I bet you didn't expect to hear from me. That's right, I'm you from almost 6 months in the future. Google started offering a new service in January called "t-Mail" that lets you send messages through time. On that note, sell everything, borrow money, max out the credit cards and buy Google. Do it NOW!
On to the real reason I'm writing. I know you are sitting there pouring over the Avs schedule and the new roster and wondering just how this season is going to go down. It's March in my moment, the Avs have played 62 games, and I wanted to alert you to a few surprises.
Ryan O'Reilly is a Chameleon
You noticed that Patrick has moved O'Reilly from is normal center position to the wing. I wouldn't worry about that. Remember when he started in the league as a rookie penalty kill specialist? Remember how he became a set-up guy who was also sneaky good on the take-aways? Patrick wants him to be a sniper now, and it seems like he can do that too. He's in the top 20 in goal scoring this morning, and he and Duchene have formed a Sedin-like mind meld. It will be OK.
Defense is Allowed to Score
By the end of last season, I think everyone knew that some changes were coming on defense. 5 goals? Really? Sakic and Roy brought in some no-name guys to fill the spots that weren't being filled by Zanon and company. I think at least two of them, Guenin and Holden, look to be shuttling back and forth from Cleveland, right? Barrie looks like he's made the roster, but he's a bit shaky. Again, don't worry too much about it. Oh, and let's just say that scoring from the blue line will be less of a problem this year. The Avs are in the top 5 in goals from the defense. Tyson Barrie will round into form, Johnson becomes the guy he was expected to be when he was drafted, and Holden is showing more than a little offensive life. Goals against is way down too, so it's all good.
The New Division Structure Doesn't Suck
The League announced the re-alignment and you wondered what the impact would be. I mean, come on, putting Vancouver in with the murders row that was the Pacific Division last year? Yikes! Thank goodness we will be in the softer Central Division. Yeah, we have Chicago and St. Louis, but who else? I have some bad news for you. It turns out the Central Division currently holds 5 of the 8 playoff spots in the Western Conference. Before you panic, the Avs are one of the 5! That's right, and not one of the Wild Cards either. Minny and Dallas hold those for the moment. The Avs are solidly in 3rd with a 10 point cushion over the Wild (17 on Dallas), and are one point back from Chicago for 2nd with a game in hand. Yeah, strange right? Almost unbelievable? Believe. The Avs have taken the season series from Chicago with a game still left to play. To put your mind at ease, they are 18 points in front of 9th place Phoenix. You might start checking on airfare to Denver in April. Last thing, the Eastern Conference sucks, and it's really bugging the Hockey Media Establishment.
Best Player Available
You don't draft for need in the NHL. BPA, BPA, BPA... But Seth Jones was perfect - Denver and Sakic connections, big mobile defenseman. You were conflicted in July. You're conflicted in September. Fear not. Sakic said before the draft that the Avs were taking MacKinnon. Never second guess Joe. Just don't. MacKinnon leads the rookie scoring race this morning by 12 points and the rookie goal scoring race by 4. He'll start kind of slowly, but it seems that the only thing he will ever do slowly. The kid has Duchene's feet and hands combined with Landeskog's snarl and Stastny's vision. He is the complete package in almost every detail. OK, maybe he needs some work on defense, but even that has improved a lot. Cole Harbor water is good for building hockey players it would seem.
Hockey God, Good PR, or Both?
No coaching experience beyond Junior? He was a goalie. Can he teach anything to skaters? Is Patrick Roy really qualified to coach an NHL team? Is now the right time? Yeah, you're asking yourself these questions. Ask yourself two more. Was Patrick Roy ever unprepared for an opponent? Did he ever lack competitive drive? It'll be OK. His handling of systems, players, situations (and himself) has been masterful. The locker room is loose, but there is discipline on the ice. His systems fit his roster and they work. When things are going bad, he's front and center, and when it's good, he vanishes behind his players. His team reflects his personality - intense, but with a goofy charm. Oh, and remember that door thing a few years ago? Well, let's just say the guy has some barrier issues. You'll understand.
Strap in, hang on. This is just getting started.