photo courtesy of the Denver Post
The Colorado Avalanche used to be a franchise the hockey media couldn't get enough of. With rosters comprised almost entirely of all stars (or it seemed that way), hockey writers and ESPN had no trouble coming up with Av-related stuff to talk about from 1996 until 2003 or so.
Then the Lockout and the salary cap came, and guys like Forsberg, Foote, Blake and Roy were all gone (if not already). The Avs went from perennial division champs to also-rans.
The signing of Ryan Smyth and Scott Hannan in the off-season helped to stem this a bit, but by mid-season it was the same old story. Nobody talked about the Avalanche. While teams like Pittsburgh, Washington, Toronto, Ottawa, Detroit and Anaheim got tons of press (for obvious reasons), Colorado just kind of fell off everyone's radar.
And if the Avs weren't being ignored, they were being underestimated. As just one example, ESPN's weekly power rankings consistently placed Colorado far below teams with worse records and weaker lineups. In Week 14, the Avs, with a record of 25-18-3 and just coming off of a 3-1-0 tour of the Southeastern Division, were ranked 18th overall, three spots below the Rangers (21-20-5) who had lost six of their previous seven games. Also ranked higher: the 22-18-5 Islanders. The word "power" should never be associated with the Islanders, ever.
In general, the Avs were old news, and not worth talking about.
Until the trade deadline two weeks ago, of course. With the acquisition of Peter Forsberg, Adam Foote and Ruslan Salei, not to mention a five-game winning streak that includes a shutout of the Anaheim Ducks, the Avs are once again media darlings. In this week's power rankings, the Avs are up three spots to number 11. This morning, Colorado was featured on ESPN's hockey front page, for the third time in five days.
It's clear that the Avalanche is a buzz-worthy team again. Unfortunately they had to "turn back the clock" to regain the attention, but it worked and it's putting butts in seats---the ultimate goal of any franchise. Are things looking up in a market that was considered to be on the decline for at least two seasons? A playoff appearance, let alone a deep run, would go a long way to returning Colorado to the national spotlight, but the process has already begun.