A Remarkable Year

BY: Stacey Gerhart

The Colorado Avalanche season is officially over and although the San Jose Sharks kicked the Avs out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the first round, they still had a remarkable year.
As an Avalanche fan I really didn’t expect a whole lot at the beginning of the season – it was supposed to be a rebuilding year. You don’t usually expect a hockey team who finished in last place the prior year to come out strong and dominant and make their way into the playoffs – especially when “Super Joe” decided to retire during the off-season, and when the team acquired an entirely new coaching staff as well as a ton of new, young, talented players.
As the new season progressed I realized what a great team and coaching staff we really had. Our brand new goalie, Craig Anderson, turned out to be an outstanding net-minder and he showed great skill and confidence during the playoff series against the Sharks. In front of Anderson, there were numerous new faces that stole the show.
At the beginning of the season people were wondering just how long Duchene and O’Reilly would play in the NHL their rookie year before they tired out and were sent down to Lake Erie. Defying all odds, both of them played the entire season and only got better with each game. Galiardi and Yip also showed that they came to play. The young rookies were helped along by seasoned veterans – Foote, Hejduk, and Yelle – but the rookies also revived a spark in the older players of the game, which resulted in a much faster and youthful hockey team overall.
However, it is not just about the players. The new coaching staff did a great job melding a team of young and old. Coach Sacco, who had never coached in the NHL prior to this year, showed that he was a force to be reckoned with – he is even a finalist for NHL Coach of the Year!
Watching the Avs play this year was such an exciting and memorable experience and even though they were unable to progress further into the playoffs, it was still so beneficial for all of the young members to get a chance to experience what playoff hockey is all about.
Going from last place in the league during the 08-09 season to the first round of the playoffs this year is an amazing feat – I can’t wait for the next season to begin! I do however have a few suggestions for practice during the off-season. I think it would be beneficial for the team to work on acquiring both better puck possession and passing skills which would ultimately enable them to enter the zone without having to dump and chase, as they did so frequently this season. With better puck possession and passing comes better offensive play – which we severely lacked against San Jose. Another thing that really irked me this season was how frequently we gave up the puck in the zone due to the fact that all three of our forwards were clustering in the same corner down low, leaving no one to pass to for a scoring chance once the puck was free. At times it was like watching young children play soccer – when they all just cram together and run after the ball because they don’t yet understand the concept of playing a position. And my last suggestion would be to play Budaj more. Anderson had a great season and I feel he has every right to be our regular, full-time goaltender, but I really do feel that he got burnt out and he should have had more breaks during the regular season. The coaching staff should also be quicker to replace Anderson with Budaj when Anderson is having an off-night in goal.
Overall, as an Avs fan, I’m ecstatic about the season and how well the team played. It can only get better from here. The motto for next season: STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS OR BUST!

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