A look at the journey to the top for the NHL's most recent successful rebuilds, and why the Avs have a chance to follow suit
Tomas Vokoun thinks the Colorado are Stanley Cup contenders. Yes, Stanley Cup Contenders. Thoughts like that are liable to have blown a hole in the universe for offending Sir Isacc Corsiatti and the Law of Possible. Fortunately, after a bit of searching, I have located that hole and seen the future. The Avs will win the Stanley Cup within 3 seasons.
Okay, Okay, I sound pretty ridiculous right. I was pretty believable until I said the Avs would win the Cup, but for some justification on why it's possible I took a look at the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks of recent years, who went from the worst to first in only a couple of seasons. I found out the bottom of the NHL standings isn't like Atlanta - it's not where NHL teams go to die, but where they go to rise from the ashes.
Let's start with the Penguins. The 2005-2006 Penguins were able to rack up a whopping 22 wins and 58 points. While the Avs stank last year, and perfected the art of the tank, they still were a team that put up 30 wins and had 68 points. Back to the Penguins, the following season (2006-2007) they totaled 47 wins and 105 points, and punched a ticket to the NHL playoffs. Two seasons removed from their lowest point total in franchise history, the Penguins won their division and earned a birth in the Stanley Cup Final against Detroit. The following season they took home the cake. Within three seasons of being complete shit, the Penguins rose to the top, and became the shinola of the NHL.
The big jump occurred between the 05-06 and 06-07 seasons, so I took a gander at the rosters of those teams to see what changes were made. Two constants were Sydney Crosby was the leading scorer, and Marc-Andre Fluery was the starting goaltender. Two big names were on the team in 06-07 that weren't there a year ago (Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal). The addition of these two players gave the Penguins a trio of center-iceman to build their team around. During their Stanley Cup season those core players were 20 (Stall), 21 (Crosby) and 22 (Malkin). Sound familiar? So maybe this example isn't convincing because the Penguins got their hands on Canada's golden boy and the best player in the NHL. So lets buckle up and move on to Exhibit B.
Throughout most of the 80s and 90s, the Chicago Blackhawks were never very good. If Joe Sakic were a fighter he probably woulda chosen a Blackhawk back in the day, and Sakic woulda kicked his ass, because the Hawks had nothing going for them. In the two seasons following the lockout of 2004-2005 the Hawks posted seasons of 65 then 71 points, and received the 3rd and 1st overall draft selections for their futility. Draft choices which turned into Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Three years after the duo was united, and the Blackhawks were division and Stanley Cup champions. In many ways, the Avs are better suited for long term success due to their cap room. I probably spent more money at the Pepsi Center box office last season than was spent on player salaries.
So, what about the Avalanche? During the 2008-2009 season the Avs bumbled home with 69 points and drafted Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly. They already had Paul Stastny in the mix giving them a trio of centers. Sound familiar? The following season the Avs get a first hand look at the power of goaltending, and reached the playoffs. Despite not picking high in the draft, the Avs may have pulled off a steal in nabbing Joey Hishon. Last year the snow in the Avalanche melted in early January (way ahead of schedule), and now the team is picking 2nd and 11th overall in a week. The team made a few trades that stirred things up, but hey we got defenseman who I have high hopes for out of those trades (and was chosen first overall in 2006). That's a lot of high picks and quality talent added to this organization. Things may look bleak, but with a minor roster tweak this team will be far less weak and won't have to sneak to get a peek of the playoffs. If you think otherwise, get outta here freak. Taking a step back from whatever those last two sentences were, and looking at things objectively who's to say they can't make a jump similar to what they did two years ago or what the Penguins did in 06-07. Sure the Penguins added Malkin and Staal, but the Avs are adding Hishon, maybe Mueller and Flash, and God forbid the Avs add confidence to the roster (perhaps the biggest injury from last season). Maybe even that old fart goaltender from Florida will jump on board. A goaltender of Vokoun's caliber can make that much of a difference.
Tomas Vokoun isn't off his rocker, and he is a damn good goaltender. Sure he is in the twilight of his career. Geeze, it's been a longgg time since we've seen a goalie in his late 30-somethings, with a craving to drink from hockey's holy grail, put a team on his back and carry them to a championship. You know what else Vokoun coming to the Avs gives this team. Swagger. Yeah i said it. Old Spice guy has it. Avs don't. These. Un-sentences. Are. For. You. Grammar Nazis. You know why I can do that? Because I have swagger. Vokoun coming to the Avs is a huge lift for a lot of these young guys coming off a hard season, and frankly there are two things you need to win a Stanley Cup. Swagger and goaltending. Boston had both. Vancouver had neither. Vokoun brings each to Colorado.
I'm of the opinion that the Avs are about to catch lightning in a bottle. We all know or hoped it would happen eventually, but i'm telling you that the horizon is closer than you think. Try optimism on for size, because I'm excited for next season. I already know what happens because I can see the future, but I don't want to spoil it for the rest of you. All I'm saying is if Vokoun does indeed sign here, don't be surprised if the Avs are hoisting some silver cylindrical thing over their heads within the next three years. Start growing your beard now Duchene, and maybe it'll be ready!
... And that concludes the Yammerin from this Yeti for now...