Colorado Avalanche

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Colorado enjoyed yet another successful regular season putting up 95 points which tied them with two other teams for fourth most points in the league.  The team was electrified about their playoff potential.   And again, after some initial playoff success in beating the St Louis Blues in the first round 4 games to 2, the team came out flat against the Vancouver Canucks and were quickly disposed of in 5 games.  The bitterness of playoff defeat is something that Av’s Coach Roy is holding onto throughout the summer and into training camp.  “I want more out of this team, we have the scorers, we have the D, and our goaltending is good.  It’s time to step it up”

Coach Roy is correct is saying the team has scorers.   The team scored a few less than the previous year but the Avs still managed to have 6 players score 20 or more goals.  Rakell led the team with 32 goals, while Kyle Palmieri 29, Steven Stamkos 28, Vinnie Trocheck 26, Austin Mathews 23 and Anders Lee 20 were the main goal scorers.  Although these players were the leaders, many were considered to score more than they did.  Add in Alex Debrincat’s 14 goals and Nik Ehlers 10 goals in the disappointment column.  The defensive side of the forward lines appeared to have the biggest impact.  Although the Avalanche managed to score 267 goals, the team also allowed 241 which equates to just over 3 per game. The goaltending was supposed to be spectacular.  The power play was decent ranking 7th overall in the league but a lot more was expected with the amount of snipers on the roster.   The penalty was an abysmal 74.6% ranking third worst in the league.  It forced management’s hand into making a couple of trade deadline deals to attempt to patch the holes by acquiring Trevor Lewis and Vladimir Sobotka for young defensive prospect and former first round rookie pick Derrick Pouliot and a 4th round pick in this year’s draft.   The trade helped a bit, but not enough to make a difference. 

The forward groups at training camp this season look as promising as far as goal scoring goes.  Stamkos is centering Mathews and Palmieri on the first line.  The second unit presently has Max Domi as the pivot between veteran Joe Pavelski and sophomore Alex Debrincat.  The third line has crafty vet Ryan Getzlaf between Anders Lee and Sam Reinhart.  The fourth line has RNH at center, who was dupped by strato again with only a 2 defense rating, with Rickard Rakell and Jonathan Drouin on the wings.  Rookie pick Andrei Svechnikov may spell a few games at wing while injured Vinnie Trocheck may fill in some games for Getzlaf.  Joonas Donskoi, who was obtained in a trade may also see a handful of games this season, but he will undoubtedly spend most of the year in the minors along with rookie picks Robert Thomas, Alex Nylander, Luke Kunin, Adam Gaudette and Nick Schmaltz.

On defense, Roy feels that the team has made an upgrade to the starting six.  Ryan Pulock has developed into a starting top pair defenseman and he will play opposite of Brady Skjei.  Veteran Alex Edler will pair with smooth skating Jared Spurgeon on the second unit.  Newly acquired Brian Dumoulin will set up nicely opposite veteran Ron Hainsey to complete the bottom pairing.   All 6 defensemen are 4 rated D men or better!!  This has Coach Roy excited.  “Our d men are great in their own zone and most of them play a very gritty game.   We are hoping this helps our goal against total this season!”  Vince Dunn will fill in a few games for the aging Edler while Mike Matheson takes a step back from a regular role and will tool away in the minors this year.  Same goes for Adam Larsson who had an off season and needs to regain his confidence.   Anthony DeAngelo and Matt Grzelcyk have made huge advances in their development and look to be potential starters down the road.  The expectations are the same for highly touted 2nd round pick Jusso Valimaki, although he was injured preparing for training camp.

The biggest disappointment last season was goaltending.  The Avalanche expected top end goaltending and an opportunity to win every night based of the stopper factor. Carter Hutton’s .908 save pct was well below expectations as was Pekka Rinne’s .911 save pct.  Carter Hutton’s performance was so much under par that Roy and company decided to part ways with the pillow bearer.  This will provide an opportunity for last year’s fourth round rookie pick Jack Campbell to pick up 30 or so games as he will share the next with the wily vet Pekka Rinne.   Roy is hoping that the goaltending will be a bit better with improved defenders in front of the net.  Pheonix Copley, who was drafted in the third round this year, will spend his first season with the team in the minors while possibly seeing some action as a back- up here and there.

The Avalanche look like a team that can light the lamp, but can the team shut down the opposition enough to get the wins needed to move forward this season.  Management has once again instructed Roy that if he needs a piece or two to put this team over the top, they are more than willing to attempt to acquire the missing pieces. The power play should be OK but it appears that penalty killing could continue to be a weakness for this team.  The first 20-30 games should provide a good sample size of what to expect with this roster.   All in all, the team is looking to compete and the fans are enthusiastic and eager for the new season to begin.

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