Meet The Rivals: Colorado Avalanche

Travis Hrubeniuk
September 18 2013 02:42AM

                 

Finally, after two long and rather ridiculous seasons that saw the Winnipeg Jets based out of the Southeast, the league has undergone re-alignment and have the team in a realistic division: The Central. All week I will provide a preview of the Jets new Divisional Rivals, giving you with a brief review of last years’ stats, each team's potential opening day lineup, strengths and weaknesses, and a few major storylines (both Jet and non-Jet related). Today we visit the NHL basement and the Colorado Avalanche.

The Colorado Avalanche

Scheduled Meetings

  • October 27th – Colorado
  • December 12th – Winnipeg
  • December 29th – Colorado
  • March 19th – Winnipeg

2012-13 Review:

 

Avalanche

Jets

Record (Point %)

16-25-7 (.406) – 15th in West

24-21-3 (.531) – 9th in East

Home/Away

12-9-3

4-16-4

13-10-1

11-11-2

Goals/Game

2.38 – 26th

2.62 – 16th

Goals Against/Game

3.12 – 27th

2.94 – 25th

Power play %

15.0% – 24th

13.8% - 30th

Pentalty Kill %

80.3% - 20th

79.7% - 24th

Fenwick Close %

46.71%

49.71%

5v5 Corsi For %

48.9%

49.5%

PDO

985

995 

Opening Day Projected Lineup

O’Reilly – Duchene – Parenteau
Landeskog - Stastny - Tanguay
McGinn – MacKinnon – Downie
McLeod – Mitchell – Olver
 
Hejda – Johnson
Barrie – Elliot
Hunwick – Sarich
*Ryan Wilson currently injured
 
Varlamov
Giguere
 
Additions: Tanguay, Sarich, Benoit, MacKinnon
Subtractions: O’Brien, D. Jones, Zanon, Hejduk

Strengths & Weaknesses

After finishing dead last in the Western Conference last season, there is nowhere for the Avs to go but up. Some changes have been made, but there are still some glaring weaknesses in this lineup.

The Defensive Group

In all fairness, the Avs really helped themselves out by letting go of O’Byrne, O’Brien and Zanon. It cleared cap space and roster spots on last season's immobile defence group. Young Tyson Barrie had a good year last year, and taking another step would be great for the Avalanche blue line. There is potential there, but there are just too many “ifs” that need to happen for this group to really be effective. Throw in the overall lack of depth, and they still look like a weakness. They SHOULD be better than last year though, not that they could have been much worse.

The Special Teams

Both the penalty kill and the power play were in the bottom third of the league last year. Addition by subtraction via Greg Zanon’s departure might help out the penalty kill, and bringing back Alex Tanguay will help improve both. (He was the 3rd most used forward on the Flames PK & ranked 3rd in Flames PP points.) The abundance of scoring capability on this team will likely translate into an improved power play, but until they actually do it, I will continue to see it as a weakness.

Play on the Road

The Avs have struggled on the road over the past few seasons and need to improve if they want to move forward. New coaches and a new approach might help, but this team is still relatively young in pretty important positions. Experience will help road performances, but it’s likely they will struggle throughout the year once again.

The Avalanche have improved themselves this offseason, and do have some clear strengths they can use to their advantage and build off of for the future:

Depth at Center

Colorado has managed to really put together a solid group of center icemen. With the addition of Nathan MacKinnon on top of Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny (plus ROR currently on the wing), you could make the argument that the Avalanche have, or at least will have, one of the deepest groups of centers in the division. As young as they are, mistakes will be made and there is room to grow, but most teams in the league are looking at this group with envy.

Offensive Abilities

A bounce back year from Gabriel Landeskog and continued growth from Matt Duchene in combination with the likes of P.A. Parenteau, Alex Tanguay, Ryan O’Reilly, Jamie McGinn and Nathan McKinnon should result in a much better offensive team. That’s not to say their puck possession totals will fly up, but they will definitely be able to put the puck in the net.  With some better puck movers on the back-end as well, I’d be absolutely floored if they finished in the bottom 10 for goals per game again.

Storylines Entering the Season

The Coaching Staff

After coaching the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL since 2005, Patrick Roy was given the role as head coach of the Colorado Avalanche this summer. There have been many former NHL players who have tried to make the leap to coaching at the NHL level (most notably Wayne Gretzky), with little success to speak of. What makes Roy quite different from many of them? He paid his dues in the minor leagues first.

Although Roy had his fair share of issues, he has proven himself to be a decent head coach and will bring a new, respected voice into a locker room searching for a sense of direction. Roy is far from the only change among the coaching staff though, as legendary NHLer Adam Foote was brought into a defense development roll, and respected goaltending coach Francois Allaire will be a great help (along with backup Jean-Sebastian Giguere) for furthering Varlamov’s development. If nothing else, hockey fans everywhere will be captivated by the systems and techniques used by Patrick Roy throughout his first year as an NHL coach.

Can Landeskog Bounce Back?

Young Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog managed a mediocre 17 points throughout an injury-plagued 36 games last season, and it’s fair to say the team will expect more from him this year. After being the youngest captain in NHL history, it will be interesting to see if the kid has what it takes to lead a struggling team back up the standings this year.

How Much Can They Improve?

Since the trade deadline last season Colorado has done a pretty good job of adding talent while clearing up space from the salary cap, and that is no easy task. There are a lot of young players the team is counting on to improve this season, and there are spots among the bottom six that appear to be winnable by some AHL players. Internal competition and the will of young players to prove themselves will push the Avs this year, but many questions remain as to whether it will be enough.

Conclusion

The Colorado Avalanche should be an improved team from last season. Their coach will bring an interesting and new dynamic to the franchise and possibly the league. Despite this, I don’t see this team really pushing for a playoff spot in what will be a difficult and competitive Central Division.

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I write things, you read them. Then tend to yell at me for them. It's okay though, I'm from Winnipeg. I can take it. If you actually do like what I write, give me a twitter follow here (@thrubeniuk): https://twitter.com/thrubeniuk
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#1 Kevin McCartney
September 18 2013, 01:01PM
Trash it!
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I'm really looking forward to watching the Avs this year. What a forward group! And yet, they have enough holes that the Jets could win!

Great series, Travis. Looking forward to the rest of them.

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