Monday, October 3, 2011

NHL 30 in 30: Colorado Avalanche

It was only the 2009-2010 season when the Avs surprised everyone and snuck into the postseason, only to fall to the top seeded Sharks. Last year was a combination of a bad defense, young team, and suspect goaltending. Greg Sherman made some drastic changes to the Avs roster this offseason, but will that propel Colorado to the postseason dance?

Strengths: If there is one thing they have in spades, it's young forwards. They are lead by Matt Duchene, who lead the team in scoring last season and should anchor the top line along with Milan Hejduk and David Jones. Behind them, Paul Stastny will need to rebound from a tough season last year and become one of the primary scorers on this team again. He'll be joined by two more young players, like T.J Galiardi and Peter Mueller, who will be returning from post-concussion syndrome. There are other good young forwards on this team, including Brandon Yip, Daniel Winnik and Ryan O'Reily. There may also be a spot on the team for the second overall pick in the 2011 entry draft, Gabriel Landeskog. The young group of forwards as a whole has plenty of talent and potential, but is still raw. Also, there were problems in net last season, but those were addressed by bringing in Semyon Varlamov from Washington and former Conn Smythe winner J-S Giguere from Toronto. They should stabilize what was a rotating door in net when Craig Anderson struggled, and then after he got traded to Ottawa.

Weaknesses: The defense corp overall is still a weak point, despite some changes in the unit. Jan Hejda and Erik Johnson will anchor the blue line group, and they are good, but behind them there is not much. It is a young group, and there is some promise, but there isn't enough great NHL talent ready just yet. Duncan Siemens, the second Avs first round pick has a chance to make the squad, but he will likely return to juniors. Overall, the team is very young and has good potential for coach Joe Sacco, but it is still raw overall, and needs seasoning.

Any Help Coming? Besides Landeskog and Siemens, there are some other prospects in the system that have some promise. D Stefan Elliott is a great offensive defenseman with a great shot and eye for the net, but he isn't that physical. C Joey Hishon is a tough, offensive center with good ability and balance, however he gets hurt often. G Calvin Pickard may be the second best goaltending prospect right now, and can take a heavy workload.

Outlook: This team has too many holes defensively, and is just too raw at this point to make the postseason, even though they may challenge for a spot in a Northwest division that doesn't have a clearly defined second team behind Vancouver. They have loads of potential because of the mass of youth and promise, but this team is still on its way up, and needs some more time before they challenge for a postseason spot every season.

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