Most of us would prefer to watch the Avalanche right now, but since it's not going to happen for a while (perhaps not even until October 2013), we need to find another option. Fortunately, there are two choices that will still give you an Avalanche fix.
The Avalanche now have two minor league affiliates in the Lake Erie Monsters and the Denver Cutthroats. These affiliations provide ample opportunities to see Avalanche players in action.
We talk about the LEM kids a lot around here, but this season, we'll be covering them more than usual. The best part about watching the Monsters season is the fact that many future (and some current) Avs players are on the team. We will get to see more of Stefan Elliott, Tyson Barrie and Mark Olver, all of whom had more than a cup of coffee with the big club last season. We'll also get a chance to see the further development of Cameron Gaunce who became the team's go-to defenseman last season. Newcomers Mike Connolly, Paul Carey, Michael Sgarbossa and Mitchell Heard will provide us a taste of what's to come with the Avalanche core. Hopefully, Joey Hishon's noggin will be solid enough to get him some ice time. Then, of course, there's the legion of goalies in the Avs' system. Because of the lockout, it wouldn't be surprising to see Sami Aittokalio back in Europe, but the fact that the Monsters have not signed a veteran goalie leaves that in question. Certainly Calvin Pickard will man the net regularly as he made his debut last season. Kieran Millan and Kent Patterson are also available, and since the Cutthroats have yet to sign a goaltender, Denver locals might get the first look at the boys in pro hockey. For a full look into what the Monsters have to offer in 2012-2013, your best bet is to defer to our resident expert, Angelique Murray: Early Look at the 2012-2013 Lake Erie Monsters.
Earlier this year, the Avalanche announced that the organization had secured an affiliation agreement with the recently unveiled Denver Cutthroats, an expansion team in the Central Hockey League. Because of that affiliation, there will be opportunities to see Avalanche players in Denver this fall after all. The official word is that the Avalanche will control all movement between the clubs; however, it's been made clear by the higher ups in the Cutthroats organization that slots have already been targeted for Avs prospects. When those slots will be filled is unknown; that the Cutthroats will have some Avalanche players is all but guaranteed. As the blueline is pretty stacked for the Avs—even in the lower ranks—there's a good chance we'll see defensemen.
Regardless of the Avalanche connection, though, a new team is always exciting. The Cutthroats boast a strong balance between veteran leadership and young talent and is lead by a former Avalanche player in Head Coach Derek Armstrong. I've been assured by both Armstrong and Assistant General Manager and Director of Hockey Operations Brent Cullaton that the Cutthroats will be a competitive team, and with the potential influx of NHL level players, could even be a championship team out of the gates.
The Monsters can be streamed online through the AHL website with a subscription to AHL Live. Brutal honesty, here: the $150 Team Pass price tag is pretty steep, especially considering what you get. The video feed is generally taken straight from the home team's jumbo tron and includes the in-game entertainment. You can get single games at $6.99 which is reduced when bought in 5 or 10 packs.
Don't despair if you don't live near Denver. You can watch the Cutthroats online, as well. Their games will be steamed via America One Sports. As of right now, there are no specific details regarding cost for an entire season, but I've had confirmation that it will cost about $7 per game. I do know that America One Sports is broadcasting the Colorado Eagles, which costs $150 for a full season and $30 for a 30-day pass. This includes all games by all teams, not just the Eagles. So the Cutthroats full season might be similar. For those who want to go wild, America One also offers college and numerous other minor league games.
Of course, you can always listen to the games for free via the teams' websites.