Avs Have Bright Future with Youth

At the start of every season, all 30 teams in the NHL have
one goal in mind: winning the Stanley Cup. Going into training camp, the
2009-10 Colorado Avalanche were bestowed a fate of another terrible season,
with the chance to try again in 2010-11.

What a difference a year can make?

Not only did the Avs make a big turn-around, but did it with
a new general manager, new head coach, new assistant coaches, and many new
faces in the lineup. In addition to the big turn-around, the Avs accumulated 95
points, compared to 69 in 2008-09. With the plus 26 differential in points, the
Avs made the playoffs, sitting in the eighth and final spot in the West.

Although the main goal for any given team is to win Lord
Stanley, this past season should not be put off as a failure, but as a successful
season.

The biggest question mark the Avs had going into the season
was if newly acquired goalie Craig Anderson could handle the number one
position. Not only did Anderson handle it, he was the backbone for much of the
Avs success this season. Anderson’s 38 wins and seven shutouts propelled the
Avs into the postseason, as well as proving that he can be the number one
goalie for the Avs.

Another unknown factor facing the Avs at the beginning of
the season was how all the rookies were going to play and if they could handle
the pressure of the NHL. Just as much of a surprise as Anderson was, the
rookies on this young team did not disappoint. With a combined 182 points, the
Avs lead all of the NHL in terms of points accumulated by rookies.

Matt Duchene led all the rookies on the team with 55 points
(24 G, 31 A) and has been named one of the three finalists for the Calder Trophy as the leagues top rookie.

On the other hand, all eyes were on first year coach Joe
Sacco, and how he would fair as a NHL coach. Many were scrutinizing GM Greg
Sherman for hiring an unknown, and not getting Patrick Roy to commit. Again,
all the critics were tight-lipped by the success and leadership that Sacco displayed
throughout the year.

This shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise to many who
follow the Avs and their minor league affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters. Sacco
was the head coach of the Monsters before being promoted to head coach of the
Avs. With already being part of the organization, Sacco had already known many
of the rookies on the Avs roster, seeing as most of them played for Sacco in
Lake Erie. With the success and leadership Sacco displayed, he is one
of the three finalists for the Jack Adams Award (Head Coach of the Year).

Despite having a successful year and a major turn-around
from the previous season, the Avs still have some issues that will need to be
addressed in the off-season.

A major issue that the Avs had during the season was the
fact that the Anderson saw the most shots in the NHL. This was a cause of the
Avs not being able to clear the puck out of their own zone, and at times not
playing “their style of hockey.”

Although the Avs did lose their composure a lot during many
games, a lot of this can be attributed to the age and the inexperience of the
team. This makes life a little difficult for Sherman, since it is unknown how
many of the rookies will play in their sophomore year.

Another area where Sherman needs to focus on is the special-teams.
The Avs power-play did finish 13th in the NHL, but the penalty-kill
finished 21st. Again, this is
tough for Sherman because he has seven defenseman, with a pair being young
(Kyle Cumiskey and Ryan Wilson), as well as a big question mark if Captain Adam
Foote is going to return.

It may seem that Sherman might be content with the team he
had at the end of the year and the success that the Avs had. However, there is
always room to improve, which means trading or letting some players go due to
free agency, and acquiring new faces to meet the needs of the team.

What
Sherman is going to do to improve his team is unknown, but should make for some
interesting off-season activity.

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