NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for NHL.com this season. Look for new entries from JR's blog, "World According to JR," every Wednesday afternoon. He'll offer sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.
For my first NHL.com blog, I'm diving into the Western Conference to write about two teams that have caught my eye for far different reasons.
I did not know what to expect from the Colorado Avalanche
in the beginning of the year, especially after the way they finished last season. They had an atrocious second half of the season. I felt bad for coach Joe Sacco, who is a very good friend of mine, and gave his team zero chance to make the playoffs at the beginning of this season.
Goalie - COL
GAA: 2.17 | SVP: 0.938
Oh boy, did I make a big mistake. No team has played harder for their coach, and played within a system and a structure, as well as the Colorado Avalanche
have in the first two weeks of the season. With the addition of Semyon Varlamov
to give them a solid net presence, it's very impressive to see a whole team buying into the coach's mentality.
I'm glad they're making me eat my words.
The Avs are young, but they are experienced. They have kids that have been around. They started early and have been around for a couple of years, and because of that experience, they are getting it. They understand it. They know what to expect. And after the losing streak they went on last year, they don't take anything for granted.
To go on the road for five games and sweep is an amazing accomplishment for this team, but I know Sacco and the rest of the boys are not going to take this win streak for granted. They're going to understand why they won hockey games and also remember what happened to them at the end of last season, when they went 5-26-2 over their final 33 games.
That was embarrassing to them, and none of them want to go through that again.
I think they're going to do some great things this year, and it was unbeknownst to me in the beginning of the season because I was the lame brain who gave them zero chance. I like to be proven wrong, and they are proving me wrong.
The San Jose Sharks
are, in my opinion, still the strongest team in the League, but they are historically slow starters, so I'm not totally surprised they are just 1-3 heading into a six-game road trip.
There is no question in my mind that they will turn it around, that Joe Thornton
will have another good year, and that they will be at the top of the League come the end of the season. But this is one of those situations where they have a lot of new guys, and they have a lot of people that are getting acclimated and injured.
Defense - SJS
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 3
SOG: 19 | +/-: -2
Marty Havlat hasn't played yet and Antti Niemi
just got in his first game. They're also not winning because Thornton has 1 assist and Patrick Marleau
has 2 assists. Neither has a goal yet.
It's hard on a team early in a season when you trade away some of your most electric players, like Devin Setoguchi
and Dany Heatley
. Setoguchi was one of the favorites on that team and Heatley was close to Joe and Danny Boyle. Then you bring in new guys like Havlat and Brent Burns
-- it just takes a little while for everybody to gel.
Expectations are huge in San Jose. They're huge and I'm sure the team is feeling the pressure. I'm sure the GM and coach are feeling the pressure. They've been expected to win for many years now and this is probably the best team they've had. But they started slow last year and they're starting slow this year.
When they get into a groove and start gelling, it's going to be very difficult to beat the San Jose Sharks
. This is one team I don't worry about, but they need their top guys to get on board and start putting the puck in the net.