It's been almost a week since the Avs lost to the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of the 2010 Western Conference Quarterfinals. Now faced with another month and a half of Av-less hockey, it's time for me to get all my thoughts on the 2009-10 season down on paper (blog).
I can safely say that this will go down as one of my favorite Avalanche seasons. It started off with a trip to Denver to see Joe Sakic Night, an event that I will never forget and registers as my favorite live sporting moment of all time. On that night, the Avs beat the Sharks and for most fans, it felt good to know that this team of unknowns wasn't going to go 0-82.
Then they started winning - and winning easily. They got off to a 10-1 start and were top of the Western Conference. Though they started to slowly come back to Earth, they never crashed, proving countless "experts" wrong.
Through February, Colorado had a decent chance for a Northwest Division title, but some disastrous third periods prevented that from happening. Instead, the Avs sputtered down the stretch but managed to hold onto the 8th seed in the West.
They lost to the Sharks. Season over.
I skipped some things along the way.
I, like many Avalanche fans, was shocked that Ryan O'Reilly was on the opening night roster. I figured he'd be sent down before the 10th game and that would be that. "Radar" or "The Factor" played in the 10th game, however, and settled in quite nicely to the third line center role for the entire season. O'Reilly was the best rookie in the league the first part of the season, and though his scoring dried up in the latter part of the season, his defensive play (especially his work on the penalty kill) more than made up for it. The Avalanche hadn't had a true third line center since Stephane Yelle left so many years ago. That problem has been fixed.
I could pretty much just go down the roster listing the surprising performances put in over the course of the year. Here are four more:
TJ Galiardi went from fourth line center to first line left winger/penalty killer and became a semi-legend in the playoffs. Gali is the ultimate flex-player, giving the Avs great versatility moving forward.
Brandon Yip was on a torrid goal scoring pace after being placed on the roster for a few games. He saw limited ice time early on, but Coach Joe Sacco recognized the effort he put into every shift. Yip became a go-to type player and will likely be a 2nd or 3rd line winger next year.
Matt Hendricks, aka "The 1-5" by Denver Radio commentator Mark Mosher, consistently put more effort into one shift than Tyler Arnason did in all his time with the Avalanche.
Coach Joe Sacco was supposed to be a transition coach. In other words, he was supposed to get through the next year or two and give Patrick Roy the reigns whenever Roy was good and ready. No longer the case. Sacco is now a Jack Adams candidate and deservedly so. He took a team full of rookies and managed to make them completely buy into his system. The up-tempo offense displayed by this Avalanche roster is exactly what was promised by Granato and Quenneville, but never delivered.
The Non-Goalie MVP
Chris Stewart - Kid was sent down mid-season because he did nothing on the ice. Can you say BUST? Oh, sorry..he was just biding his time. Apparently, getting sent down to Lake Erie for a couple games has the ability to completely transform a player's game. Due to some injuries, Stewie was given another chance on the Avalanche squad and became the leading goal scorer with 28 for the season. Stewart was dominant at times, using his speed and strength to punish defenders.
Matt Duchene took over the role of most exciting player in his first year as a pro. Dutchy didn't really get it going until mid-season, but if posts counted as goals, Duchene would have scored 50 this year. Avalanche fans should find it ironic that he seemed to start producing after a game against Tampa Bay, home of Steven Stamkos whose rookie season basically mirrored Duchene's.
Did I forget anyone?
Words can't describe this man's awesomeness. We've been waiting for over 6 years to find a goalie that could backstop an Avalanche team. We've suffered through Aebischer, Theodore, Budaj, Raycroft, Kolesnik, and whoever else I'm failing to or not caring enough to remember. ANDERSON IS THE GUY. Not only does he know how to give one hell of an interview, Andy is a workhorse. He started 68 games this season and was still fantastic against the Sharks in the first round. He's the reason why the Avalanche were able to win games this season. Andy is the 2009-10 MVP. ANDY, ANDY, ANDY.
Video Fix Galore
Coming up this weekend, the best Avalanche moments of the year compiled in video format.
What a season. There are going to be plenty of good years ahead for this squad. After last year's horror, the 09-10 season was a joy to be apart of.