The Avalanche ranked 15th in goals scored and 30th in goals allowed last year. Which of these areas will see the biggest improvement (if any) next year?
As you might expect, pretty much everyone looked at the Avalanche goaltending and concluded that...well, let Mike tell it...
Mike @ MHH, Mile High Hockey: Goals allowed of course. Nowhere to go but up!!
Nic Zamora, Avaholics Anonymous: Well there's no way to go but up and with the bigger defense and potentially better goaltending, the goals against should be much lower than last season. Hopefully this is the case because no way we make the playoffs giving up that many goals. Goals for, I think, will be right around the same since we aren't going to be getting as much offense from the defense after losing guys like Liles and Shattenkirk.
Adrian Dater, Denver Post: I would definitely say it'll be the latter. Not only is Varlamov and J.S. Giguere already an automatic upgrade over Elliott-Budaj, but the defense clearly looks better on paper. Jan Hejda and a healthy Kyle Quincey will add a lot more size back there, and I really think Stefan Elliott has a chance to be a real good rookie this year. On paper, things look better offensively too really. Yeah, they lost Fleischmann, but they should get Peter Mueller back, and Gabriel Landeskog has all the right ingredients to make a positive impact this year. I also think Duchene will be better, and I think TJ Galiardi will have a bounce-back year. But still, goal-scoring figures to be the team's biggest problem - especially on the power play.
Stephen Crociata, Mile High Sticking and SBNation New York: When taking a look at the possible 2011-12 roster for the Avalanche I expect the scoring to be consistent with last season, possibly just a little better, but I expect goals allowed to take a sharp decrease. The Avalanche acquired two very capable goalies and their new and improved, aka larger, blueline will add to a drop in goals allowed.
Aaron Musick, HockeyBuzz: With Erik Johnson leading the defense, Kyle Quincey coming back and Jan Hejda coming in, the Avs should be tougher to play against. No counting Kyle Cumiskey, the Avalanche only have Matt Hunwick as the small-type defenseman. Liles and Shattenkirk are gone, Holos is probably going to play in Lake Erie. That alone makes the Avs tougher, just the fact they can play with the bigger teams.
Add in the fact that they have started from scratch on goaltending and have a fresh start, they should give up less goals while still scoring about the same, assuming goaltender health is good.
Pavol from Slovakia, Eurolanche: I think the biggest improvement will be in the ranking of goals allowed. We finally got two balanced goalkeepers, both are very good. Varlamov is young, motivated and he see his chance to become career-long Avs goalie number one so he will do anything to catch all the pucks. Also, our defense is being stronger, at least in my eyes. Anyway, after last season our next rank could not be worse.
Geoff Rosenthal, The Avs Factor: The Avalanche defense has improved enough (as has their goaltending) to the point where they should be much better in the goals allowed category. It can't get any worse.
David Driscoll-Carignan, Mile High Hockey: Goaltending is the easy answer here. It doesn't get much worse than the 3.5 goals per game given up by Craig Anderson, Peter Budaj and Brian Elliott last year. Varlamov and Giguere both have a career GAA about a goal per game lower than that and they'll be playing against a defense that has been completely revamped. The Avalanche will be greatly improved in this area. And they may need that, because I think the team will take a few steps backwards offensively.
AJ Haefele, Mile High Hockey: Without a doubt the goals allowed total. With improved health, the offense could and should return to being a Top 8 unit. The defense has been greatly improved with the additions of Jan Hejda and two competent goaltenders in Varly and Giguere. Those three moves alone should vault us into the top 20 and a full season of Erik Johnson, the return of Kyle Quincey, and the maturation of Ryan O'Byrne, Cameron Gaunce, and Jonas Holos (whenever they inevitably end up in Colorado) should allow for a nastier, more defensively stout group than last year's Liles-led group.
David from Slovakia, Eurolanche: Goals allowed - definitely. It would be surrealistic disaster if this would happen again - when both goalies would fail. Everybody expects big help from Varlamov and he could not fail. I also predict an improvement in goals scored, but not so big like in the goals allowed.
Mike Chambers, Denver Post: Goals against will dramatically improve because of better goaltending and a much-improved blue line.
Cheryl Bradley, Mile High Hockey & Avalanche Breakaway: This team can score. Of that, few people have doubt. Its Achilles' heel for too many years has been the defense. Yet the late- and off-season moves by Sherman has turned an undersized, PMD-heavy defense into a formidable blue line, which will improve the team's goals allowed stats considerably. The front office added inches and pounds, increasing the average size to 6'2"/214 lbs; by doing so, they changed the identity of the defense. It's designed to create opportunities and stop opportunities. There's more focus on outlet passes from the defensive zone rather than carrying the puck through center ice from the back end. Fewer battles in the corners will end with the Avalanche defender being pushed off the puck. Varly's line of sight will be clearer because opponents who camp out in front of the net won't have it so easy anymore. There's a meanness in the d-corps that hasn't been present in a long time. I don't doubt that penalties by the defense will go up, but the scoring opportunities by the other teams will be reduced significantly, enough for it to be a fair trade off.
The other half of the equation is the goaltending. If both goaltenders can stay healthy, the Avs may prove to have one of the very best tandems in the league. There's no question both Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastian Giguere are highly talented players. Both have proven they can carry a team, especially during the playoffs. The defense will certainly reduce the number of pucks that go on net, but the goaltender in that net will adeptly stop those that make it through.
Sandie Gauthier, Mile High Hockey: Goals allowed, because really, nowhere else to go but up?
Angélique Murray, Colorado Avalanche Prospects, Mile High Hockey & Chicks Who Give A Puck: For this team to return to the playoffs, they have to get better defensively. Give the Avs credit, they have made an effort of getting bigger on defense with the acquisitions of Ryan O'Byrne and Erik Johnson; plus off-season additions of Jan Hejda and Shane O'Brien (and add in a healthy and productive Kyle Quincey). The Avs defense will have a drastically different look at the beginning of the 2011-12 season in comparison to the start of the 2010-11 campaign. Also, the retirement of Adam Foote and trade of John-Michael Liles adds to the changes. I believe the new look defense will be tougher to play against and the Avs will shave off a few goals against from last year's total.
Austin Snow, Avs Chill Zone: Goals allowed will vastly improve. The goaltending situation is heads and tails above what the team had last year, and the revamped defense will make it much tougher for the opposing teams to get to the net. I see an improvement to around the #15 spot, maybe even better depending on how Varly plays.
I think the goals for stat will increase a bit to a top-10 spot. Remember the Avalanche led the league in goals for a good period during the first half of last season. A 3rd year Matt Duchene, healthy Mueller, and other players like Landeskog will keep the offense rolling.
Derek Bell, Mile High Hockey: While I would like to say the offense will improve, the defense was absolutely horrid last season and since they finished dead last in the NHL, the only place to go is up. It's no secret that a goalie can make or break a team's season, hell even 6-7 seasons (see Patrick Roy). It's also no secret that the Avs have not had a solid goalie since Roy retired. We thought we had something during the 2009-10 when Craig Anderson played "Roy-esque", but came crashing back to Earth last season and was ultimately dealt to Ottawa for perennial backup Brian Elliott. I honestly think that both will improve this season, but with the tandem of Varlamov and Giguere I will say the defense will improve more.
Ryan Boulding, The Avalanche Guild: I expect the Burgundy Boys to improve greatly in both areas. Let's not forget that while they had been allowing a lot of goals, they were leading the league at one point for goals scored. When the offense is on and can focus on offense, the goals will flow. The forwards got caught playing a lot of defense last season - albeit poorly - and were easily overcome. With a bigger, stronger defensive unit and an explosive, unconventional starting goaltender, the Avalanche will be able to refocus their firepower on the unfortunate opponents they face. Hands down the biggest improvement will be in goals allowed.
Jaye Horbay, Mile High Sticking: Both of these should have giant IF's beside them. While I think the goaltending tandem the team will have this year is leaps and bounds over any point last season, both goalies are unproven. Varlamov's injuries are well documented and Giguere might be past his prime, they both need to have solid seasons and be injury free if moving up from dead last in the Goals Against is possible. The offence, IF they are healthy, will be fine in my opinion. A big reason for this, I think, is the re addition of Peter Mueller. We all saw what he did in the limited time he played with Duchene and Hejduk, now stretch that over a full season (hopefully?) scary stuff. Putting him and Erik Johnson as the one two punch unleashing bombs from the blue on the power play and maybe that will improve as well.
Some people went with write-in option c) both
Matt Muzia, SBN Denver: Both will improve. Injuries and lack of depth really hurt the offense, which was producing at a pretty decent clip the first few months. Goals allowed will improve because of an upgrade in net (starting and backup) and a better commitment to defense, along with more physical players.
Andi D, Mile High Hockey: I think both areas will see a large amount of improvement. This off-season, we've beefed up our defense so they aren't as easy to push around, increased our organizational depth so even if injuries do strike we won't be relying on career AHL players to score on our top lines, acquired two goalies that will be competing for the starting job rather than the backup one, and have had 3 months to heal and train so we can come back healthy. The Tank is gone, we've got a crop of great potential rookies, and it's a contract year for 65% of the players in the organization. This is the team that led the league in goals for nearly half the season. This is also the team with a chip on its shoulder, something to prove, and the muscle to make a statement. I think we'll finish in at least the top 10 for goals for and in the top 20 for goals against.
And we also had a "none of the above" choice.
Mike Verminski, Put It On Ice: I don't see either improving drastically. We lost Foote and Liles on defense which will most likely hurt the team more than help to improve it. If Varlamov can play consistently throughout the season the goals allowed could improve. I don't think goals for will change much from last season.
That's more or less a landslide, not that it really could have gone any other way.
The Roundtable will continue tomorrow (yes, on a Sunday) and will continue straight through to next Friday. We've talked a bit about the front office, coaching and some overall team performance metrics. Over the next few days, we're going to focus on specific players. Of course, we'll be kicking things off tomorrow with Ryan Stoa!