When the season kicked off and people would ask me who are the teams to watch out for this year in the Western Conference, the Colorado Avalanche were high on that list. Clearly, even the casual fan could tell you that the Avs are no longer on that radar screen.
Since Jan. 18, the Avs are 2-16-2 and have yet to win a game this season when they score two or less goals. How has this happened? Well an identity crisis in the locker room and embarrassingly bad goaltending are two great places to start.
An article from The Denver Post's Terry Frei yesterday reminded me about the collapse of the Avs in 2009, where they won only four of their last 22 games and fell to last in the Western Conference. Is it déjà vu all over again for Avs fans? Players would argue that every season is completely different and it’s unfair to compare the two meltdowns
I would agree completely, but fans tend to only see the similarities not the differences in our teams year to year. While only four players on the current roster finished out the 2008-09 season, they are critical pieces now and then; particularly Peter Budaj, Milan Hejduk and John-Michael Liles.
Calling goaltending inconsistent for the Avs this year is really too nice. Their goals-against average (3.40) is ranked 30th in the league. The goaltenders get no help on the penalty kill, either, which also sits in last at only 76.5 percent. No goaltender for Colorado this season has been able to establish any sort of confidence to allow coach Joe Sacco to keep with either Peter Budaj or Craig Anderson (now with the Ottawa Senators).
Anderson, the only player who pulled together a six-game winning streak back in December, was fortunate enough to be traded right as things started falling downhill for the Avs. Now the Avs have two goaltenders that have been struggling all season instead of one, now that Brian Elliott has replaced Anderson.
It is disappointing that with talented young players like Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny and David Jones, the Avs can’t seem to figure out how to put the pieces together make this team as dynamic as it was advertized when the season started.
When looking at the current roster the Avs are in the middle of a “passing of the torch” from the Avs of old (Milan Hejduk, Adam Foote, etc.) to the Avs of the future. Until this transfer is complete I don’t see this team being successful. While I am not in the dressing room, I find it hard to believe the younger players being able to find their voice and display leadership, while the legends of years past look over their shoulders.
We have all seen the success NHL teams have had moving towards building their franchises around talented, young, fast, offensive players in recent years; the Avs are close to having the right nucleus of players that fit that mold. But as long as these young players look to the older generation on their team for leadership while the older players look to their young teammates to be the playmakers, this team will go nowhere.
It is time for the Avs to go young, and let the players that have shaped the Avs over the past decade move towards front office roles or the golf course so that Stastny and Duchene can make the Colorado Avalanche their own. Given the opportunity now for a top draft pick next year, the time for this transfer is now.
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