COLORADO 2018 PREVIEW
Management fulfilled their promise to the fan base last year byf making the playoffs. The Avs were a high scoring machine that finished 5th overall in the league and entered the playoffs for the first time under this new management group. The fans rewarded the team by packing the house for every home game. There was a belief in Colorado that the Avalanche are about to do something special. After winning round one, the Avs were quickly eliminated in the second round. But as they say, you must first learn to lose before you can win.
Colorado made a few acquisitions at the trade deadline that propelled the team into the playoffs. First, young center Ryan Johansen was traded along with rookie defenseman Markus Nutivaara to Winnipeg in exchange for two proven veteran leaders in Ryan Getzlaf and Joe Pavelski. With the emergence of Carter Hutton, the Avs then moved goalie Tuukka Rask to Vancouver in exchange for RW Kyle Palmieri. The threesome made an immediate impact playing a combined 52 games while scoring 13 goals, assisting on 37 and totalling 50 points while providing a +17 rating. Their intangible leadership in the room may have been more valuable than the points they put on the board. The team bought in and finished the season a sizzling 15-5 after the trade. Management is hoping the trend continues into this season.
The forwards once again does not lack the ability to put the puck in the net. Projected lines at the beginning of camp combine depth and scoring throughout. The first line of Auston Matthews, who led the team in scoring last year, will line up with Rickard Rakell and Joe Pavelski. This unit has the ability to put up a potential 90 goals. The second unit will consists of Stephen Stamkos, who put up 13 goals and 25 points in an injury riddled shortened 17 games last season. He will center Kyle Palmieri and Nikolaj Ehlers. They have the ability to pot 80 goals. Vincent Trochek centers Anders Lee (30 goals last season for Colorado) and rookie Alex Debrincat (obtained at the draft for Sami Vatanen and Brock Nelson). Scoring potential is there for this line as well as they can put up 99 goals. The fourth unit has veteran Ryan Getzlaf in the middle of Ryan Nugent Hopkins and Sam Reinhart. 60 goals for a fourth line unit isn’t horrible. Chris Tierney will be looked at this year to fill some games at center while last year’s rookie Nick Schmatlz will play games at both wings to fill in for injuries. Jonathan Drouin, Max Domi, along with rookies Anders Bjork, Luke Kunin and Josh Ho Sang will all head to the AHL to develop their skills. Drouin’s agent is not happy with the team’s decision to send him down after he provided 24 goals and 54 points for the team last year. Coach Roy feels that he did not come to camp in the best condition and if forced to, he has management’s approval to move the future star in order to bolster his existing lineup
On defense, the team looks much better out of the gate than it did last year. With a bevy of options, it appears at first glance that Coach Roy is going to settle on the following to start the season. Newly acquired veteran Alexander Edler, acquired in a trade that sent Marcus Johansson and a 2019 4th rounder to Vancouver, will be on the first pairing with Jared Spurgeon. The second unit will have Brady Skjei team up with gritty Adam Larsson. The third pair will see Mike Matheson and Olli Maata share duties on the left side with PP specialists Tyson Barrie and Ryan Pulock manning the right. Ron Hainsey will also see some action filling in for Spurgeon and Larsson as needed. 2018 rookie selections Vince Dunn, Matt Grzelcyk and Joakim Ryan will join Derrick Pouliot and Anthony DeAngelo in the AHL. The team is also beginning to grow a little impatient with Pouliot’s development. Although he did come to camp and perform better than ever, he is still a far cry from making the regular line up.
Avalanche management and especially Coach Roy are really excited about the goaltending duo this year with Carter Hutton and Pekka Rinne holding down the fort. “I don’t think we have ever entered a season with two goalies that are capable of shutting down any team on any given night. I can’t wait to see how they will perform, especially with our defensemen being that much better this year”. Rookie draft pick Jack Campbell will also toil in the AHL this year with an opportunity to make the big club next season.
The draft really filled up our farm system with the exception of Debrincat who will see action in his rookie year. Colorado’s scouting staff are quite content with the potential of the rookies drafted in this year’s draft. We needed to reload. Now that our previous draft picks are playing major roles on the team, it was high time to start putting an effort into solidifying the farm. We have a ton of defensemen and a few high end forwards that we are eager to see develop.
Making the playoffs this year is not the end game. The Avalanche agenda is to make the playoffs and this year they want to make some noise. Management will assess the team throughout the season and if there is an opportunity to put this team over the top, the Av’s brass has made it known that it will make the necessary moves to provide the team with the best chance of winning. Coach Roy is ecstatic to hear that management has his back and he will motivate his team to go for it all this year.
Is there something special happening in Colorado????…. well the fans will just have to keep coming out and see for themselves!
Kevin – Colorado Avalanche