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Teammates congratulate Nathan MacKinnon #29 of the Colorado Avalanche after he scored a second period goal against the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on December 9, 2017 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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Evans: It’s time to raise the bar for the Colorado Avalanche

Teammates congratulate Nathan MacKinnon #29 of the Colorado Avalanche after he scored a second period goal against the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on December 9, 2017 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

It seems like a good time to check in on the Colorado Avalanche during its mid-season “bye” week:

1. Congratulations to Nathan MacKinnon on his All-Star selection.

The fifth-year dynamo is currently tied for second in the NHL in scoring.

Right now he’s emerging as the first real possible franchise player the Avs have had since the glory days.

Of course, Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, and company formed their considerable legends in the playoffs, something in which MacKinnon has scant experience.

2. Speaking of the playoffs …

It’s OK to put those kinds of expectations on the Avs … this year.

I guess it’s because Colorado has been so irrelevant for the last decade and the franchise has foisted youth movement upon youth movement on its fan base, leading to this perpetual “kick the can down the road” and “wait ‘til next year” groupthink among Avs fans.

Youth movements mean patience. Patience means an absence of real accountability.

Enough of that.

Colorado has enough of a veteran core — along with good, young talent around it — to be able to consider itself a legitimate playoff contender this year.

3. That means being a “buyer” instead of a “seller” at the trade deadline.

I’ve gone around and around on Twitter with Avs fans on this one. I like the idea of picking up a couple of veteran pieces for a playoff push.

I’m not advocating trading off any of the club’s top prospects. I’m not saying go after some 37-year-old with two years still left on his contract.

Every year there are players available making some money that non-playoff type teams are looking to unload for a middling prospect. The Avs could use a player or two like that.

Someone who has playoff experience. Colorado’s Stanley Cup contending teams were loaded with All-Stars and future Hall of Famers, and they still felt it was important to add pieces for the stretch run.

Not only are you adding a useful player, but also it tends to energize the locker room and give the team a boost knowing management has their back and believes in them.

4. Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar …

… Could walk straight down the middle of 16th Street Mall on a Saturday night and probably not be recognized, but the man is showing he belongs behind an NHL bench.

5. I love power forwards.

Growing up in New England, I was a big Cam Neely fan. There’s something about a strong, intimidating power forward that can mix equal parts skill and toughness.

Mikko Rantanen, all 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds of him, has already established a career high in points and should do the same in goals.

He’s quickly becoming one of my favorites.

6. As much as Avalanche diehards clamor for more talk about their team …

… Two decades of talking and covering sports in this town tell me that, unless you’re the Broncos, you better win if you want to get attention.

Just because Colorado has managed to surpass its point total from last year (It was the worst Avs team ever, by the way, so let’s throw them a parade), the average hockey fan has been slow to come back around. The Avs currently sit 27th out of 31 NHL teams in attendance.

Just being in the playoff hunt isn’t enough to get people back. They need to make the playoffs and play a competitive first round. That will start to bring the fans back.

But they have to make the playoffs. What better time than to start now?