As the Colorado Avalanche enter their third year of the Joe Sakic-Patrick Roy front office era, they seemingly remain a lab test for the league’s stat debates.
The Avalanche were once again a squad whose possession stats peaked at “really bad, but at least not Buffalo Sabres bad” in 2014-15.
The difference between missing the postseason this past season and 2013-14’s triumphant run may have just been some combination of Semyon Varlamov being less superhuman and Colorado experiencing bad luck.
To the stat-leaning public, this was an example of a team playing over its head one year and then crashing to reality last season.
To Roy, it was a rare failure, as he explained to NHL.com.
“I’m here to win the Stanley Cup,” Roy said. “I’m not in Denver to see us missing the playoffs, I’m here to see us winning. I really want to make sure that’s the last time we’re missing the playoffs. It makes you very humble. First time I missed the playoffs as a coach in junior and the NHL.”
The Avalanche might be humbled, yet they’re also sticking to their guns by defying conventional wisdom as far as strategies and team-building go.
A year after respectable possession player and scorer Paul Stastny left town, the Avalanche traded away their other forward best known for being a rare beacon of light on a team that’s a fancy stats nightmare: Ryan O’Reilly.
One cannot totally blame the Avs for parting ways with a player who seemed out the door for some time, yet it perpetuates the theme that the Avalanche are bucking growing trends around the league.
That said, Carl Soderberg isn’t chopped liver, although he – like O’Reilly – will fetch quite a bounty for his work next season.
Actually, the haul for O’Reilly is quite intriguing: could Nikita Zadorov and Mikhail Grigorenko pay immediate dividends for the Avs? Considering how often this franchise invests in fading veterans, nabbing a couple potential blue chips could be crucial.
Francois Beauchemin is a fine defenseman, yet at 35, many wonder if he’ll be a letdown along the lines of Brad Stuart. Again, many of these moves ultimately fit into Colorado’s M.O.
The Avalanche seem content to do things their way, which makes them polarizing for some. However you feel about management’s broader moves, it’s foolish to count out a team that still boasts fascinating prime-age talent in Varlamov, Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Tyson Barrie and more.