by PuckStopsHere on 03/29/14 at 08:54 PM ET
The Colorado Avalanche are the first team to clinch a playoff berth this season who did not qualify for the playoffs last season. They haven't been a playoff team since 2010. The Avs has a 47-27 record with six regulation tie points. This puts them in fourth in the West Conference. Last year Colorado finished last in the West Conference. Why are they such an improved team?
The first answer is Colorado wasn't really as a bad as a traditional last place team. That was likely a fluke of a shortened lockout season.
Colorado has a good group of young players who have taken a big step forward. Most important on that list is goaltender Semyon Varlamov. Colorado is significantly improved in goal from last year.
They are also significantly improved at forward. Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog have taken big steps forward. Ryan O'Reilly played a full season. Rookie Nathan MacKinnon is the top scoring rookie in the league. That is a big step forward from last year when PA Parenteau led the team in scoring.
Patrick Roy has made an impact coaching. He has made it fun to play in Colorado. He may not be the best technical coach in the world, but his impact on the team cannot be understated.
Colorado is a significantly improved team this year. The test comes in the playoffs and next year. Will they be able to keep it up into the future? Is this step too big to be sustained?
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