Terry Frei, Denver Post columnist and ESPN.com contributor, says that even if the Colorado Avalanche don't make the playoffs this year (which is still quite likely), the team has a lot to look forward to next season since a lot of salary cap space will open up and there are numerous talented prospects coming up through the system.
He's right. But there's one premise of his article---something he mentions twice and obviously takes for granted---that we here at Dear Lord Stanley just can't swallow:
Going into the final weekend, the Avalanche are still long shots to catch the Flames for the eighth and final spot, a position that most likely would earn them the right to be thrashed by the Red Wings in the first round.
Followed later by:
The best scenario is Colorado wins its final two, finishes on a 16-1-2 run, but barely misses the postseason. Then, it ends with a "wait-'til-next-year" flourish, not a loss to the Red Wings in the first round.
So it's a foregone conclusion that if the Avs make the playoffs, they are destined to lose against the mighty Chicken Wings, the proud defenders of America's Worst City™.
But if the Avs do make the playoffs, it will be because of a 16-1-2 run over the last 19 games of the season, which includes wins over really good teams like Vancouver, Buffalo, Minnesota, San Jose and yes, Detroit. With the exception of Minnesota, the Avs beat each of those teams on the road, too. In their last ten games, the Chicken Wings are 4-2-4, including losses to powerhouse teams like Columbus, St. Louis and Chicago.
To think that the Avs, undoubtedly energized by their incredible late-season run and successful clinching of the final playoff spot in their final game, would somehow immediately collapse against Detroit is ludicrous.
Detroit is one of the most overrated teams in the entire NHL, bolstered in the standings by scoring easy points over the Blue Jackets, Blues and Blackhawks, their pathetic under-achieving division-mates. The Avalanche play eight games each against teams like Minnesota, Vancouver and Calgary, and haven't been dominated by any of them all year, even before their ongoing late-season run even started.
The Avalanche have proven over the past month and a half that they can beat any team in the West, and Detroit has proven that they are inconsistent at best. Frei's assumption that Colorado would fall easily to the Wings in the first round defies all logic. If the Avs make it to the playoffs, I say bring on the Chicken Wings, and bring on the napkins. Bigfoot will be dining well.