Why the Avalanche are for real
From 1996 to 2002, the Avalanche won two Stanley Cups (1996 and 2001), appeared in six Western Conference Finals (1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002) and were a Cup contender year in and year out. These teams had depth, goaltending and proven winners and as a whole, were a franchise to be reckoned with.
After 2002, however, the franchise was extremely inconsistent. In fact, the team has not made the playoffs since the 2009-10 season.
Now, the Avalanche are on the upswing and are one of the top teams not just in the Western Conference, but in the entire league. As of this writing, the Avalanche are fifth in the Western Conference and seventh in the NHL with 89 points.
There are many reasons why the Avalanche have been successful this season. For starters, they now have the right management and right head coach leading this hockey club.
Back in May, the Avalanche promoted former franchise great and Hockey Hall of Famer Joe Sakic to vice president of hockey operations. In his role, Sakic was responsible in bringing in a new head coach and that guy ended up being former Avalanche great and one of the greatest goaltenders to ever play the game, Patrick Roy.
Roy has made the Avalanche one of the toughest teams to play against this season. This is a team that competes, works hard and does everything they can to win games on a nightly basis and because of Roy, now has that killer instinct.
This team is also successful because they know how to put the puck in the net. As of this writing, the Avalanche are sixth in the league in averaging just over three goals per game and when a team can do that in this league, they will win more often than not.
This Avalanche has hockey club currently has four players with at least 20 goals. Ryan O'Reilly (24 goals), Nathan MacKinnon (22 goals), Matt Duchene (22 goals), and Paul Stastny have all hit the 20-goal mark and with several more games to play, a few more guys could join that club.
Lastly, the Avalanche have also gotten strong goaltending from their number one netminder Semyon Varlamov. As of this writing, the man they call "Varly" is 32-12-5 with a 2.45 goals against average, a .925 save percentage and one shutout.
Under the guidance and tutelage of Roy and goaltending coach Francois Allaire, Varlamov, 25, has been a lot more focused in between the pipes. Varlamov challenges shooters, is in good position for first, second and third shots, does a much better job of controlling rebounds, and more importantly, wins a lot of hockey games (second in the league in that category).
While this is a young hockey club and one that has not made the playoffs in three years, the Avalanche appear to be primed and ready to reverse their fortunes this year. With Sakic and Roy running the show, winning is the theme and something that they will be committed to for the long haul.