To blatantly steal from a media colleague of mine, the Avs bandwagon is pulling out of the station. Jump on board or risk looking a fool to your fellow Denver sports fans.
After a 6-3 dumping of the Washington Capitals on Monday, the Colorado Avalanche improved to 5-0-0 to start the 2019-’20 campaign, just one win from tying the club’s best start since moving to Denver.
The early success of this Avs squad shouldn’t come as a terrible shock, however. Even the national media pontificators heading into the season seemed to tap Colorado as the trendy pick for a deep playoff run — or even candidate for a Stanley Cup.
But four years into Jared Bednar’s tenure as head coach, the intoxication of success early on this season may have, for some, masked the lumps this team took just a few short years ago.
The Avs tapped Bednar to replace Patrick Roy just before the start of the 2016-’17 season after the team legend abruptly stepped down as head coach and vice president of hockey operations.
That season, Colorado finished last not only in their division and conference but in the entire NHL.
But that season, Bednar told “The Drive” last week, the Avalanche made a conscious decision to get “younger and faster” and build the team around Colorado’s “young core star players, such as Nathan MacKinnon, Gabe Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen.”
The following year, the Avs took step one: earn a playoff berth. Step two came last season, when not only did they make the playoffs but went seven games into the second round before exiting.
Bednar said the club welcomes the expectations that come with being an up-and-coming roster in the NHL because if his team meets them, it’s another step forward in the evolution of the Avalanche.
“Every year, we’re just trying to take another step forward. I think we’re in a good spot coming into this year,” Bednar said. “The guys are hungry because they got a good taste of the playoffs and winning that round last year.”
In three-plus seasons, the Avs decided to dump the expectation of being competitive in the short-term to build for long-term success. And in that time, they’ve gone from worst to — at the present — first.
As the premier franchise in Denver pro sports at the moment, perhaps the other teams around the city (looking at you, Denver Broncos), should take note regarding the Avs’ blueprint for success.
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