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NHL Silver Linings: Reasons for hope after a lost Avalanche season

We’re looking at the positives after each team is eliminated. It’s more fun.

NHL: New York Rangers at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It’s that time of the NHL season where a few fanbases start buying playoff tickets while the rest turn their attention to MLB spring training. Elimination is no fun. But it shouldn’t color your whole fandom with tears. Just most of it. 70 percent of it.

This is the 30 percent: SB Nation NHL Silver Linings, where we send hockey’s eliminated teams into the offseason with five good things to remember from this season.

By all measures, the 2016-17 season for the Colorado Avalanche will go down as one of the worst in the NHL’s modern era.

With 41 points in 67 games, this is the worst year in franchise history. Their 1.65 goals for per game is third-lowest in the NHL since 1999-2000. I could go on, but the endless list of negative talking points would keep us here all day.

We’re here to talk about the positives. Because there are some. Not many. We had to stretch to find them. But they’re there.

They’re getting the first overall pick

2017 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game Photo by Mathieu Belanger/Getty Images

The 2017 NHL entry draft is, by most accounts, a weak draft. But Colorado will get the chance to pick the absolute best player out of it.

They could take Nico Hischier (pictured above), a crafty playmaking center from Switzerland who dazzled in the 2017 World Juniors. They could take Nolan Patrick, a hard-working, big center who scouts have loved for years. Or they could upgrade their defense with Timothy Liljegren, a puck-moving Swede and arguably the best defenseman in the draft.

No team needs to hit the franchise reset button more than Colorado, and the first overall pick is a great way to start.

They’re finally hitting the reset button

Winnipeg Jets v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

That surprise playoff run a few years ago seems like an anomaly, huh? Possession stats have trended the wrong way for Colorado in the following years, indicating a crash like this was imminent.

Now that it happened, Colorado has no choice but to make some big changes. Avs fans have waited for this moment for years. Whether they’ll do it right is up for debate, however.

There’s a ton of interest for Matt Duchene

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Sakic asked for the moon in any trade for his young center. The best guess is that he wanted a first-round pick, a top prospect, and an NHL-ready defenseman. Nobody wanted to match that price at the deadline.

But in the summer? Sure. More might bite. And heaven knows there’s plenty of teams who need a dynamic center. Nashville, Montreal, and Carolina come to mind, and all three have the kind of assets the Avalanche would want for Duchene. By the end of the deadline, Duchene sounded weary and ready for a fresh start.

He wants out, the Avs want to move him, and teams want him. It will happen, and it will jump-start the rebuilding process.

Nikita Zadorov emerged as a blue-line force

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

By the second half of the season, the young Avalanche defenseman was gobbling up minutes and intimidating opponents all over the ice. Most Avs fans consider the trade with the Sabres for Ryan O’Reilly as a loss for their team, but Zadorov helped even the score this year.

Colorado needs to build from the blue line out. Before his season-ending injury, Zadorov had entrenched himself as an invaluable asset on the Colorado blue line.

The Tyson Jost era is about to begin

2016 NHL Draft - Portraits Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images

The 10th overall pick in the 2016 draft blossomed this season into the offensive force the Avalanche had hoped he’d become. Jost was an early factor with Team Canada in the World Juniors before ceding more time to older players.

But his season with the University of North Dakota prove he’s ready to step into a role with the Avalanche soon. He has 15 goals and 31 points in 30 games as a freshman, including this highlight:

When the Avalanche turn the page next season, Jost will be one of the most important supporting characters.