Alright Avs fans. With another season to be forgot coming to a close, its time to put on our best Sunny Side McNab faces and look forward to 2011-2012. This fanpost will try and examine, to the best of my ability the decisions facing Sherm and Co. this summer and whether there really is hope for the future of this young team.
Let’s start with a position-by-position breakdown: (TWSS)
Center – Hey! The Avs look pretty good from here!
Signed: Stastny, Duchene, O’Reilly, McClement, Carman, Olver, Hishon, Malone
RFA: Dupuis, Reed
Potential Draftees: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jonathan Huberdeau, Sean Couturier, Ryan Strome, Vladislav Namestnikov
Injury Carryover: Stastny’s hairline fracture shouldn’t affect his game in any long-term sense, otherwise this group has been remarkably healthy (knock on wood so hard I break my hand).
Breakdown: By far the Avalanche’s deepest position, we will most likely see guys like Olver and Hishon jumping between Center and Wing depending on whether they end with the Avs or the Monsters. Hishon’s numbers seem to indicate he’ll be a shoe in to make the team out of camp, but in what capacity we’ll have to wait and see. If Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is still on the board for the Avs pick, you can be sure they’ll be drafting him, no matter how many centers are in the fold, his talent is too good to pass up. Strome could still be on the board with the 11th pick and really fits the team’s mold, chances are he’ll be gone, but we can hope.
Prediction: Dupuis will be let go, much like Hendricks; a good player and a good fit for this team is just going to be a victim of numbers and the guys coming up below him. If Stastny gets a better supporting cast next year his production should jump again. I firmly believe that he is an elite center in this league, but without a Chris Stewart to work with, he really struggled late in the season. Recently-signed-forward Brad Malone will be an injury call up midway through the season and make himself impossible to be sent down. I see him as our new Matt Hendricks/Cody McCormick and a wonderful red headed compliment to Cody McLeod.
Right Wing – #YipforCrosby
Signed: Yip, Walker
RFA: Jones, (Porter)
Potential Draftees: Joel Armia, Dmitri Jaskin
Injury Carryover: Everyone in this shockingly small group ended the year in good health. We’ll see if Jones’ health this year was an anomaly.
Breakdown: Well folks, with Yip as the only RW on next years roster, it makes sense that the Avs declined the Yip for Crosby, Nash, Weber and Miller trade. The Avs are seriously hurting for right-wingers. If re-signed, Hejduk will no doubt pot 20 goals again, but on the whole, this is a really fragile group. Jones’ shoulders will need to be broad in 2012 as it looks like the organization is counting on him to be the top guy, but with his own injury history the right wing group looks very, very thin.
Prediction: Everyone will be re-signed. Hejduk will see a 1-year deal but Jones I’m not sure. We could see a 1-year tender in anticipation of the CBA or a healthy raise and 2-3 year deal, like the ones given to Mueller and Stewart last summer.
Left Wing – The Unenviable Duchene Wings
RFA: Galiardi, (Stoa), Mercier
UFA: Fleischmann, Koci, Mauldin, Van Der Gulik
Potential Draftees: Gabriel Landeskog, (Ryan Strome), Sven Baerschi,
Notable UFA’s: Simon Gagne, Marco Sturm, Alex Ponikarovsky, Erik Cole, Alexander Frolov, Andrew Brunette, Antti Miettinen, Ethan Moreau, Alex Tanguay, Pascal Dupuis, Ben Eager, Ville Leino, (Thomas Kopecky)
Injury Carryover: Oh dear God. Peter Mueller may never play again, in no uncertain terms, he looks a lot like Marc Savard right now. Fleischmann’s blood clots could easily be an issue in the future. Galiardi’s wrist shouldn’t affect him next year. A summer of rehab should be plenty.
Breakdown: Well Avs fans, this is why I firmly believe the Avs will do all they can to resign Thomas Fleischmann. Beyond him? The field looks mighty thin. Mueller may not play again, but if he does then he’s playing with fire and could go down again at any time. This group could also see the most help though. With new Central Scouting Rankings pegging Landeskog at #2, it’s looking more and more likely that we pick up the dashing Swedish forward. This may just be me wish listing, but Thomas Kopecky or Ville Leino could be an excellent depth signing for the Avs, filling the 2nd/3rd left wing slot (he’d be the most durable Duchene wing yet). I personally salivate at the idea of a Kopecky-Stastny-Jones line…
Prediction: Fleischmann comes back and the Avs draft Landeskog if he is still available. Flash will play 60 games and put up very productive numbers, Mueller will start the season and play 45 games over the course of the year and Landeskog will play over 60 games on the 2nd/3rd lines. Galiardi has a scoring resurgence with a more offensive minded Ryan O’Reilly.
Defense – Lots of Johnson, Siemens, and Cumiskey
Signed: Johnson, Quincey, Liles, Guance, Elliott, Barrie, Chouinard
RFA: O’Byrne, Hunwick, Wilson, Cumiskey, Belle, Macias, Liffiton
UFA: Adam Foote (retired)
Potential Draftees: Adam Larsson, Dougie Hamilton, Nathan Beaulieu, Ryan Murphy, Duncan Siemens
Notable UFA’s: Ed Jovanovski, Bryan McCabe, Andrei Markov, Roman Hamrlik, Scott Hannan, Eric Brewer, Tomas Kaberle, Kevin Bieksa, James Wisniewski, Christian Ehrhoff, Brent Sopel, Jan Hejda, Hal Gill, Jonathan Ericsson
Injury Carryover: Liles, Johnson, Wilson, and Cumiskey have all suffered concussions this year and as we’ve seen with Mueller, the effects are long lasting and unpredictable. Hopefully this group will be healthy next year, but now they have a concussion history and that’s not a history you want to build on. Quincey’s all season shoulder rehab will be interesting to monitor. I think had we been in the playoff hunt he would’ve made it back this season, but with no reason to play, the extra time off will do him good. Lots of guys come back from those shoulder injuries ok, but some are never quite the same. We’ll have to wait and see how BMF looks in camp, but I think he’s gonna be just fine.
Breakdown: In the battle for biggest team logjam, the defense is certainly giving our centermen a run for their money. I really doubt the Avs would pick up Larsson when Guance, Elliott, Barrie and Chouinard will already be battling for playing time. However, Ryan Murphy and Duncan Siemens are both possible picks at #11.
Prediction: If Stefan Elliott puts up 30 or more (again different that 20) by the all-star break, then say good bye to John-Michael Liles. BMF will return with the steady guidance of Erik Johnson as his D-partner, the same way we saw Liles’ resurgence when paired with O’Byrne. The 17 different defensemen who played this season will drop to 10.
Goalies – For the love of Howard do we have to look at this?
Signed: Cann, Pickard (At least there’s that)
RFA: Brian Elliott
Potential Draftees: None projected for the first round
Injury Carryover: It was revealed after the season ended that Peter Budaj had torn every muscle in his catching arm, thereby justifying his all too slow glove while Avalanche medical staff also concluded that Brian Elliott was in fact blind. Neither is expected to heal.
Breakdown: At least the Avs are starting with a clean slate. There is no dead weight to get rid of, the Avs need only to offer contracts and play the free agent field.
Prediction: One of Budaj or Elliott will be back, I’d rather it was Budaj, but I really have no idea which to expect. The Avs will make a bid for Ilya Bryzgalov, but will lose out to a more desperate team willing to overpay. Vokoun will go to a contender. Pickard will play for the Monsters next season.
Bits and Pieces
Sacco's face when you dont start on time.
- Coaching: Joe Sacco will be the head coach again in 2011-2012. I’ve called for his head many times, but I think this is probably the right call. He is young and inexperienced just like this team and I think he learned as much from losing as our players did. Sacco will get another chance not only because he probably earned one, but because the other coaching options this summer are real slim
- Captain: A whole separate fanpost would be more appropriate for this topic. But to summarize, the frontrunners appear to be: Stastny, Duchene, O’Reilly, Hejduk. All are wonderful guys, I’d love to see O’Reilly or Liles with the C next year, but that’s just me. I think Hejduk or Stastny will be our next captain, but Sherman has surprised us before and I’m sure he will again.
All in all there is hope, but the Avs will need help from somewhere. Whether its from within, through the draft or through free agency, someone will step up, someone will be the hero next year. Only 173 days till we find out who. Time to say so long to the old guard one last time and move on with what we hope are the bright young stars of the NHL...