43-30-9 (8th in West); lost in first round to Sharks
C Daniel Winnik
RW Marek Svatos, RW Darcy Tucker, C Stephane Yelle
THE AVALANCHE'S 26-point gain over 2008--09 was keyed by a brash cadre of rookies and one heroic goaltender. Encore performances are needed from Colorado's now-second-year players: Matt Duchene (below), who led all rookies with 55 points; Ryan O'Reilly, who amassed 17 points in the first 24 games before tailing off toward the end of the season; T.J. Galiardi, a strong penalty killer who saw time on the team's top line with Paul Stastny and Chris Stewart; Brandon Yip, an aggressive checker who scored 11 goals in 32 games; and Ryan Wilson, a steady blueliner whose +13 was the highest of any Colorado defenseman's. The Avs' kiddie corps should get a boost from Stewart, 22, who put himself through a fierce off-season conditioning program in hopes of surpassing the 64 points he put up last year.
Colorado's biggest surprise last year was journeyman goalie Craig Anderson. In 71 games he went 38-25-7, with a 2.64 GAA and a .917 save percentage—all while facing more shots, 2,233, than any other goalie in the NHL. Much of that onslaught can be blamed on his callow teammates, who gave up 32.1 shots a game. If everybody is one year better in 2010--11, that number should go down. And the Avs should be on the way up.