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A franchise that has changed names, cities, countries, and leagues, the Colorado Avalanche originally started in 1972 as the Quebec Nordiques of the WHA. Following the 1979 merger, the Nordiques became an NHL team. Surviving in the league for the next 16 years, the team’s financial woes ultimately became too much to handle and the Nordiques were sold off to a Denver-based group. It was right around this time, in the aftermath of the Eric Lindros trade, that the team’s talent increased tremendously from all the pieces they were able to secure in sending Lindros to the Flyers. The net result was a new team, the Colorado Avalanche, that burst onto the hockey scene in unprecedented fashion.
Keeping a talented roster led by Captain Joe Sakic, and with other star players in Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote, things really solidified when Patrick Roy joined the team to take over in goal. After a spectacular inaugural season in Denver, the Avalanche amassed a record of 47-25-10, winning their division and punching their ticket to the playoffs. Pressing through the first two rounds, Colorado knocked off the President’s Trophy winning Detroit Red Wings in six games to reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history. Colorado swept the Florida Panthers to win the Stanley Cup.
The recipe for success in Denver proved to be sustainable. The Avalanche would go on to win their division every year until 2004 and make the playoffs every year until 2007 (not counting the 2004-2005 season which was cancelled due to the lockout). Another Stanley Cup would come for the Avalanche following the 2000-2001 season. A 52 win regular season set in place the momentum which carried this team throughout the grueling playoff tournament. Losing Forsberg to injury was not enough to rattle this team which hoisted the most coveted trophy in sports yet again. Sakic memorably passed the Stanley Cup immediately to Ray Bourque, the 22 year veteran sent by the Bruins to Colorado for a chance to finally raise the Cup.
While the Avalanche did make it as far as the third round of the playoffs the next year, they were defeated by the Red Wings in a seven game series and have not made it back since. In fact, prior to this year, the performance of the team had only afforded them one playoff berth since 2011. The 22-56-4 record of the 2016-2017 season was the worst in team history. However, just one year later a lot has changed. Finishing with a record of 43-30-9 (a 21 win improvement), the Avs saw themselves creep up in the standings and break through to the postseason. Although they would lose to Nashville in the opening round, there is reason to believe that the worst has passed for this club and that more good times lie ahead.
Head coach Jared Bednar was back behind the bench for a second season in Denver. Fully committed to bringing the team out of its slump, Bednar managed between relying on his veteran players to lead and his young players to bring energy and excitement all in an effort to right the ship. The Avalanche have some key pieces in place to help restore them to greatness. Between Nathan MacKinnon, Tyson Barrie, Mikko Rantanen, and captain Gabriel Landeskog there is plenty of opportunity to create something on offense. Rookie Alex Kerfoot had a great first year with the team. Goaltender Semyon Varlamov returned to action after hip surgery to resume his role as the starter, but went down again near the end of the season. He is working on getting healthy for the 2018-2019 campaign. Backup Jonathan Bernier shouldered the load in his absence before getting hurt in the playoffs and passing the torch on to Andrew Hammond.
While the past few years had been tough for Avalanche fans, there is plenty of optimism for the 2018-2019 season. Hopefully, inspired by legendary players of the past, the current squad can make a run for the Cup. Among those most revered in Colorado are Joe Sakic, Patrick Roy, Peter Forsberg, Adam Foote, Milan Hejduk, Rob Blake, and Ray Bourque. Additional information about the Colorado Avalanche can be found by clicking here.