McLeod forecasts Avalanche surge

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Cody McLeod arrived too late for the glory years of the Colorado Avalanche, but he hopes to see them return very soon.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/05/2011 (4153 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Cody McLeod arrived too late for the glory years of the Colorado Avalanche, but he hopes to see them return very soon.

The 26-year-old Binscarth product wrapped up his fourth season with the National Hockey League club this spring and to say it was a trying year would be putting it mildly.

The Avalanche limped to a 30-44-8 record, their worst showing since moving from Quebec City 16 years ago, and finished second-last in the NHL’s overall standings.

File photo Binscarth native Cody McLeod has carved out a regular role as a grinding forward with the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche.

"Definitely, from a team standpoint, it was a long year," McLeod said. "We were doing well right up until Christmastime there and then I guess you could kinda say the wheels fell off a little bit. Nobody was happy with their season, I guess you could say. It’s always tough when you go through a stretch of games like that, but we’ve just gotta regroup and get ready for next year."

On Dec. 19, the Avalanche were in the thick of things at 19-10-4. From that point on, they won only 11 times in their final 49 games.

That would be frustrating in itself, but given that the Avalanche seemed to be a team on the rise in 2009-10, the follow-up this season was particularly disappointing.

"We’ve got some good young players that are going to be real important keys to the team within the next few years," McLeod said.

"As a young team, you’re always going to go through those growing pains and that kinda stuff. You’ve gotta learn the league and just get more experience. It was just kind of a letdown after we weren’t supposed to make the playoffs the year before and we did and we gave San Jose a good go (in the first round of the playoffs before losing in six games) and it was just tough this past season.

"We had a lot of injuries. That was one main reasons. There was a few aspects, but I think that was the biggest key point is we had some injuries."

There is plenty of reason for optimism, however, as the Avalanche have plenty of promising young talent, led by Matt Duchene, who topped the team in scoring (67 points in 80 games) at only 19 years old.

As for McLeod, he’s carved out a nice role for himself as a hard-nosed forward. The6-foot-2, 210-pound left-winger has played in more than 70 games in each of his last three seasons, totalling five goals and eight points in 71 games this season to go along with a team-high 189 penalty minutes.

He’s scored as many as 15 goals in a season, but he knows he’s not there for his offence.

"I think you’ve got to find your niche once you get up here and to do that, you’ve just gotta be able to play hard every night and definitely that’s the same for me," said McLeod, who was fourth in the NHL in penalty minutes this season. "I’ve got to come play hard every night and be a physical presence, just take pucks to the net, work hard, finish checks and stick up for my teammates once in a while.

"I always go back to my days in junior when I played in Portland (with the Western Hockey League’s Winter Hawks). You’re not going to get anything handed to you and playing a third-, fourth-line role it’s tough and there’s always guys willing to do it. So I think once you let off the gas, there’s always guys in the minors trying to get up and steal your job … You’ve just gotta kinda do what you do that got you here and make sure that you stay on top of it and keep working hard."

But while he’s doing his all to make sure he keeps jet-setting between the big cities of the NHL as long as possible, McLeod stays close to his small-town Westman roots as well.

"I get home there a couple times a summer," he said. "I always go back to see the family and friends. It’s always good people out there, good down-to-earth people and I always love going back home."

» rhenders@brandonsun.com

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