Our counterparts over at Hockey Wilderness have spent the week talking about all of the reasons to hate the Avalanche. From the looks of things, it's a theme they plan to continue for the entire series. While we could probably come up with an article about hating the Wild (or maybe not), it seems silly considering celebrating your own team is so much more fun. It could be that there isn't a whole lot to enjoy about the Wild. After all, if your go-to video for pumping up your fans now that the playoffs have started is of a goal (by a guy who Avs fans actually like) that ended a first round playoff series a decade ago in what happened to be the last game of the season in which Patrick Roy had already considered being his last...well, I guess that says a lot. Thankfully for us, there's no shortage of reasons to love the Colorado Avalanche (as the length of this article suggests). Here are my top 19.
19. Playoff history
Speaking of videos to pump up the fans, the long history of playoff excellence the Avalanche has enjoyed is purely awesome, starting with that very first season.
18. Favorite team
No one will forget Matt Duchene's reaction upon realizing he wasn't going to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the 2009 Draft. No disrespect to them intended, it was a heartfelt, organic reaction to the very real possibility that the star forward was going to play for his favorite team. But the Avs weren't only Duchene's fave. Many current NHL players have named Colorado, Sakic, Roy, Forsberg, Foote and others as their favorites. How can you not love a team that those we love also love?
17. Ice Girls
I know what you're thinking, but this isn't about the eye candy. There are two awesome aspects to ice girls that should make you love the Avs. The first is the condition of the ice after they're done. I've seen a lot of ice girls doing their snow shoveling, but the Avs' crew covers more area than other arenas I've been to. It's not just the area around the crease; they clean up the ice well past the face off circles, and it makes for better hockey. The second has to do with those outfits. In the beginning of the season, they were wearing these horrid tops that became the entertainment of some and the ire of others. Boob windows aside, they simply looked awful. Fans laughed about it, hitting social media to express their feelings. The Avalanche listened. Midway through the season, the teamupdated their ice girl uniforms to something that works both aesthetically and practically. It's an example of the new attitude within the organization, one that welcomes the fans' opinions. Now if they'll only listen to Whores. #nopiping
I know there are a lot of people who want Howler the Yeti back, but my guess is that those folks haven't been to a game and seen Bernie in person. The guy is great. The kids absolutely love him, he gets the Can rockin', and he gives adults some laughs, too. At the end of the day, he provides great in-game entertainment. Case in point:
After years of complaining about the jumbotron, KSE treated us to the new Pepsi Vision experience. Leading up to its unveiling, pictures about its size seemed photoshopped or an optical illusion. But it's real and it's amazing and it's made even better by the sound system that accompanies it. You can see it's awesomeness in that Bernie video. Here are the specs, lest you forgot.
The new video board is the largest of its kind in the world and will provide patrons an unparalleled view of the action at Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche and Colorado Mammoth home games, as well as all other Pepsi Center sporting events. The new scoreboard is the crown jewel of a continued arena-wide improvement project that began in 2012 with the installation of over 300 new HD flat panel screens throughout the concourses; restaurants and suites; upgraded seating in the lower and club levels; the new Land Rover Denver Club and the addition of 4 ancillary LED display boards in each of the four corners of the upper level. The new loudspeakers consist of six line arrays that are 20 feet high and include four subwoofers mounted behind each array. Each loudspeaker in the array has a maximum power handling capability of 1,600 watts and each subwoofer has a maximum power handling capability of 2,400 watts.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a guy in the Avs' locker room that doesn't like Patrick Roy. He's established a winning attitude, and players have said that from the first day, things were different, electric, and positive—a far cry from the negative swamp of the last few years. Those feelings are firmly rooted in the relationships that Roy and his coaching staff have developed with the players. Roy has publicly stated and the players have publicly praised the fact that he has an open door policy. He works with the players, listening to them as much as he speaks to them. There's a mutual respect that has established a bond that is obvious in every single interview.
That respect goes beyond the rink, though. Every interview also makes obvious how important the fans are to this organization. From that first press conference, Roy said that the fans were part of the team and that he wanted to bring back a product that would make the people of Denver want to watch hockey again. In interview after interview, you hear the players thank the fans or say they want to win for the fans. This team has made the fans part of the family, and nothing elicits love like being appreciated.
Another thing that was born out of the healthy, happy relationships the players now enjoy is having fun. All too often in the past four years, interviews (even after wins) were tainted with a cloud. Smiles weren't easy to come by, and it seemed like being at the rink was sometimes a downer for the guys. This season couldn't be more different. One can easily see that by the number of times you see players "joining" their teammates in interviews. From tag-teaming to flybys to creepers, this team loves to prank one another. They're not afraid to screw up the interview to do it, either. It makes for so many laughs that you can't but help adore them for it.
These kids can score 'em, eh?
11. Comeback Kids
In years past, a two-goal lead meant the game was over for the Avalanche. This season, it means the team is just getting warmed up. No lead is too great for the Avs to overcome, and their propensity to tie things up to get overtime, or score the winner in the waning seconds of a game, has become a thing of nightmares for the opposition this season. No one can ever count this team down and out. Pharmaceutical companies love it as blood pressure medication prescriptions have skyrocketed in Denver since October.* Even the players acknowledge that trailing in the third only makes the team that much more lethal.
Going into a 3rd period we want either A) a lead or B) to be down 2 goals. Either way we'll take it ;-)— Matt Duchene (@Matt9Duchene) April 7, 2014
*That may or may not be true
10. Unlikely Heroes
When Roy and Sakic signed guys like Guenin, Holden, Benoit, and Cliche, people scratched their heads. "I thought we wanted to win this season, that things would be different," they said. These fringe players seemed like a bad way to do that. Similar reactions happened when Steve Downie was traded for Max Talbot. "Who is this Talbot guy?" Turns out the brass knew what they were doing. Nick Holden has become a versatile blueliner that Roy uses successfully in every situation. While he's still young and has room for improvement, he has added another layer of offense to a blueline corps that saw 173 points tallied in 2013-2014. He scored at nearly a half-point-per-game pace, and for a guy in his first real NHL season, that's saying something.
Marc Andre Cliche and Talbot have given the bottom lines such a solid foundation defensively that their contributions are often overlooked. These guys aren't flashy scorers, so they won't make the highlight reels for Avalanche goals. They also don't make many mistakes, so they won't make the highlight reels for the other teams' goals. Cliche and Talbot quietly go about the business of playing good, reliable hockey.
Because there are so many feel-good stories on this team, it's hard to keep your heart from being warmed.
9. Patrick Bordeleau
Speaking of feel-good stories, one of the best has to be Patrick Bordeleau. Here's a guy who is so big and tough that players often refuse to fight him. Yet, he's also the first to congratulate—or console—the goaltender after a game, he's one of the last off the ice both in practice and game-day warm ups, and he's a source of levity for the team. Don't misunderstand him, though. If you screw with his boys, you're going to hear about it. You also have to brace yourself because, if you have the puck, you're going to get smashed.
8. Gabriel Landeskog
As team captain, Landy has found his voice, both on the ice and off. His ability to calm things down or elevate games has shone through this season, and we have begun to realize why he was given that C. He's quick-witted and affable, as well, always willing to give that extra time to the fans. He conducts himself professionally when needed, but is happy to be a goofball, too. Most importantly, though, he makes things happen. No better example of his dedication and leadership exists than his OT winner against the Ducks. Suffering from the flu and taking IV fluids during intermissions, the rookie showed why he is a leader. He also gave us a primer on how vital he's going to be in the playoffs. While Johnson and Stastny were clearly the heroes of Game 1 against the Wild, the importance of this play by Landeskog cannot be overstated. He pulled a captain move and got his team into the game. After a huge hit, he put his team on the board.
7. Matt Duchene
We all knew Duchene was going to be a special player. You don't get picked third overall if you're just some ordinary scrub. However, I don't think any of us really imagined the leap he would take the past couple of years, culminating in being a powerful two-way forward in a game where his offense scares opposing defensemen into giving him all the room in the world. His work behind the net and in the corners is jaw-dropping, and his strength on the puck—something once dubbed a weakness of his—has flashes of Peter Forsberg in it. In the end, though, what makes him so great is that creativeness when scoring goals. He's an electric player.
6. Tyson Barrie
Talk about a kid who has bust out on the NHL scene. This is why people believed trading Kevin Shattenkirk wasn't the disaster some did. To start the season, he was a healthy scratch. Then he was sent back down to the minors. When he came back, he decided it was time to make his mark, and that he did. He set franchise records and saw his name bandied about with guys like Erik Karlsson and Duncan Keith. He became the most clutch player the Avs have seen since Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk donned the sweater. He has 38 points in only 64 games, ranking second on Avs' defense. He's potted 5 game-winning goals (tied for 2nd with Nathan MacKinnon), 3 OT goals(leads the team), and 4 power play goals (leads defense). What's more, this kid has ice in his veins. Big games, big moments don't shake him. Throughout the season, his defensive play has improved so much that in the team's first playoff game, he logged the second-most time on ice. Tyson Barrie is the real deal, and given what we've seen by his regular improvement, this isn't a fluke.
5. Semyon Varlamov
When Patrick Roy was named head coach, there was a question as to whether or not that would be a good thing for Varlamov. But when Roy announced that he was bringing in Francois Allaire as goaltending coach, the question became, "How good can Varly get?" Well, pretty damn good. He led the league in wins this season and is one of the top candidates for the Vezina trophy. He's carried the Avs more times than not, giving them a chance to win every single night. His saves are ridiculous and awesome on a regular basis. People wondered when he would falter and how much all those shots against would negatively affect him. Crazily enough, he got better the more shots he faced and found another level of mental strength, one that allowed him to shut the door on the Wild in the third period of Game 1. He does not quit. He leaves fans and players shaking their heads in disbelief at what he can do. The beauty of it is that it doesn't look like his play is completely unsustainable. A .927 save percentage probably will regress, but it won't be due to his success this season being a flash in the pan. His athleticism is now balanced by technique, a deadly combination to any opposing team.
4. Patrick Roy
Sure there are all those fabulous moments from his days as a player that made us snicker and awe. But it's his work as Avalanche head coach that makes this team, the one in the here and now, so lovable. He changed the culture of the team on Day 1 and made a division-winning team out of a basement dweller. He showed the players that he would back them no matter what, and he made gutsy moves to help the team win. Everything Roy touches seems to turn to gold, and this team is absolutely no different. While all of the winning ways of this coach are beyond fantastic, it's often the interviews that make us love him so much. From his honesty to his jokes, you just can't get enough of him.
3. Nathan MacKinnon
Remember this season, folks, because it was the year you saw a generational talent hit NHL ice for the first time. It's never really a good thing to claim a rookie is going to be that big of an impact player on the game. After all, it's one year, right? When it comes to MacKinnon, though, it'd be more of a risk to claim he won't be. Never once has he seemed out of place or intimated going up against the best the league has to offer. He's blown opponents away with his speed and his skill, continuing to elevate his game with each new challenge. He scares people with how good he really is. Whether he's assisting on key goals or netting them himself, MacK is a game-changer. He has already found a patience that few rookies have, and he's done all of this as an 18-year-old. He goes beyond special. MacKinnon will be a dominate force in this league for his entire career.
2. Why not us?
Love that hashtag or hate it, it represents one of the most important qualities of this team: they believe. Their faith in themselves has lifted not just the team, but the fans to new heights. It's created an atmosphere of elation and hope, bringing back a passion to this city's hockey fan base that hasn't been seen in a decade. How can you not love moments like this?
1. Because it's the Avs