Collectively, the Colorado Avalanche have one of the deepest rosters in the NHL. Gabriel Landeskog, Cale Makar, Mikko Rananen and Nathan MacKinnon lead the talent rich roster.
The Avalanche squandered an opportunity last season when they lost to the Golden Knights in the second round of the playoffs, but they are in a familiar position that the best teams in Denver sports history also found themselves. Denver sports fans have seen multiple championships and championship appearances that followed embarrassing losses.
If the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup, it will continue a tradition of Colorado’s best teams learning from their losses.
In 1994-95, one season before they became the Colorado Avalanche, the Quebec Nordiques featuring Joe Sakic and Peters Forsberg, were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and faced the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs. The Nordiques were favorites but were upset by the Rangers.
The following season, the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup. They would win another in 2000-01.
As the Nordiques, the Avalanche had to learn that they won’t walk through anyone in the playoffs and to not take any opponent lightly.
John Elway lost three Super Bowls before he was finally able to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy. However, it was a loss in the divisional round of the 1996 playoffs that may have been the most upsetting loss of Elway’s career. With the entire Broncos organization chasing a ring for John Elway, 1996 looked to be the year.
Instead, the Broncos lost in the divisional round to second year franchise, the Jacksonville Jaguars. The game was humiliating, with Shannon Sharpe proclaiming the loss would set the Broncos back a decade.
The Broncos responded by winning back-to-back Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998. The Super Bowl victories took the sting out of the shocking loss to Jacksonville. The Broncos came back motivated and were able to overcome what happened against the Jaguars.
The Broncos had another upset playoff loss in 2012. This time led by Peyton Manning, the Broncos lost to the Ravens in heartbreaking fashion. The Ravens would go on to win the Super Bowl and Broncos fans were stuck with highlights of the Mile-High Miracle all offseason.
The Broncos came back in 2013 and were the best thing in all of sports. Manning and the Broncos had the best offense in NFL history and made an appearance in Super Bowl 48, but sadly losing to the Seahawks.
Not be deterred, the Broncos were able to undo the bad endings to 2013, 2014 and 2015 by winning Super Bowl 50 in Peyton Manning’s final season.
The above-mentioned Avalanche and Broncos teams featured great players whose legacies were made in those Stanley Cup and Super Bowl seasons. The Avalanche of the late 1990s and early 2000s experienced multiple playoff exits before winning again in 2001. The Broncos of the last decade persevered from 2012-15 until they finally won a Super Bowl.
The current Avalanche know they were embarrassed against the Golden Knights last season. Nathan MacKinnon was ineffective in the series. The way the Avalanche lost will always leave a bad taste in the mouth of players and fans. However, a Stanley Cup win this season will make everybody stop playing “What if?”
The Avalanche are the best team in the NHL right now. But they can’t make that claim until they win the Stanley Cup.
If this Avalanche team truly is great, they will become yet another Colorado championship team that persevered through bad losses to achieve their dream. Or they’ll be the 2009 Denver Nuggets, an amazing team that missed their opportunity and has us asking, “What if?”
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