One year ago, the Colorado Avalanche were sitting at the bottom of the NHL standings. They had finished with a record of 16-25-7 during the shortened 2012-13 regular season, and playoffs weren’t even in the conversation. But since then, a few things have changed for the Avs, and these changes have all been for the better.
For one, Colorado skyrocketed up the NHL standings to finish third place overall during the 2013-14 regular season, taking first place in the Central division with a record of 52-22-8. They made it to the playoffs as well, ending their transformative season after a hard-fought, 7-game first round against the Minnesota Wild. And they combined a new head coach with some new key players to rebuild and restructure the team and bring playoff hockey back to Colorado.
To top it all off, the Colorado Avalanche walked away from the 2014 NHL Awards on Tuesday night with three trophies from four nominations.
Nathan MacKinnon kicked it off for the Avs by winning the Calder Memorial Trophy for Rookie of the Year. At 18 years old (born 9/1/95), he becomes the youngest player to ever win this award. MacKinnon was the first pick overall in the 2013 NHL draft and led all rookies in the 2013-14 regular season with 63 points (24 goals and 39 assists). He then had 10 points in 7 games in the postseason, scoring 2 goals and contributing 8 assists. He received 1347 votes for the Calder Trophy in a decisive victory over Tampa Bay Lightning rookies Ondrej Palat (791 votes) and Tyler Johnson (352 votes). MacKinnon was also named to the 2013-14 All-Rookie Team; he is now the fourth Avalanche player to be named to the All-Rookie team in the past eight years, joining teammates Paul Stastny (2006-07), Matt Duchene (2009-10) and Gabriel Landeskog (2011-12).
“First off, I’d like to congratulate Ondrej and Tyler on their great seasons,” Mackinnon said in his acceptance speech. “For me, I’d like to thank the organization, coaching staff, and teammates…the success of me is due to them so I’m very grateful for that… as well as my family for supporting me ever since I can remember, so thank you.”
Head Coach Patrick Roy was the next Avalanche member to receive recognition, winning the Jack Adams Award for Coach of the Year. Roy is the first coach in Avalanche history to win this award. He received 399 votes, besting Detroit‘s Mike Babcock (163 votes) and Tampa Bay’s John Cooper (136 votes). The 2013-14 season was Roy’s first with the Avs, and he helped the team match its franchise record for wins (52) and its second-highest point total (112).
“There’s no way a coach could win this award without a total commitment from his players, and that’s exactly what our players have done this year by surprising the NHL and winning the Central division,” said Roy.
Roy played 12 seasons with the Montreal Canadiens and 5 with the Avalanche during his time as an NHL goaltender, and he was inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame in 2006.
Ryan O’Reilly took home Colorado’s final trophy of the night, winning the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy for “sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”
“First off, congratulations to Marty St. Louis and Patrick Marleau on great seasons…10 years old I was watching you guys, and couldn’t believe I’d actually be in the same league with you guys,” O’Reilly said. He also noted the important role that his family has played in his life, who “taught me to play with passion and intensity but at the same time have good relationships and respect coaches, refs, [and] opposing teammates.”
O’Reilly had only one minor penalty during the 2013-14 season, for taking a faceoff with a broken stick; he was just the second player in NHL history to receive 2 or fewer PIM over the course of 80+ games. He led the Avs with 28 goals this season and 64 total points, both of which are career-high numbers for the forward. O’Reilly won the trophy in a landslide, receiving 1311 votes to beat out New York‘s Martin St. Louis (358 votes) and San Jose‘s Patrick Marleau (323).
Goaltender Semyon Varlamov was also at the NHL Awards to represent the Avs, and though he ultimately lost the Vezina Trophy to Boston‘s Tuukka Rask, Varlamov was named to the NHL Second All-Star Team and was also fourth in the running for the Hart Trophy. Varlamov had a strong year for the Avs, boasting a .927 save percentage in the regular season and earning MVP honors for his team.
The Avalanche will have the 23rd pick for the NHL Draft on Friday.