I'm not exactly sure what we were expecting from the Avalanche this summer, but it had to be more than this. Though the free agent pool was relatively thin overall, there were still attractive names like Hossa and Rolston and Campbell and Conklin. Even if the Avs were only interested in finding new pests, Jarkko Ruttu was up for grabs. Instead they settled for Darcy Tucker and Andrew Raycroft, two players bought out by the Maple Leafs. Oh, and the Swedish mystery man Per Ledin.
At least the Avs were able to retain the services of Wojtek Wolski, John-Michael Liles and Adam Foote, and likely Marek Svatos and the two Codys as well. But overall? Kind of dull. They lost Jeff Finger, Kurt Sauer, Jose Theodore and Andrew Brunette. Not exactly the cream of the crop, but three of those guys were valuable depth players and I'm unsure the Avs can sufficiently fill the gaps.
What if Jordan Leopold gets hurt again? Let me rephrase that. What happens when Jordan Leopold gets hurt again? Who will fill in? Kyle Cumiskey? Nigel Williams? For a team that couldn't find enough spots in the press box to put all their extra defensemen last year, they sure look kind of thin now.
The Raycroft signing makes sense, because Peter Budaj will need an experienced backup and Raycroft is not horrible. He's not great, but he's not going to be the starter anyway. If he does end up being great, that's fine, too. But he's not expected to carry the team. That, finally, is up to Budaj, who will finally get the opportunity to prove to the doubters that he's a legitimate number one goalie. Or to make me look like a jackass for carrying his water. Either way, the team is on his patient shoulders.
What concerns me a bit is the changing "feel" of the Avalanche. Once a dynasty built on speed and finesse, it appears the new focus is on physical agitation and harassment. Darcy Tucker, Ian Laperriere, Scott Parker, Codys McCormick and McLeod, and wild card Per Ledin round out what could be the most annoying squad of pests since the Ducks won the Cup in 2006-07. While the offense still boasts names like Stastny, Wolski, Hejduk and Svatos, it's just not the dominant factor on the team anymore.
And this after GM Francois Giguere sent former coach Joel Quenneville on his way because his coaching style didn't reflect the fast-and-furious offensive tradition of Avalanche hockey. So, uh, what happened to that?
Joe Sakic still hasn't signed anything, and Peter Forsberg is as aloof as always. Other names like Sundin, Jagr, Straka, Naslund and Demitra (I think their average age is 46) are still left without contracts. Obviously, the free agency period isn't over, and the Avs still have plenty of money to work with. But I have a feeling they're about finished.
Even if Sakic returns, is this a team with any reasonable chance to win the Cup? Don't answer that. It was rhetorical.