From the Staff’s POV: Playoffs and Building a Solid Base

Good morning all. With the dawn of Colorado’s first playoff appearance in some time, we asked the BR staff to talk about some of the effects this accomplishment should and will have on our beloved team going forward. “Just happy to be here” is fine for now, but there will be expectations over the summer and into next season, both from the fans and the players and staff as well.

 

 

What do you want to see the Avs take away from this first playoff series in 4 years?

Rudo: Congratulations Avs you made the big dance, now more than ever it is important that you stick to the ideals you came into this year with. Younger faster. Big moment late in a critical game situation? Roll the kids out there, you have an opportunity to give these kids some incredibly valuable experience in this series. They might mess it up but there is nothing to lose here and everything to gain. Continue to learn and grow as a squad, do not fall back on trying to play the vets 22 minutes a night not only because it won’t work but also because trying to squeeze out playoff wins the wrong way isn’t what this team needs.

NoNeedToYelle: I want to see the team compete in every game and take 6 more meaningful hockey games of experience with them into the offseason.  Put some good stuff on tape and use this as a learning experience for what it takes to be a great team. I’m with the majority of people who think that Nashville wins the series, but even in the losses I want to see a team that proves they belong in the playoffs.  If we can keep the series to a -2 to -4 goal differential over 6 games I think we will have accomplished that.

I also want to see the team prove that they don’t need to rely on a hot goalie to be competitive in the series.

SeaMill: Making the playoffs is a big step for this young team. I would have to double check but this could be the least playoff experienced team in the modern era. Our players with the most playoff experience is Wilson (47), Nieto (23), and Bourque (15). Getting just some playoff experience is the most important thing. Teaching these guys how playoffs are played and what it is going to take to move on and take the next step. Take this whole series as a learning experience and play against the cup favorites.

QueenJK: Experience should be the largest takeaway and it’s something that can’t be taken from the players. What gives the experience meaning is if they can continue to build on it and especially as a team. The players have expressed that getting a taste four years ago doesn’t really do much for them now. I hope some of the younger players have big games as something they can personally build off going into next year.

Professor Oak: I want to see the Avs be competitive.  That’s all I truly swear about. There’s usually a sweep or two a year (I think there has been five in the past four years), so if they get swept, just make it close games.  I don’t want every game to be 5-2. If the Avs take one game, awesome, if they take two, congrats, you get another home game and more revenue. For me, all wins are icing on the cake if that cake is competitive.

Ace O’Dale: When we discussed these questions at the beginning of the season, I predicted the Avs would finish out at 84 points and might have been a bubble team. So, as far as I’m concerned, this season is a vast improvement. Now, for what I’d like the Avs to learn from this? A) #YoungerFaster is more than just a development philosophy – it can be a winning strategy as well, and B) last season wasn’t at all normal, so … #StayHungry.

jdkpirate: I want to see the Avalanche come away with some swagger. Ideally, they come away with confidence they can compete against arguably the best team in the NHL and they know what to work on to prepare for an even more successful season next year. Also, it would be great to see the Andrighetto-Jost-Kerfoot line develop more scoring chops. Also, the knowledge they can defeat cats. Just sayin’.

Mike: Have fun. Try hard. Learn. No debilitating injuries. I’d like them to be in games and not blown out. I’d like the coaching staff to adjust and be willing to play to the team’s strengths. Give the guys that are a part of the future plenty of minutes and let the team grow together.

The Voice of Vlad: The Captain said it best during his post-game comments after the regular season finale against STL.  “We want more,” he said.

The Captain isn’t satisfied with just barely squeaking into the postseason.  You can bet he wants more for his teammates than just a last-minute finish next season after this playoff run ends.

This team shouldn’t be satisfied with (potentially) being shown the door by Nashville.  Expectations for next season must be higher. Don’t want to be thrown to the wolves of the Western Conference at the start of the postseason?  Go out there for 82 games starting in October and use Landeskog’s, “We want more” mantra as a rallying cry for better positioning for the playoffs next year instead of using a last-place wild card finish as the benchmark for a successful season.  Another eleventh hour finish next season won’t do his words justice.

The Avalanche can be happy to be here this postseason after throwing off the chains of humiliation from last season, but they should be far from satisfied with a short playoff run.

“We want more.”  This is the takeaway.  If they want more, they have to prove it next season.

earl06: However this plays out I hope the Avs can hold their heads high at the end. Not a crushing defeat or a sweep that they were never in but a competitive playoff run where they gave their best and the outcome was just. This is a building block for next year so it’s important where their minds are at the end of the season.

 

How do you see making the playoffs affecting the organization over the summer and into next season?

Rudo: I don’t think it will have much impact during the offseason to be honest. The Avs are on the path, stick to the plan. Come the start of next season is where I hope to see its effects on the players mentality. The Avs will come into next year confident, they know they can get to the playoffs because they’ve done it before. Playoffs are by no means a given for the Avalanche next year, any avs fan that has followed the team for the past 5 years or more should know that all too well. Still, starting off next season on the right foot could go a long way in ensuring they do get there. If they do get there again, who knows, maybe even I will find the optimism to believe they could win a series or two.

NoNeedToYelle: I’ve said all along that this entire season has been about growing and gelling and that the results don’t matter as much as the growth exhibited.  To that extent I hope that nothing has changed in the mindset of the front office from the beginning of the year to now just because we made the playoffs.  The playoffs are great, but I hope they remember that they made the playoffs by focusing on development and growth. Don’t try to accelerate the growth of the team by adding arbitrary intangibles like grit, leadership, and toughness.  We have made this mistake in the past which gives me hope that they will steer clear of making the mistake again this time. Realize what got you to this point. Stay the course. Focus on adding talented hockey players to the existing team we have.  Beef up your scouting departments at the Pro and Prospect level. Work to acquire more draft picks and give this already talented and young team a backbone that will hold up to the rigors of a salary capped NHL. If the goal before the season was to get younger and faster then get youngerer and fasterer.

SeaMill: I think no matter how the season ended it was the best way the season could end. It wasn’t a miracle year to fog up the image of the team and it wasnt a tire fire like last season. If they lost against St Louis and missed playoffs by one point, then they would have been hungry for playoffs next year. And honestly, that might have been the best thing moving forward. However, I am elated that they made it in the playoffs and getting real meaningful playoff games against the cup favorite is going to give the guys a real taste of what its going to be like to be contenders. Their weaknesses are going to be illuminated against Nashville, in my opinion. The biggest one being depth scoring. If the young guys cant step up, then the front office should realize that they need to make some efforts to bolster their bottom 6 (and retool their 2nd line). This should also give everyone on the team, coaches included, some real insight into how to play. The Avs haven’t been in playoffs since the miracle year in Roy’s first year as coach and the only players left over from that season is MacKinnon, Landeskog, Varlamov, Johnson, and Barrie. Keeping the same roster next season as the one when they made playoffs is going to be important. The Avs are going to be a new team next season too. A whole offseason to bulk up guys like Kerfoot, Girard, Jost, etc. Kerfoot will have a 40 point season under his belt, and the others have all been given more responsibility at the end of the season which will carry over into next season and start it off with the success that have achieved. As long as the front office doesnt get overzealous with being a “playoff” team, not much should change (and it shouldn’t change). Let the young guys grow together. Not much physically should change, but the mental changes that come with this season should be very apparent next season, in my opinion.

QueenJK: As much as I do believe that the organization and Joe Sakic in particular have bought into the youth movement philosophy, there’s just no way that making the playoffs does not impact the evaluation and perception on where this team is in respect to their rebuild. 95 points and a playoff berth is now a high bar of expectations for next year as it’s going to be tough to not put staying in the playoffs at the forefront. High goals and expectations are great especially coupled with the belief they can get there but it’s more than just internal motivation that these things have an impact on.

Hopefully another takeaway from the season is the validation that the youth movement is not mutually exclusive to and perhaps is even conducive to winning. This is a lesson that needs implemented at the AHL level desperately and immediately. This is also something that the Avalanche need to continue implementing themselves. The youth movement should not be just a one time experiment when there’s no expectations. Now the task is to keep adding youth and to figure out how to manage and insert graduations from the AHL when there are meaningful games on the line. It’s also important to begin transitioning the rookies from this year into bigger roles moving forward.

Professor Oak: This is a loaded question, so let’s look at it internally.  First of all, it provides some short-term validation that last year may have just been the perfect storm of terrible things to happen to compound for one of the the worst seasons (possibly the worst) in the salary cap era.  Externally, it also shows the world that last year may have been a fluke (in my opinion it definitely was). This season, certainly wasn’t perfect, and there were many instances of luck and could be seen as a fluke as well, but even to many fancy stats followers, as fluky as this year was, it’s still impressive what they did when compared to last year.

This also provides some validation that committing younger and faster by trimming some of the fat (read: old, slow, bad attitudes) was been successful in this very small sample size.  I don’t think the Avs need to get any younger, but should continue to not sign 35 year old UFAs and keep developing from within. They still have Greer (may not be an NHLer) and Bowers (may take another year in NCAA and some AHL time) to still get younger in the bottom six, so let’s continue to be patient.

This goes into my final point.  What does this mean during UFA? Colorado has continually be seen as a solid destination for older players looking to retire.  The schooling system is great and it’s a beautiful place to live as evidenced by the amount of transplants that live in Colorado.  Now, all of a sudden, this is a super young team, that just made the playoffs, seems to have a future, and has a 22 year-old Hart candidate, a 21 year old who had possibly the quietest point per game season a player has ever had, a 19 year old spinny offensive defenseman than is also quite good at defense (and apparently hip checking!) AND a (in my opinion) most likely top ten pick from the senators next year, and depending on what they do this off-season a possible top five pick.  Oh, and LOADS of money to spend. If I’m John Tavares stuck on losing island, or John Carlson stuck on perpetual first-second round exit island, I’m looking at the Avalanche and really considering it. The appeal is there, and there’s no reason for it not to be.  All of a sudden, with all other things equal (contract length, money, etc.), players may choose Colorado over other destinations.

Ace O’Dale: Making the playoffs will likely become the new expectation, as it should. I heard a broadcast in which a couple of pundits derisively said of Colorado, “Let’s be honest, this is not a playoff team.” Yes, let’s be honest; they’re in the playoffs, therefore they are a playoff team. And this team is only going to get better.

My hope for the organization would be that they see the results of developing these youngsters as an impetus to put more serious focus on their new AHL team, the Eagles. My fear is that they see backing into the playoffs as an indication that the team needs more veteran experience and return to older/slower.

jdkpirate: Two things. First – the success this year should help make the team more attractive to some free agents looking for a new home. Second – the organization will get an idea on what tools they need to acquire to elevate the team to the next level. Third – it should help refine what they are looking for at the draft. Wait – that’s three things. Did I just fall into a Monty Python skit?

Mike: Depending on how the Sens lottery luck goes, I’m a little bummed that they’ve managed to derail another rebuild by over-achieving. Assuming we get no Ottawa picks, we need to see the FO hold course over the summer and not over-react to the over-achievement. Obtain assets, don’t trade them away. Make a prudent FA signing or two, not a splash. Yes, they aren’t the tire fire of last year. No, they aren’t a contender. Honestly, pay attention to the 1st round opponent. They’ve done a masterful job building a team. Carry the newfound confidence from making the post-season into focused offseason evaluation and development and take the next step.Do I think they can do that? I’ve got data that says it could go either way.

The Voice of Vlad: I think the playoffs will only serve to affirm Joe Sakic’s vision of moving ahead with the #youngerfaster blueprint he laid out last spring for the club.  He put his faith in younger players and felt so strongly in their performance that he largely stood still at the trade deadline (to the chagrin of many) for the second consecutive year (also, to the chagrin of many), and his players rewarded his faith with a postseason berth.  I think he will give this roster another chance to grow and develop together with minimal changes; perhaps a roster spot or two may clear out over the summer, granting rookies like Tyson Jost and JT Compher, along with Alex Kerfoot, more responsibilities now that the three of them have experienced a full season (and then some) of NHL hockey and will have a better understanding of what is expected of them as they start their sophomore campaigns.  I don’t envision any splashy deals with free agents this summer, as that may not fully align with Sakic’s blueprint in terms of how a free agent acquisition would mesh with the age of the young core. Where things will get interesting over the summer is 1. At the NHL Draft in Dallas and 2. How the new AHL Colorado Eagles will be integrated into the parent Avalanche franchise. The Avalanche have had varying success at the draft and even less success in player development in the minors, so both of these factors will be critical points for Sakic and Co. to address this summer and beyond.

earl06: First of all this is an affirmation that the path they are on is the right one. The greatest effect it can have is to encourage the Avs management to continue what they started and try to improve on it. No shortcuts, no garbage veteran depth players in camp, no consolidation trades, just the same focus on building the team and the organization from the ground up with the goal of too much talent rather than the continuous search for adequate players to fill out roles throughout the organization. Even if by some miracle they win the Stanley Cup in June there’s a ton of work to be done to make this a fully functioning hockey club. This is a good start and no reason to deviate from the plan. I bet they won’t.

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That’s it for the deeper stuff for a little while. Starting tonight we ride the emotional roller coaster of the Stanley Cup quest for a week or two at least. Hang on.

 

earl06

Scoring LW, punchy climber for the Ardennes classics, spirit guide

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