2010-2011 Team Preview - Colorado Avalanche

The Avs were one of the surprise teams of the league last season, when a team largely predicted to finish at or near the bottom of the Western Conference got their play together enough to scrape into the playoffs. They were fairly easily dismissed in round 1 by the Sharks, but in all it had to be considered quite a year for a very young team anticipating a real rebuild over the next couple seasons. Fans of the Colorado Avalanche then must be wondering what to expect this year. Was the play of their youngsters a fluke that is doomed to fail this season? Or will they build and develop into a rock solid playoff team? It’s a question worth asking, but frankly I’m more inclined to think the former.

Overview:

Last season the Avalanche overachieved by almost any standard. Although sneaking into the playoffs as the #8 seed has to be considered a resounding success, they are still a team with many questions. Shipping out questionable Wolski at the deadline last season was a gamble that appears to have paid off, at least in the short term, but growth in Mueller’s game will be necessary to make it a long-term win.

Key Players:

Matt Duchene, Milan Hejduk, Adam Foote, John-Michal Liles, Ryan O’Reilly, Paul Stastny

Offense:

Milan Hejduk provides some veteran offensive ability to a roster that is resoundingly dominated by youngsters. Matt Duchene could be a major player in year-end awards for years to come, and Paul Stastny and Ryan O’Reilly are truly impressive talents. O’Reilly will obviously need to build on his solid rookie season, and Chris Stewart will need to repeat his successful season, but there are certainly some guns on the Avs squad. That said, they’re very young, and with youth comes unpredictability. The Avs will have to hope that Hejduk can provide some stability on the scoring front, but long droughts offensively could doom any playoff hopes for this team.

Defense:

Uh-oh. Adam Foote was talented, but he’s 39 years old, and plays the kind of game that is hard to play at 39 years old. The leading defensive player (based on ice time) was Kyle Quincey. Don’t get me wrong, I liked his play with the Kings before we dealt him for Ryan Smyth, but he’s just not a #1 defenseman in the NHL and any team relying on him to play as one is in some trouble. John-Michael Liles is another skilled player, but his play is inconsistent (and he’s dramatically overpaid), and relying on him may not be the wisest of decisions. But that’s ok, because they’ve got a brilliant keeper to bail them out, right? Nope. Craig Anderson is solid. And sometimes brilliant (can anyone forget the monster 1-0 win against San Jose in the playoffs?). But he doesn’t have the chops of a Ryan Miller or Martin Brodeur, and just isn’t going to be able to drag this defense over the hump.

Prediction:

If they youngsters grow and develop as some would hope, it could be a good year. More likely, they’ll struggle at times and end up just outside the tough Western Conference playoffs. I see them coming in probably around #10 in the conference. That said, with Calgary, Minnesota and Edmonton in their division, they could rack up some easy points against some patsy teams and sneak into the bottom of the playoffs. Either way, their post season will be short (or non-existant).

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Tags: Adam Foote Calgary Flames Chris Stewart Colorado Avalanche Craig Anderson Edmonton Oilers John-Michael Liles Kyle Quincey Martin Brodeur Matt Duchene Milan Hejduk Minnesota Wild Paul Stastny Ryan Miller Ryan O'Reilly Ryan Smyth San Jose Sharks Wojtek Wolski

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