Thursday, September 2, 2010

2010-2011 Colorado Avalanche Preview

The Colorado Avalanche
Wanna get rocky mountain high?
I am to hockey what Britney Spears is to music.

Previous Year's Team Stats

43 wins, 30 losses, 9 OTL, 95 points 13th overall in the league

Team Analysis

The Colorado Avalanche have been an enigmatic team in recent years. Going from one of the best franchises in pro sports for over a decade to mediocre basement dwellers. This initiated a youth movement in Denver that has become one of the most impressive in the NHL and lead to a surprise playoff appearance last season. A lot of things went right in Colorado last season but the question will be can the Avalanche repeat their unexpected success from last year and make the post-season?

The Avalanche are boasting one of the most successful youth movements in hockey with only two players over 25-years old in their top nine. Leading this youth movement is 2009 third overall draft pick Matt Duchene who is one of the most electrifying prospects in the league. Duchene will once again anchor the second line in Colorado while likely pushing to be the Avalanche's number one offensive threat this season. Anchoring the top line will be under-rated 24-year old center Paul Stastny who's quietly become one of the most consistent scoring centers in the west and will again get close to a point per game in Colorado. Dependable scorer Milan Hejduk has been the bridge between the three eras of the Avalanche and will slot in on the right wing in the Avalanche's top six. Hejduk is the only Avalanche forward over 30-years old currently on their roster.

The Avalanche saw the emergence of three young wingers last season. Former highly touted prospect turned consensus bust Peter Mueller was acquired in a mid-season trade with Coyotes last season. 22-year old Mueller exploded for 20 points in 15 games and will look to carry that momentum in Colorado's top six. 22-year old power forward Chris Stewart made the hockey world take notice as he scored 64 points in 77 games in his sophomore campaign. Look for Stewart to move between the first and second line on the right wing this season. 22-year old (noticing a trend here?) T.J. Galiardi had a successful rookie campaign last season accumulating 39 points in 70 games including a 10 points in 11 games streak. Galiardi will look to compete for offensive minutes this season and build on his decent debut.

The bottom six is led by former Oz tough guy turned hockey prodigy Ryan O'Reilly who will anchor the third line. O'Reilly is an incredible story, drafted in the 2nd round last year and making the NHL squad at 18-years old. Some observers say O'Reilly's rookie campaign last year was just as impressive as Duchene's. Look for O'Reilly to improve upon his numbers from last season and solidify himself as one of the best third-line centers in the game. Playing on O'Reilly's left wing will likely be the hard working Brandon Yip who debuted last season with 19 points in 32 games. On the opposite wing will likely be power forward David Jones who impressed with 16 points in 23 games last season.

The Avalanche's forward core will be rounded out with scrappy middle-weight Cody McLeod who had 18 fights and 18 points in 74 games last season. Defensive role player Daniel Winnik will likely anchor Colorado's fourth line. The fourth line will likely see defensive forward Kevin Porter and Czech tough guy David Koci compete for playing time.

Colorado's blueline features a solid collection of young offensive defensemen and gritty veteran defensive defensemen. Leading the Avalanche's back-end is talented two-way defenseman Kyle Quincey who led the team in ice time averaging over 23 minutes a game. Quincey will likely see the bulk of ice time again in Colorado this season. Also playing on the top pairing with be gritty defensive defenseman Scott Hannan who will once again be the de facto shut-down man for the Avalanche. 

The second pairing will likely be anchored by 39-year old defensive god Adam Foote. This season could very well be Foote's swan as he'll still get a solid 18 minutes a game and take any defensive role while Hannan is on the bench. Playing on the second pairing will likely be 23-year old offensive defenseman Kyle Cumiskey who scored 20 points in 61 games last season.

Playing on the bottom pairing this season will likely be offensive defenseman John-Michael Liles who scored 31 points in 59 games last season. Liles will be the de facto powerplay defenseman in Colorado. Likely playing with Liles will be stand-out 23-year old defenseman Ryan Wilson who scored 21 points in 61 games last season. Look for either of these defensemen to move up the depth chart on any given night depending on who's hot and cold on the back-end.

Colorado's success last season could largely be attributed to net-minder Craig Anderson who was the NHL's Faust last season. Anderson who bounced between teams as a backup before taking over Colorado's starting duties is largely credited for carrying the Avalanche into the playoffs. Anderson played 71 games last season while totalling 38 wins. The question in Denver is will Anderson be able to repeat such a unexpected top notch performance? Peter Budaj will be the back-up in Colorado this season and will do an adequate job in his 15-20 games. 

Team Trending

With the Avalanche pulling off a miraculous performance last season with a roster that most experts were penciling to be bottom dwellers, it's hard to get an accurate read on this team. The Avalanche will suffer losing defensive defenseman and shot blocking machine Brett Clark this off-season and will undoubtedly face growing pains with such a young roster. However while the talent exhibited from this squad last season was a surprise, I don't consider it an anomaly. Consider the Avalanche a bubble team who could get hot in the second half of the season. Look for them to finish somewhere between 12th and 16th in the league this season. 

BVB Projected Opening Night Line-Up




Player Projections


Paul Stastny - 20 G/58A 78 P
Milan Hejduk - 28 G/24 A 52 P
T.J. Galiardi - 20 G/25 A 45 P

Matt Duchene - 35 G/42 A 77 P
Peter Mueller - 30 G/28 A 58 P
Chris Stewart - 26 G/30 A 56 P

Ryan O'Reily - 13 G/30 A 43 P
Brandon Yip - 20 G/20 A 40 P
David Jones - 19 G/20 A 39 P

Cody McLeod - 4 G/10 A 14 P
Daniel Winnik - 3 G/8 A 11P
David Koci - 0 G/1 A 1 P


Kyle Quincey - 7 G/28 A 35 P
Scott Hannan - 1 G/18 A 19 P
Adam Foote - 1 G/7 A 8 P
Kyle Cuminsky - 9 G/20 A 29 P
John-Michael Liles - 5 G/27 A 32 P
Ryan Wilson - 4 G/20 A 24 P


Craig Anderson - 32-26-10 | 2.70 GAA | .915 Sv%
Peter Budaj - 7-5-2 | 2.80 GAA | .908 Sv%

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