That 2001 Stanley Cup banner looks lonely in the Pepsi Center rafters.
It’s been 17 years since those glory days. Between 1996 and 2001 the Colroado Avalanche won two Stanley Cups and made five Western Conference finals. They were first-choice for trade targets and free-agents. It was a golden time for the Avalanche.
Since then? Not so much.
The 2004-05 NHL season that was locked out by owners and subsequent changes to the NHL salary landscape put the Avalanche into a tailspin that they have had trouble recovering from. Consider that since that 2001 Cup win, Colorado has failed to qualify for the postseason eight times. From 1995-2003, they not only qualified every season, they made the Conference Finals every season but one.
Following the lockout, Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote signed with the Philadelphia Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets respectively and the Avalanche were never the same. The parade of elite players was over. Pierre Lacroix‘s place at the top of the GM heap was sullied.
When Patrick Roy returned to Colorado as a coach and won the division, second place in the West and home-ice for the playoffs, it looked like a turnaround was in the cards. Unfortunately, disconnect between Roy and management and Roy and his roster led to his resignation. Enter Jared Bednar and a new wave of Avalanche prospects and it finally feels like the Avalanche are back on the right track.
If we know anything about Colorado sports fans, it’s that they are fickle when it comes to losing teams. They are wonderfully supportive of winners and will even suffer down seasons but they are quick to disenfranchise from a team that’s not performing. The Rockies suffer for this and now, so have the Avalanche. Colorado will support a winning team, in fact they are among the best in the nation as fans. The caveat is that we want success or at least to feel like success is coming.
The easiest way back into the money for the Avalanche is to keep winning, keep putting a quality product on the ice and have some amount of postseason success. As they know from their own history, the fans will return en force if that happens.
They are well on their way and part of that burgeoning success is made possible by the best player in hockey: