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Its 2018 now and we are at the midpoint of the NHL season thus as an attempt to write more pieces in the new year I figured I would give some thoughts on the season having watched most of the games. First thing to bring up is the incredible rise of the team from a lowly 48 points last season to the current 47 at the midpoint. At times last season it seemed almost a guarantee that the team would lose and given the team having the sudden coaching change and change in team philosophy, the season was a lost from the start. During the off season GM Sakic did a good job of removing bad contracts and older players from the team in an effort to construct a faster team which took into account hockey analytics. This has paid huge dividends as the younger and faster Avalanche play a far superior system this season both in the offensive and defensive zones. The power play went through some rough stretches earlier in the year but has come on strong rising up to 7th as of this write up. The penalty kill has been sensational particularly in the month of December when the Avalanche killed 36 consecutive penalties. This success can largely in my view be attributed to the players buying into the system of coach Bednar.
The first 10 or so games were a bit of a mixed affair with the team appearing competitive some nights and unable to put forth a solid effort other nights. This appears retrospectively to have been caused by the rift of Matt Duchene still having not been traded in the off-season. But Sakic was able to get the huge haul of assets that he desired including defensman Samuel Girard, a product of the LHJMQ which pleases me, along with 3 or 4 picks for the upcoming 2018 draft. This has given the Avalanche a great situation to be in as a team with many flexible options to choose from whether it be trading the picks for assets or further development of those picks. Personally I would like Sakic to get some of the good players in the LHMJQ such as Groulx, Zadina, Dobson, etc. But we shall see what he decides. Being a product of the WHL he has shown an affinity for those particular players as of late.
I’m not going to spend all that much time covering the player achievements simply because that would take a while and everyone has outperformed last years numbers by the midpoint of this year. The question now is will this team of young inexperienced players jump up into the playoff picture a couple years earlier than expected or not. Personally I don’t think so only because goaltending has been average from both Varlamov and Bernier this season. They will need some stretches of exceptional goaltending in my view. Furthermore a couple of key pieces will be free agents this summer and ought to be moved before the trade deadline which could cause a decline due to more inexperienced players needing to fill rolls. But one thing is for sure this team is one of the more entertaining teams to watch this season which is a huge step up from last year. Its nice to see them able to skate with any time in the NHL and battling in these meaningful games. Its fun to be an Avalanche fan once more.