Question #9 marks the end of this year's Avalanche Blogger Roundtable. We hope you have enjoyed reading these as much as we enjoyed putting these together. Once again, we are reminded that there are a fantastic number of Avalanche writers out there. The Avs' kick off their season tomorrow, and hopefully we've given you some new folks to spend the season with (besides MHH, of course).
Question 1: Avalanche attendance woes
Question 2: Avalanche toughness
Question 3: Craig Anderson, workhorse
Question 4: Improvement on defense
Question 5: Offensive defenseman
Question 6: Matt Duchene
Question 7: Super sophomores
Question 8: Breakout season
The Avs’ only notable acquisition this summer is Daniel Winnik and several veterans were allowed to walk as GM Greg Sherman focuses on letting the young players develop. Will this team be better or worse than the last year’s 8th-place team?
Adam Hersh, An Avalanche of Thoughts: I can see the Avs finishing anywhere from 6th-10th this year, depending on how hard the injury bug bites, and so far, it's not looking too good on that front. I'd like to say they'd have a chance for the division crown as three of the four other teams don't seem to pose a threat, but Vancouver, at least on paper, looks too good at this point.
Sean Payton, Anyone But Detroit:
- I'm in the camp that thought we should have let more "dead-weight" go (i.e. - Budaj, Koci).
- If we're worse, injuries will be to blame, not that we let old / borderline NHLers like Salei, Clark, Svatos and Tucker walk.
- Hendricks was valuable, but Winnick is an upgrade over Hendricks.
Nic Zamora, Avaholics Anonymous: It seems like with the acquisition of Daniel Winnik, our penalty kill should slightly improve. Also, all the young guys are a year older and should only get better. The things that worry me are the power play, especially now that Peter Mueller is out for who knows how long, and the defense, which is almost exactly the same as last season. It seems like the Avs probably won't be any better or worse and another 8th place finish is what should be expected.
Angélique Murray, Avs Prospects, Mile High Hockey and Chicks Who Give A Puck: Injuries always come into play and the Avs certainly took a hit with Peter Mueller's concussion. This is a talented, albeit, young team and they will certainly have their struggles. The blue line will be a work in progress as the Avs start to work in some of their defensive prospects. Despite Mueller's loss this team will score goals, and I expect another strong year from Craig Anderson. Many things scream that this team will miss the playoffs, but I think they surprise us again.
Shane Giroux, Avs Talk: A lot of people have pointed to a lack of moves by the Avalanche as reason that they have stayed in place while everyone else has moved forward. I think that's a bit shortsighted since it doesn't account for the improvements our existing players will show in their game. This team will be a better team than last year and I'll stick my neck out to say they will remain a playoff team this year.
Andy Robbins, Avs Weekly: Save the toughest question for last! To start, Winnik's offseason acquisition was key for this club, with the seemingly detrimental loss of Matt Hendricks, who recently signed a one-year deal with the Washington Capitals. Winnik is listed at 6'2" but it should really read 8'1". He brings some much needed size to the lineup, and offers more than most fans are aware of on the penalty kill. The bottom line: the Avalanche will not jump out of the gate as they did last year, leading the entire NHL in points, second to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first dozen games. Wouldn't that be out of this world to witness again? However, this Avs team has the tools to make a dent in this league as long as they utilize their speed, get consistent goaltending out of Craig Anderson, and are solid on special teams. The Avalanche WILL make the playoffs for the second consecutive season, finishing no better than 7th in the Western Conference. In short, the Avs will finish the same.
Geoff, The Avslova Factor: This team will be light years ahead of last year. The start might not be the same, but the finish won't be either. Fans will see a lot more consistency, a lot more excitement, and a lot more chemistry developed by a core that could be together for a long, long time. Anywhere from a division title to a 15th place finish is possible, of course, but a realistic prediction for this squad is a finish somewhere in the 4th though 6th spot.
Matt Powell, The Burgundy Blog: That's another thing that's hard to tell. I'm not going to b.s. an answer and come up with reasons why they'll make a cup run. I do have faith that the team can make the playoffs again, but one thing that needs to not happen again is the revolving door on defenseman. I'd say that was the one major mistake that Sacco made last season. The D lines need cohesion and it's hard to build that when your teammate is someone different every single night. However, we do have a very young team this year and they want to play hockey, have fun, and win. They've got the potential to make the playoffs again and I think they can.
Ryan Boulding, The Burgundy Blog: This team has all the makings of being a improved contender this season. Dan Winnik brings grit but also great puck control down low, something missing since Ryan Smyth was dumped. Winnik will be a great addition to the team but you have to remember that - and I know Justin from the Avalanche Guild has been pounding this point home - there is no surprise left with Colorado. Everybody knows the talent, everybody knows how Craig Anderson plays - there really is no shocking start coming. But, the team can still develop cohesion and chemistry and that is something you can't scout or plan for. I think they'll do better than 8th.
Courtney Beckham, Chicks Who Give A Puck:
Sherman's refusal to sign any stand out D to short term, one to two year deals was hard to watch. While the majority of the contracts other than Stastny are one to three years, the cap space we still have would have allowed us to sign some players to the short term until our D were in their prime. Obviously a good deal of contracts are up next season so the Avalanche wanted to have space to re-sign all the big names, that's understandable. What's not understandable is refusing to do anything with the money we have now to improve the team. It is understandable to do what they are doing, building for the future after they learned the Colorado or now Chicago way of building a team was not responsible. I understand they are going about it more the Detroit way. That being said, Detroit is still a contender year after year. Sign one year contracts with guys who can make a difference in the short term while you're building your team up for the long term. With all the moves teams have made to improve it's going to be interesting to watch how the Avs do. Vancouver is one of the teams that improved their roster the most. Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, and Pittsburgh also made key moves while being strapped for cash in the salary cap and still they improved their roster. Letting guys go, bringing only a few guys in, dropping veteran leadership...These are just smaller issues compared to not acquiring a viable backup for Andy or not bringing in a solid D. Here's hoping for another playoff season, but if we don't make it I won't be surprised.
Terry Frei, Denver Post: I was absolutely certain they'd be last or next-to-last in the conference last season. I was wrong. I wasn't alone. So I toss this out without a lot of certainty: The Avs will be a playoff bubble team this season and barely miss the postseason. And the biggest issue will be if it becomes apparent that their approach is more about being cheap rather than showing faith in its rebuilding philosophy.
David Púchovský, Eurolanche: It was not good pre-season, but do not panic. It is ONLY pre-season. I think that Colorado will finished better than the last season. Youg players are more experience, goalie too and we have some new hot prospects in the defense. For now, the most important questions is how big will be the impact of the Mueller´s injury. It is a tough loss, but do not forget that Avs managment have to sign somebody to fill in the salary cap.
Marc Parsons, Hendricks Hockey: Better, better a thousand times better. Unless injuries happen, this team has three lines of danger coming into this season. Now people underestimate this team because they are young and they are not "big name" players yet. But this team is only going up. and those players will become "big name" players. People may not have any faith now. But that doesn't matter as long as Avs fans have faith.
Aaron "Avalangelist" Musick, Hockeybuzz: If they play together and find line chemistry, better. If their kids struggle, worse. It's all a crap-shoot right now and that's the nature of a young team.
Grant Beery, Hockeyism: Many of the veterans that were not brought back this year really don't bother me. It was Darcy's time to go. Salei never really wowed me beyond that first shortened season in Colorado. The list goes on. However, Clark leaving is a huge blow to the team. With an already shaky defense, you really can't afford to lose the player that leads in blocked shots. The offense will be fine, but the defense had better pray for a miracle of Lacroix-like proportions. That miracle could come thanks to the cap. The Avs need to trade for another big name. Period. If that doesn't happen, don't expect a postseason.
Jibblescribbits, JibbleScribbits: I think the team will be better, but that doesn't mean they will finish higher or with more points. I think the Avs were a bit lucky last season, but I also think a couple clubs were a bit unlucky last season as well. I think St. Louis, Dallas and maybe Anaheim will all be better, or have better luck, this season.
David Driscoll-Carignan, Mile High Hockey: Well, they won't be as good as they would have been with Ilya Kovalchuk, that's for sure. I think this is a toss-up. Some guys are going to be better (Duchene, Galiardi, Quincey and Yip, in my opinion) but I also think there's some candidates to take a small step back this season in Chris Stewart, Peter Mueller and Ryan Wilson). The Avalanche have NO proven depth. Last year, kids stepped up big time when given chances. With the checkbook firmly locked away, the Avs will have to bank on a repeat of favorable player development. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work that way. This could be a really long year, I'm afraid
Derek Bell, Mile High Hockey: I truly believe that this team is still a work in progress. There is no doubt that a lot of the pieces are in place for this team to do great things and challenge for a Cup very soon. I do expect the team to challenge Vancouver for the division crown this year, but one of the things that is going to be crucial to the success of this team is the number of shots that Craig Anderson sees. Also, this team no longer has the luxury of teams perhaps overlooking them like they may have had last year. People know that his is solid young team and if they play with the chip on the shoulder they did last year, it could be another great year in the Mile High City!
Mike Thompson, Mile High Hockey: Worse. By 2-3 standing positions. Flirting with Lotteryville.
Paul's Coffey, Mile High Hockey: Optimism reigns this morning as I type, so I believe the team will be better. The young studs are all a year older, wiser, stronger, faster, smarter(?). Also, it seems like there is much more competition for roster spots both amongst the individual lines and with Lake Erie. Lot's of people seeking to establish and prove themselves. I see Jones, Yip and Galiardi all shuffling around between the top three lines based on who's hot, who's not. I also see big years from Duchene, Stewart, Mueller and O'Reilly as they strive to take that next step and cement their status in the league. Winnick and McLeod also have something to prove. This is an exciting team with a ton of badass potential. Now let's drop that friggin' puck already!
Matt Jordan, Mile High Mayhem: Right now, I would have to say the Avalanche will probably be the same. Everyone will be ready for them, however, I think there is enough talent alone to put the Avs in at least 8th in the west. I still see a few trades coming this way.
From The Point, Real Denver Sports: On paper this team looks terrific. If all guys avoid sophomore slumps and everyone is relatively injury free (already out the window with Mueller) then this team will be better. Unfortunately, unless General Sherman makes a nice, early, trade acquisition I don't think the hockey gods are likely to grace us with such a scenario. I predict a heart breaking 10th or 11th place finish.
Jaye Horbay, Patrick Kane's Loose Change: Someone ate his Wheaties before sending these questions. I think a lot needs to go right this season for the team to get better than 8th. (didn't we say this last season? Except it was 15th) Not only the team have get hot out of the gate, we need a strong performance from Andy AND Budaj night in and night out. We need a PP that doesn't make us throw our beers at our walls in frustration (Please Mueller?) and a PK that doesn't allow it to be a shooting gallery out there. (Enter Winnik?) Stewart, Stastny, we need a xerox of last season. Galiardi, repeat last spring. Duchene, please continue to be awesome. At the end of the day, this team looks very exciting to watch after what seems to be a LONG offseason. Fast, hard to play against and once again, looking for that ‘never say die' attitude. I'm very much looking forward to this season!
Stephen Crociata, Patrick Kane's Loose Change: Not only will this team top the performance of last years surprise team but by the end of the year Daniel Winnik will not be known as the "only" acquisition. Winnik is a hard worker who will help solidify the Avalanche as a force in the West. The Avs many not win the NW this season but they will give the Nucks a run for their money.
Mike Verminski, Put It On Ice and The Hockey Writers: Better. The old crappy, worthless guys like Clark, Tucker, and Svatos have all moved on which makes room for some younger talent to step up. Obviously these young guys strive in Sacco's system and I'm putting money on a better finish this season than last season.
With this entry, the 2010 Avalanche Blogger Roundtable comes to a close. This was a lot of work to put together and I hope it was worth doing. Please feel free to let us know what you think about the roundtable below. And don't forget to check out all the great Avalanche sites listed above. Go Avs!