While the 48-point, 2017-18 season was a nightmare for all involved with the Colorado Avalanche, it had at least one benefit — general manager Joe Sakic was able to realistically assess where the team was, and define a clear new direction in which to head. The plan was to get younger and faster, and in order to do that, Sakic knew that many changes had to be made.

In Thursday’s season-opener, Colorado’s 23-man roster will feature a total of 13 players that were not on last season’s opening-night roster. While no one is expecting the Avalanche to surprise the NHL and suddenly become a Stanley Cup contender overnight, Colorado has better adapted the lineup to correspond with their vision of the future.

Not only will the Avs be dressing a younger, faster and improved lineup when compared to last year’s opener, they will — without a doubt — be a more skilled and entertaining group, with a future that gives hope.

Subtractions at forward

Rene Bourque, Jarome Iginla, Ben Smith, Mikhail Grigorenko, Gabriel Bourque, Andreas Martinsen, John Mitchell, Cody McLeod

The average age of this group is 29.75 years of age, with Grigorenko being the outlier at age 22. The rest were seasoned veterans between the ages of 26 and 39. While veteran leadership was something the Avalanche sought a few off-seasons ago, the modern NHL has moved towards a more youthful and speedy game. Colorado followed suit.

None of these eight players possess great speed. In fact, these eight were all depth players that looked to contribute to the bottom six. One of the biggest problems from last season was the fact that there were too many depth players, leaving the Avs forced to play some of them in miscast, top-line roles.

Looking back to this time last year, all of the above players were fighting to stay afloat in the NHL only one of them — McLeod, with Nashville — will be on an NHL roster to start the season.

Additions at forward

Sven Andrighetto, Mikko Rantanen, Nail Yakupov, Alex Kerfoot, J.T. Compher, Tyson Jost, Colin Wilson, Matt Nieto

The seven-year discrepancy in age between the eight departing forwards and the eight incoming ones is astonishing; the new additions average an age of 22.75 years old. Colin Wilson brings the average up at 27, but his veteran experience is necessary within an overwhelmingly youthful group.

Due to the amount of offensive firepower these additions possess, this group of forwards is filled with promise. These eight players are glowing with skill, speed and — most importantly — the ability to put the puck in the back of the net. Not only are they a significant improvement over the eight subtractions, a majority of them will be in Colorado long-term, ensuring a potent and skilled offense which is in accordance with Sakic’s vision.

(It must be noted that Mikko Rantanen was with the San Antonio Rampage to start last season due to rehabbing an injury. He and Gabriel Bourque switched spots on the roster after Rantanen’s short AHL stint.)

Subtractions at defense

Eric Gelinas, Fedor Tyutin, Francois Beauchemin, Patrick Wiercioch

With age comes a natural decrease in speed, and that is apparent when examining the defensive group that is no longer with the Avalanche. At an average age of 30.5 years old on last season’s opening night, these subtractions allowed Colorado to rid themselves of players that made it hard for coach Jared Bednar’s fast, puck-moving offensive strategy to take effect.

In Wiercioch and Gelinas, who are 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-4 respectively, the Avs shed some size which also can be an impediment on the speedy game the Avalanche hope to play with. There is also something to be said for ridding the dressing room of older guys that were brought in to lead, but ultimately butted heads with the younger leaders of the room. The camaraderie of the team has been improved.

Additions at defense

Mark Barberio, Patrik Nemeth, Chris Bigras, Andrei Mironov

The defensive unit for Colorado is the biggest question mark right now, and a major reason people believe this team will struggle once again — but not to the extent of last year.

It’s generally believed that defensemen aren’t at the peak of their game until they have played 300 NHL games. Only Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie are above that threshold, so experience is definitely something this year’s defensive unit lacks. Of course, a lack of experience will come in a movement towards youth, and bumps and bruises along the way are to be expected.

At 24.25 years of age between the four defensive additions, this group is a smaller, more nimble group overall. All four range between 6-foot-1 and 6-foot-3, which isn’t necessarily huge, but they’re not that small, either. Speed and skating ability are a strength for this unit, and the Colorado defensive core as a whole. Keeping a close eye on this group of fast-skating puck-movers and their development will be paramount if the team is to progress. Improvement on the defensive end is vital — both for helping the goaltenders, as well as getting the puck on the forwards’ sticks and facilitating the offense, so there will be an emphasis on this group’s ability to execute.

Overall, this year’s opening day roster has been built to Joe Sakic’s blueprint; one that he defined late last season. After several years without a clear direction to take, the Avalanche organization is now entirely on the same page and moving in the same direction. The pieces have been put into place; now it is time to allow the natural progression of time and development to guide the Avalanche where they hope to go.