that we also have 22 year olds Zadorov and MacKinnon on the roster as well. It’s going to be a long shot that we reach 13 and I may have been wearing some burgundy tinted glasses when I penned that number, but when you look at the success that this team has had while remaining committed to deloping the bevy of young talent we have (and acquiring more) it’s hard not to see that a bright future is still bright now that we’ve seen these players in extended action. These guys haven’t let us down. This one gets a (+).
Growth: Players taking the next step, Mack becoming a superstar, Rantanen pushing for 30 goals, and Compher becoming a legit 3rd line Center. This is perhaps the single biggest reason that the Avalanche are finding success this season. When given the keys to the bus the younger players on this team have started the ignition and put the pedal to the metal. Nathan MacKinnon is a bonafide superstar. Mikko Rantanen is not only on pace for 30 goals, but his assist numbers are way up too. JT Compher’s season has been derailed by injury, but he has stepped up his game and his role with the team as well. Nikita Zadorov is another player who I think is just starting to scratch the surface of his true ability, but the consistency is coming if it’s not already there. This is a (+).
Hope: I hoped to go into next years offseason feeling as if Joe Sakic is the right man for the job. On the NHL side of things I think Joe Sakic is making strides as an NHL GM. He seems to have an idea on the proper way to build out an organization in the salary cap era. On the AHL side of things I’m still left a little disappointed. I would have liked to have seen an overhaul of the hierarchy of decision-makers at the AHL level by now and I would like to see Mr. Sakic taking charge over some of the personnel decisions with the Rampage roster. And this whole agreement with the Blues to share a farm team has only muddied the waters even more. Let me be clear here: Joe Sakic deserves a lot of credit for what appears to be going on with the Avs this year, but he has a whole hell of a lot more to do before I’m fully confident that he’s the right man for the job. This one still gets a (-1/2) for me.
Investment: Invest in the infrastructure of the team and stop adding short-term fixes. The Matt Duchene trade certainly makes it seem as if Joe Sakic has invested in the infrastructure of the team. The minutes that our young players have received thus far this season make it seem that way as well. However, the waiver claim of Nemeth and the continued ice time that has gone to Bourque and Yak over Greer and Toninato seem to contradict the idea. I have reasons to be optimistic here, but with a potential playoff push and trade deadline on the horizon, I still think there’s not enough information yet to properly pass judgment on how invested the team is to being younger and faster. This one gets a (=).
Reboot or rebuild: What exactly are the Colorado Avalanche in the middle of here? I’ll be the first to admit that I thought the Avalanche needed to tear this sucker down and start from scratch. Trade EJ I said, trade Duchene for futures I said, Trade Barrie and Landy too while we are at it. That’s why I’m not a future NHL GM. As the season has progressed I think that the Avalanche have neither Rebooted or Rebuilt. But I do think they made a helluva good trade that has reshaped the organizational structure. This is probably the best mix of on-ice talent and prospect/asset pool we have had since the salary cap made the blending of those two factors a necessity. This one is on the right track and gets a (+) even if they found their path in an unconventional manner.
Xmas: Make me interested in the season through the Christmas holiday. This one is easy. There’s no person with an inkling of a brain who isn’t still interested in what the Avalanche are doing this season. This one gets a (+).
Overall process score: +4.5
Avs Recent Review
There is perhaps not a better image that describes the tear that the Avalanche has been on recently that the tweet below. But before you check that out, chew on these facts for a little:
- Colorado’s next win will have them surpass last seasons point total
- Mikko Rantanen has already surpassed his point total from last year
- Tyson Barrie was tied for the league lead in scoring for defensemen at the time of his injury
- Nikita Zadorov has surpassed his point total from last season
- MacK and Landy are 1 point away from last seasons point total
- Carl Soderberg has surpassed his point total from last season
- You get the point by now
- We’ve only played 41 games…
- And that leads us to:
Heroes of the Half Season (Three Stars) – MacK, EJ, and Soderberg
First Star – It’s almost becoming boring to write, type, and think about just how good Nathan MacKinnon has been this season. We here at Burgundy Rainbow put together a nice highlight package of his best plays. It’s only a Top 5, but it could easily have been a Top 10. He’s not only become THE unquestioned star of the team, but he’s become a star across the league. I’ve heard golfers say that when they get in a groove that the hole looks like a basketball hoop, well for MacK, he and his linemates probably think the net looks like the screen at a drive-in movie theatre.
Second Star – For all of the glitz and glam that Nathan MacKinnon brings Erik Johnson is my second star of the season for the exact opposite reason. Nothing he does is flashy, he’s not putting up the points of a Tyson Barrie, the Zmashes of Zad, or the spins of Girard, but he’s been the team’s silent assassin. Night in, night out it’s 27 minutes of solid hockey. Those who play with him, play better. He’s a vocal leader and a leader on the ice.
Third Star – Every team needs an unsung hero, and this season, not only does Carl Soderberg fit that bill, but he also fills another fan favorite role of unexpected hero as well. The Avs have remained committed to the youth movement this year and that is thanks in part to the role that Soderberg, Nieto, and Comeau have played in keeping Coach Bednar comfortable. Whether it’s killing penalties, giving the tough minutes in front of the net on the power play, or providing solid play at 5 on 5, Soderberg has offered the kind of consistency that coaches crave and teams thrive on.
A Penny For My Thoughts
I, like many of you, ummmm…..eagerly(?) watched the Olympic hockey squads being announced recently. I thought to myself, what’s the point? Men’s Ice Hockey at the Olympics without the NHL is like peanut butter without jelly or lamb without tuna fish. Having made that point, I will concede that I understand why the NHL does not want to allow players to participate, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Furthermore, I’m not so sure I care for the way the Olympics handled the crushing blow either. I would have liked to have seen an overhaul of the entire format. Perhaps they could have made it a purely amateur competition, perhaps they could have made it a 23 and under competition, but this hodgepodge of has been’s and never were’s just doesn’t do it for me. Count me out for this particular competition.
ICYMI – You can now show your support for Burgundy-Rainbow in yet another way. BR-Merch not only offers you a chance to rep the brand, but it also offers you a chance to help us continue to work to offer you the best possible coverage of the Avs that you all desire. We receive a portion of all sales that we plan to re-invest not into our wallets, but into our product. Thank you for the role you play!
Where Are They Now? – John Mitchell
I’ll admit it, I’m a John Mitchell fanboy. His time in Colorado will not reflect the player that he is or could have been. Instead of a swiss army knife type player on the bottom two lines where he could excel, he was often miscast as a Top 6 player. I don’t think that was the plan, but that’s often how things played out. But he was a good solider and gave it his all, and for that, I appreciate the years he spent here. So where is he now? After a few failed attempts to land NHL contracts on PTO’s he took his talents to Europe. He’s playing for the Thomas Sabo Ice Tigers in the DEL. Things appear to be going pretty well for ole Mitchabov over there as he was named the Player of the Month for December 2017.
Tune Of The Week
MFW the Avs Return from their bye week: