(Better than anyone expectedâ€¦Still disappointing)
Part One: Danâ€™s Back! & the Colorado Avalanche
Welcome back to all my loyal readers of ages past.Â I regret that I was unable to be with you during the joys (Rockies 2009 June-October, Nuggets 2008-2009 playoffs) and struggles (everything else) you went through.Â I was on a mission of great (and probably cosmic) importance.Â No, I wonâ€™t bore you with the details here. Â But know that I kept you in my heart the entire time, and also that I could not be kept away forever.
For I had the one thing that I knew would bring me right back to my post at ProSportsColorado.comâ€¦..Â a duty to tell you everything you need to think about sports.
And thus I have come at last to tell you the news of our beloved majors, and at such a crucial time too.Â The Nuggets at first place in the NW, and the Avalanche and Broncos currently enjoying playoff positions in the midst of their young seasons.Â And we canâ€™t forget the recently wildcarded Rockies, who are looking to solidify an already sturdy team in a presumably slow off-season, that they might finally win over an evidently weak division.
And what would you say would be the chances of these four well-positioned teams as they continue (or prepare to embark) on what could be the best collective season for major sports teams in Colorado history?
I would say fairâ€¦â€¦ at best.
All four teams are either in shambles or are just shells.
I am not saying this to cause a ruckus on the Internet, or to encourage doubt in four clearly above-average organizations.Â It is obvious that unless swift and decisive action is taken (or a good amount of luck falls our way) one or more of these teams will fall back to the pack or worse quite quickly.
Look, I understand. Â You are what your record says you are (or in the case of the Rockies, what the guys in Vegas predict your record will be).Â And I agree that greatness could be in order for any or all of these franchises if they correct the few problems they have. Â But the problems run deep, and said problems seem to lie in crucially important areas.
In order to understand more clearly the crisis that approaches each team, weâ€™ll have to go into the dirty details.Â Iâ€™m gonna do it alphabetically, so as not to play favorites (or unfavorites as the case may be.)
Colorado Avalanche—15-8-5, 0.625 of points earned, 2nd Northwest Division
So the Avs were supposed to be cellar-dwellers for the next four years.Â Oh how things can change quickly in the NHL.
Now we have a beast of a goaltender who no one thought would be good, two rookies who are rapidly making names for themselves (and who represent outstanding work by the Avsâ€™ front office on day one of the draft.) Paul Stastny is playing like an All-Star, Hannan is playing like he did when he removed Forsberg from a playoff series so many seasons ago, and it looks like we have a Center Factory that just pumps out quick, intelligent youths that we could use as hockey players or as trade bait.
The first month of the season was one of the best months (if not the best month) in franchise history.Â Impressive for a franchise that has won two Stanleyâ€™s Cups and a bucketful of division titles.Â But that is where the love-fest ends.
After the amazing 22 out of 28 points earned (0.786) in the month of October, the Avs got a pathetic 13 out of 28 points earned (0.464) in November.Â Remember, league average is around 0.525 percent of points earned, so 0.464 is awfully low.Â If the Avs keep up this pace, theyâ€™ll end up with 85 points and a seat on the living room couch after Tax Day.
Now, this is not the time to panic (there will be plenty of time for that later.)Â The Avs still sit at 2nd in the division and 4th in the Conference.Â Professional Hockey, more than anything else, is about avoiding long losing streaks.Â The best teams in hockey this year will lose 30 games.
What the best teams wonâ€™t do is lose 4 in row, or 8 out of 10.Â San Jose already went through a rough spell and has climbed back to the top of the heap, and all signs point towards Vancouver and the hated Red Wings doing the same.
The question is how to adjust.Â The answer is: fix the weakest partâ€¦..Goaltending.
Yes, I know Craigers is probably the best player on the team right now, but look at the stats per month:
October:Â 2.50 G/G
November:Â 3.71 G/G
In the past 12 games the Avs have held teams to 3 or less goals just 4 times.Â You cannot win a Championship or even make a run if you have to score 5 goals to win the typical game.Â What could have caused Anderson to start giving up a goal more pre game??Â Fatigue.
Anderson has started more games (27) this year than anyone in hockey, and we are tops in the league in games played so far.Â Pack more games into a tighter schedule and no nights off, throw in an above-average number of shots coming Craigâ€™s way due to pitiful defense, and you end up with a tired goaltender.
I say we take the 4.29 G/G goaltender play from Budaj every 6th to 7th game if Craig gets back to 2.5 G/G goaltending.Â And later in the year, when we get all the extra off days while teams catch up in games played, then Craig can get back to muscling out 15+ game stretches.
To me, the fact that this seems so obvious that it should have been done a month ago, yet wasnâ€™t, is reason enough to fret for the future of Colorado Hockey.Â What else is this coaching staff missing?Â Maybe a lot if a blogger who has never skated a day in his life caught an error this glaringly obvious.
(Read in next week as Dan exposes the soft underbelly of Denver’s favorite under-overachievers: The Broncos)