A Magical Season In Review
DENVER — In an abbreviated season, nearly lost to another lockout, the Colorado Avalanche could have taken the opportunity to skate by, and use the compressed schedule as an excuse for failure. Rather than falter, the team found inspiration in their Avalanche Ancestry, Avcestry, if you will: The legendary 2001 team that brought a second Stanley Cup to the city of Denver, and a first for hall of fame defenseman, Ray Bourque.
2000 - The Avs acquired lifelong Boston Bruin Bourque in a blockbuster trade deadline deal that some felt instantly transformed them into Cup favorites. Sadly, it was not meant to be that year, and Colorado was bounced from contention by the Dallas Stars in a disappointing game 7 loss on the road in the Western Conference Finals.
Determined to have home ice advantage in any future series, the Avalanche went on the following season to capture the President's Trophy, as the league's top record holder. "Mission 16W" became the mantra going into the playoffs that year, referencing the number of playoff wins required to hoist the Stanley Cup, a first in the 20+ year career of Bourque. That mission was accomplished, concluding with a memorable game 7 home victory over defending chamnpions New Jersey. History was made that night, and Mission 16W became the defining story of that playoff year.
2013 - Coming on the heels of a disappointing 2011-2012 season that saw the Avs streak of futility extended, the team finally reached a breaking point. They say those that ignore history are doomed to repeat it, this team would repeat history and return the franchise to glory. With that revelation, "Mission 16W2: The Legend Of Curly's Gold" was born.
On January 19th, the reinvigorated Avs, led by young captain Gabe Landeskog, began their quest with a blistering pace in January, that saw the team win three of their first seven games. Only one month into the brief season, and the Avalanche were nearly 1/4 of the way towards fulfilling their destiny.
According to a source from the comment section of AvesHockeyScoop.blogspot.com, a guy who works with head coach Joe Sacco's wife's boyfriend, Colorado's head coach had this to say:
"The culture of mediocrity had slowly poisoned everything we stood for in this organization. After a long discussion between the boys and I, and several bottles of gas station mash liquor, we needed direction, and a goal to shoot for. We felt that striving to keep from being eliminated from playoff contention in March, instead of December was an improvement, but still not good enough. We brainstormed for what seemed like hours. It wasn't until (Avs GM) Greg Sherman quickly downed an entire bottle of varnish, passed out and collapsed through a coffee table, that inspiration struck."
While nobody can explain how he got into the motel room without a key or by being seen by a single security camera, a man believed to be former Avalanche great Tyler Arnason*** was present that night. He had used scraps from a tattered magazine to fashion a crudely rolled marijuana cigarette. That magazine was the June 2001 edition of Sports Illustrated, with Ray Bourque on the cover, hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup.
In the past, the Avalanche would have been content with settling for second or third best. The 2013 Colorado Avalanche would no longer settle for anything than Number One, and they knew that nothing less than 16 Wins would make that a reality. After being written off for much of the season, despite several catastrophies, such as D Greg Zanon, all seemed lost. With two games left in the season, the dream of repeating Mission 16W looked to be as far-fetched as the hope of (Avs GM) Greg Sherman's consistent sobriety. True greatness would never allow a dream to die, and neither would these young men.
The Phoenix Coyotes took Colorado into a shootout on the penultimate game of the season, thanks to the heroics of something called a David Schlemko, and the shuffling carcass of Greg Zanon deflecting a puck into his own net. Sacco rallied his troops, and delivered a scotch-fueled interpretation of Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" speech (albeit highly paraphrased, and falsely attributed to Sylvester Stallone). To make matters worse, goaltender J.S. Giguere left the game with a groin injury, brought on by angrily punching himself in the crotch with his blocker in frustration with his defenseman, none of whom were wearing their ice skates at the time of the goal.
Much like the Coyotes themselves, Glory would not stay in Phoenix on this night. Matt Duchene and P.A. Parenteau both answered the call of greatness in the shootout. There was a collective gasp throughout the hockey world when the final buzzer sounded. The remaining Avalanche vaulted over the boards, threw their gloves and sticks to the air, and embraced each other in what was surely the proudest moments of their careers, possibly their lives. Nobody believed that they could do it again, but now had to choke back the bitter taste of their doubt, and pay their respects to a team of scrappy underdogs that battled against all odds and accomplished what they set out to do on day one of training camp. The sellout crowd in Phoenix, while visibly crushed by the loss, all stood to their feet, and slowly began clapping in unison as a show of respect to the sheer heart of those young men.
On Friday, April 26th, 2013, The Colorado Avalanche had won sixteen games. Mission 16W: Accomplished again. Few thought that in June, when all was said and done, that the Avalanche would lay claim to number one, but no amount of pinching will wake them up from this dream. Presumably, because the mission was not 17W, or perhaps out of pure sportsmanship and class, the Avs followed up that night by graciously conceding victory to the Minnesota Wild.
It will be a long time before we come back to earth from the highs of the 2013 season, and it's going to make 2014 one tough act to follow. Despite the off-season loss of Coach Sacco, who left to pursue a career in not coaching a professional hockey club ever again, the Avalanche still show promise for the upcoming year. It is believed that a former Avalanche goaltender will be taking over behind the bench, rumored to be none other than David Aebischer. Time will tell if fans will embrace Coach Aebi as whole-heartedly as they did when he became the Chachi to Patrick Roy's Fonzie in 2003, but one thing is for sure at this point in time:
The Avalanche are back in a big way, thanks to a little help guidance from Ray Bourque, Greg Sherman's crippling alcohol binges, and the Hockey Gods.
Mission Accomplished, baby. Mission Accomplished.
*** For this article, I intended to conduct official interviews with various team members, however my attempts at receiving press credentials continue to be delayed/deleted by the spam filter/turned over to the authorities. However as luck would have it, moments before press time on this piece, I had the opportunity to speak with none other than THE Tyler Arnason. In an interview exclusive to MHH and my column, the former fan favorite spoke candidly and openly with me. Regretfully, our interview had to be cut short, as Arnason's shift manager at Wendy's became suspicious as to why it was taking him over 30 minutes to discard of the boxes into the dumpster.
TA: Thank you for choosing Wendy's, may I take your order? I'm Tyler Arnason.
GO: Yes, I would like a Son Of Baconator combo, medium sized, and a diet Mr. Pibb.
TA: We don't have diet Pibb sir..
GO: Fine, A frosty then.
TA: Our frosty machine is broken.
GO: UN-FREAKING-REAL, why is the machine always broken? Every time I.. did you just say you're Tyler Arnason?
TA: *squints at his name tag* I'm Tyler Arnason.
GO: That's crazy! I was just writing an article that somehow ended up mentioning you! Will you come outside and do an interview?!
Arnason climbs out through the drive through window, still visibly wearing what seems to be a his old #39 Avalanche jersey, although curiously, it is terribly soiled, and a replica. At this point, I suspect that the jersey does not belong to him.TA: I just haven't cleaned it... I get tired. I usually work every other night, and my shift is supposed to be like 30 seconds long, but real talk... I'm usually gassed at about the 10 second mark, and I don't want to be here anymore.
GO: Classic Arny.
TA: I know, right? Do you have any percosets?
GO: I do not.
TA: I should probably go then, my manager is yelling at me through the drive-thru headset.
GO: Thank you for your time. Can you please go get my order?
Courtesy: Wendy's Human Resources
Legal: The preceding article is a satire. Any similarity to persons, living or dead is coincidental and unintentional. Tyler Arnason is not employed.