Colorado Avalance – Ready to push for the playoffs?

Now that the Colorado Avalanche have a new coach, they can finally focus on their upcoming season which I think should see them pushing for a playoff berth after a two-year absence from the post-season.

Jared Bednar comes in on a three-year deal to lead the Avs after the sudden resignation of Patrick Roy, Bednar comes in after leading the Lake Erie Monsters to the AHL Calder Cup last year. A career AHLer and ECHLer, 44-year old Bednar is making a big jump by taking his first coaching job in the NHL but the timing must be right. Since hanging up his skates in 2002 he’s been in a coaching role straight away taking an assistant role with the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays. After five-years as an assistant he was promoted in 2007 to lead the Stingrays and in his second year in charge he captured the Kelly Cup. After that success he went onto the AHL where he’s been ever since.

His first stop was with the Abbotsford Heat in 2009 as an assistant before moving on to a two-year stint with the Peoria Rivermen as head coach.
After that he began a three-year stint with the Springfield Falcons (two-years as assistant and one as a head coach) before moving to his final AHL employer where he lead the team to a 43-22-11 record and their first playoff appearance since 2011, going all the way to defeat the Toronto Marlies in six games in the final.
Now Lake Erie has changed their name to Cleveland and Jared Bednar has changing his location to Colorado.

I can talk as much as I want about what Bednar has done in his previous roles, he does seem to have a pretty impressive resume, but honestly what makes a good coach? I’m asking you because I don’t know.

What this post is really about is how the Avs are ready to make a step forward in their organisation. I don’t know why Roy left and I don’t know if Bednar will ruin the Avs or lead them to glory, what I do know (or at least convincingly pretend to know) is the quality of player is where they look most impressive.

Obviously Nathan MacKinnon is probably the guy you’re going to single out as one of their biggest offensive contributors, but this is a team that isn’t shy of talent up front.

Matt Duchene possibly hasn’t done as much as he could (59 points last season) but he has shown signs of huge potential if he can get back on track. In 2013-14 he posted a career high of 70 points, and the year before in the lockout shortened season he could’ve done better after posting nearly a point-per-game with 43 in 47 appearances. If Duchene can get going he’ll be another key component to the Avs hopeful success.

Joining MacKinnon and Duchene is captain Gabriel Landeskog, another player who hasn’t lived up to his potential in recent years, but as a leader under a new coach don’t be surprised to see the 23-year old really go hard this year to prove his offensive prowess as well as his two-way play. His numbers aren’t bad, who’s going to scoff at three-straight years of 20 or more goals and four of his five seasons in the league he’s posted 20+ goals, he’ll probably get close to 30 this year, at 23-years old he’s already a highly mature player on the team and in the league.

It could be a bad thing that most of the Avs best players are under the age of 26, but with veteran guys like Jarome Iginla, Carl Soderberg on the front end as well the Avs have a decent mix up front which should make for a more exciting offense than the team that was bottom 10 in goals scored last season.

Now they say defense wins championships and looking at the Avs from the blueline and back, they have a very good group of guys that could be the difference maker.

Obviously the three forwards I highlighted are the ones you’re going to notice, but the Avs do have a solid defensive unit. They re-signed Tyson Barrie to a big money contract and he joins Erik Johnson as possibly the two leaders on defense.

They’ll be hoping that Fedor Tyutin can bounce-back after a disappointing year, they signed him to a deal this summer and he’ll likely be a solid guy who could slot into the team’s top-four guys but two youngsters are the ones I’m most excited to watch.

It’s not often young defenseman really flourish, it’s a hard position to master but I think 6’5” Nikita Zadorov is really going to start making a name for himself as a big, physical two-way defenseman and if Chris Bigras can make the team out of camp he’ll be a solid bottom pairing guy as he makes his way to becoming an NHL defenseman.

Semyon Varlamov will be back between the pipes for the Avs with Calvin Pickard pencilled in as the backup for the year. Varlamov has shown signs of brilliance since he was traded from the Washington Capitals to Colorado but he’ll really need to up his game after a poor year last year, finishing with a .914 save percentage, but he was on a team that gave up the most shots against on average last year.

Offensively the Avs are ready if you ask me, they’re young guys are ready to flourish and they have the right complimentary players in place, it’s from the blueline back that the Avalanche really need to improve and I think they’re going to take a big step this year. If they can direct pucks the other way and take a bit more pressure of Varlamov there’s no reason why Colorado can’t try and sneak their way to their first post-season berth since 2014, and with a new coach at the helm it’s going to make them one of the more interesting teams to watch this year.

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