The Colorado Avalanche are back on top of the hockey. For the third time in franchise history, the Avalanche have won the Stanley Cup.
It has been a long road for the Avalanche to get back to this place. 21 years to be exact. The last time Colorado lifted the Stanley Cup was all the back in 2001. It took some time for this mission to be completed. There were ups and downs along the way. Along with heartbreak and learning lessons, the players on this team grew together fixated on one goal. And that was to win the Stanley Cup.
Those on the outside do not know how hard the journey is to win the Stanley Cup. There are a lot of sacrifices that need to be made. Individual goals have to be put aside for the greater good of the group. If you look at the journey of this Avalanche team, you will realize getting back to this place of winning was not easy.
You could see that on the players’ faces Sunday night in Tampa when the Colorado Avalanche lifted the Stanley Cup over their heads. The group that has been together for so long finally was finally able to reach the mountain top.
Colorado Avalanche Patient With Rebuild
Just look at how far the Colorado Avalanche have come in such a short time. It all starts with the general manager and coach. During that season, Sakic hired Jared Bednar after Patrick Roy decided to step away as head coach of the Avalanche. That year under Bednar, the Avalanche had their worst season in franchise history recording just 48 points.
However, like Sakic, Bednar was patient with the group. Each season they grew and grew. Many wondered if Bednar was the right fit. However, Bednar showed he was capable of leading this group and pushing all the right buttons. Because under his guidance, the Colorado Avalanche are champions once again. Bednar has now won at every level in professional hockey. The ECHL, AHL, and now the NHL. That says a lot considering the world of what have you done for me lately.
And Sakic could have gotten rid of Bednar after their failures in the playoffs. And even after that first season, Bednar could have been gone. However, Sakic trusted Bednar to get the job done and he was rewarded. Sakic knew he was building something special in Colorado and his patience was going to be rewarded.
“That group of players, the guys that wanted to stick around and be part of the rebuild back five years ago — the Johnsons, the Landeskogs, the MacKinnons, the Rantanens — I’m just really happy for those guys,” Sakic said to media after Game 6.
Around Full Press Hockey
NHL: Back With A Vengeance: Nazem Kadri Delivers Again For Colorado
NHL: Colorado Avalanche Exploits Lightning Weakness in Game 1 Victory
NHL: Colorado Avalanche Find Hidden Gem In Artturi Lehkonen
NFL: Los Angeles Chargers Defense Starting to Look Formidable
MLB: Feast or Famine: Tigers Seek Offensive Consistency
PODCAST: Full Press Hockey Weekly: Ep 33: Stanley Cup Final Preview
Finding the Right Mix Matters
Speaking of Sakic, look how far he has come as well. Not only with his patience with the coach but as a general manager. Everyone was clamoring for him to trade Matt Duchene. He waited it out, made the trade when he was ready and got Samuel Girard out of that deal. In addition, he traded for guys like Devon Toews and Nazem Kadri. Not to mention signing Valeri Nichushkin from Dallas.
Ep 114: Aaron Rodgers, OBJ, and The New York Jets
by Full Press Coverage on March 25, 2023 at 12:09 am
Then there was the trade deadline of 2022 when he added Nico Sturm, Andrew Cogliano, Artturi Lehkonen, and Josh Manson. These players were crucial in the Avalanche winning a Stanley Cup. Sakic knew what he needed to get to push this team over the edge. Sometimes the biggest deals are not the most effective deals.
All these players played an important role in the Avalanche winning. When guys like MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen were out of the lineup, there was Kadri to step up to fill the number one center role. When Kadri went down, Rantanen played center while Lehkonen went to the top line and Nichushkin played the wing. Lehkonen was the steal of the deadline. Lehkonen not only sent the Avalanche to the Stanley Cup Final but he is credited with the Stanley Cup-clinching goal in Game 6.
Then there is the goaltending. When Philipp Grubauer left via free agency, he traded for Darcy Kuemper. Kuemper has played well this season, but when he has gone down to injury, there was Pavel Francouz ready to go. Having two goaltenders that can play is important to the success of any team. Each goalie recorded six or more wins in the players. There was some doubt about Kuemper, but he got the job done. Again Sakic’s patience paid off. He brought each player in for a reason. They had a role on the team.
Drafting Talent Propelled Colorado Avalanche To Greatness
But having depth is not the only thing. You have to draft well too and the Avalanche did that over this time as well. As Gabriel Landeskog said post-game to Emily Kaplan when asked on what teams should do to copy the Avalanche, “Find a Cale Makar somewhere.”
During that horrible season of 2016-17, the Avalanche finished dead last but did not have the number one pick. Makar fell to them at fourth overall. After finishing college, he jumped right into the NHL and never looked back. Makar was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as Playoff MVP with 29 points in 20 games.
In addition to Makar, the team drafted Alex Newhook and Bowen Byram. When Girard got hurt, Byram’s minutes increased and he adjusted accordingly. The trio of Toews, Byram and Makar have backstopped the Avalanche defence corps. Newhook was a crucial depth player, especially late in games.
Winning Built Through Heartbreak
Through all the heartbreak and disappointments of the past three years in the second round, the Avalanche had a mission in mind when the 2021-22 season started. Anything less than a Stanley Cup Championship was going to be a disappointment. Fueled by MacKinnon’s comments, getting past the hurdles of the second round, dealing with injuries along the way, and needing to close out another series on the road, the Colorado Avalanche proved to be worthy Stanley Cup Champions.
Leave a Reply