Opening Night Lineup Predictions

Doug Pensinger

What will the Avs forward lines and defensive pairings look like for the season opener?

Ah, opening night. After being delayed 3.5 months, it's almost here. Training camp is set to open Sunday, and by next Saturday, the Avs will be back on the ice against the Wild. The only thing left to decide (besides where they are playing) is who makes the team and who skates with whom.

We've already started our discussions about the lineup. From what I've read, there seem to be two primary camps when it comes to this matter. One school of thought is basically an "If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It" option and the other calls for playing our top talent together. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of each.

Depth Chart:

Left Wing Center Right Wing Left D Right D Goalie
Landeskog Duchene Parenteau Hejda Johnson Varlamov
McGinn Stastny Jones Wilson O'Byrne Giguere
McLeod O'Reilly Hejduk O'Brien *Barrie *Pickard
*Olver Mitchell Downie Zanon *Elliott *Aittokallio
*Malone *Sgarbossa Kobasew Hunwick
*Bordeleau *Van der Gulik

* indicates possible Lake Erie call-up.

Option 1: If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

McGinn - Stastny - Jones
Hejduk - Duchene - Parenteau
Landeskog - O'Reilly - Downie
McLeod - Mitchell - Kobasew
Olver

Hedja - O'Byrne
Johnson - Wilson
O'Brien - Zanon
Hunwick

Pros: The strength of this lineup comes from the fact that it builds off last season. Since training camp is less than week long, it doesn't allow much time for new lines to gel. By sticking with combinations that are very similar to last year's, we have a some proven chemistry that could give us an edge over teams that are still trying to establish theirs.

Cons: It's a very safe approach. We could be missing out on greater scoring by not mixing it up right away. It also creates a smaller finesse line of Hejduk - Duchene - Parenteau, which might be easy for other team to push around.

Option 2: Top Talent Together

Landeskog - Duchene - Parenteau
McGinn - Stastny - Jones
Hejduk - O'Reilly - Downie
McLeod - Mitchell - Olver
Kobasew

Johnson - Hedja
O'Byrne - Wilson
O'Brien - Zanon
Hunwick

Pros: On paper, this looks like a more effective lineup. It creates a system where each of the top 3 lines has a sniper (Duchene, Jones, Hejduk), a play-maker (Parenteau, Stastny, O'Reilly), and a power forward (Landeskog, McGinn, Downie). It also creates a true 1st line and pairs our top two defensemen, Johnson and Hejda, together.

Cons: The only downside to this setup is the possible lack of chemistry. Duchene is known to play well with some wingers and terribly with others (like Jones) even though they should theoretically work together. Pairing Dutchy with Landeskog could either be a great idea or an awful one - a big risk to take given the importance of each contest in a 48-game schedule. This setup would also break apart the reliable Landeskog-O'Reilly combo that carried the team all last year.

Our top defensive pairing could also be a chemistry nightmare. EJ and Hejda played together for two months at the beginning of last season, and neither were able to find their game until they were split apart. Perhaps their issues were born from the fact that they were both relatively new members of the team and still settling in, but we could be in trouble if they struggle again year. Taking a risk on this pairing would also break-up last year's most consistent shut-down pair of Hejda and O'Byrne.

Option 3: Surprise!

Of course, this is the Avalanche we're talking about here. The only predictable thing about this team is that it's rather unpredictable. With Sherman at the helm and the implications of the CBA now known, there could be some significant shakeups during camp. Whether it's a major trade, O'Reilly deciding not to sign, or one of the Monsters (such as Barrie or Elliott) winning a spot, expecting the unexpected could prove to be correct.

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