What the hell are the 2013-2013 Colorado Avalanche? Well, they're.... a whole bunch of guys, that much is for certain. They're a young team with the youngest captain. Their top guys are coming off a bad year. Their top scorer last year may or may not join the team any day. The defense is thin up high but packed in the bottom. The goaltending is... good, not amazing but solid. All in all it's a mystery wrapped in an enigma. It's all about the '?'.
As the season progresses, we'll finally begin to get some answers. But impossible predictions that nobody will come back to check later are more fun and more immediately gratifying, so
Andi will have more on this later today or tomorrow, but we're entering a new era. The past is gone. Milan Hejduk remains on the roster, but this is the kids' team now, and the youngest among them, Gabriel Landeskog, has been handed the reins. He's been a leader his whole career, and the team has said all the right things about his appointment. A Captaincy in the NHL is its own unique challenge, but one Landeskog will be up to. He doesn't seem like the kind of player who has a sophomore slump either, he was already playing the toughest competition last season.
Speaking of the Duke...
How much does he really have left in the tank? Last season was his first with under 20 goals since he was a rookie, with almost a career low shooting percentage as well. Look for him to rebound some. He's still got the hands, for one, and this season will be short, which may help an older body if he rests as often as he can. But still not to where he once was.
Who is Jamie McGinn?
The Avs traded last year for a guy known mainly as a third-liner with upside, put him with top 6 talent and watched him thrive. This season, McGinn won't be sneaking up on anybody. His line with Paul Stastny and David Jones will be relied upon heavily. Based on his career shooting percentages (when you exclude an outlier year) alone, he doesn't have far to fall to come back down to Earth, so what we've seen is what we're likely to get. The wildcard here is the 4x4 Man, David Jones, because.....
We Will See Monsters (maybe)
See, I... I drafted David Jones late in my fantasy league. When he inevitably goes on the IR in a couple weeks, Michael Sgarbossa is a logical top-six fill in, or the whole depth chart could shift, bringing Hejduk or Downie up a line and bringing David Van Der Gulik back to the show.
How good can Erik Johnson be?
He's a former first rounder, a potential 1D who's never quite made it to that level. Last season he was not played in the hard defensive situations, that was Ryan O'Byrne and Jan Hejda (who look to be paired again this year), and he was absolutely snakebitten for a while too. But he also has had moments of domination. Of doing the little things with quiet confidence. It's time to arrive, EJ. But will you?
With our top defensive forwards either traded, let walk, or in Russia, the penalty kill suffers. Maybe not league rock bottom again, but it won't be quite where it was last season. And who ends up taking draws in the defensive zone until O'Reilly comes home? We all know Mark Olver shouldn't be taking faceoffs in his own zone (or anywhere else for that matter). The other three will have to be up to the task. And finally, to stun all of us, the Avalanche will draw power plays this season!
Rooks and Ladders
Tyson Barrie sticks with the big club again, adding some offensive pop the blue line only pushed out by committee in 2011-12. Patrick Bordeleau has climbed his way to the NHL and looks to get his first career start in place of Chuck Kobasew on Saturday. He is sent back down when Ryan O'Reilly finally puts his name on the dotted line, but not before Bordy gets in a couple of scraps. ("Scraps" in exactly the same way nuclear war is a "skirmish.")
Semyon Varlamov takes a couple of games to break back into small ice at game speed. Giguere will be a big part of the team's success or failure early on, as the coaches keep Varly rested, but down the stretch it'll be all Varly. Some questions still remain though: Does Jiggy still have it like he had it last winter? With the season getting Gary'd, we could see an increase in shootouts, as teams scramble for every point they can get; does Varly continue to own the skills competition? How many celebrating screenshots will vtcaps capture of him?
If the team should falter again, Sacco's seat will get so hot his pants actually catch on fire every time he says the words "start the game on time."
Matt Duchene's Rebound Control
He looks to have all the advantages he could want this season. He's coming in presumably in better shape than others, having played in 2 leagues and the Spengler Cup. He's centering a guy who helped Tavares be a 70+ point guy and last year's Calder winner/youngest captain in all of ever. He should be in good position to get his groove back. The question that remains is, Will P.A. Parenteau be the elusive Matt Duchene Wing, and if so, how cursed IS that wing, exactly?
Greg Zanon's Beard
Since the Avs wouldn't hire a full-time goalie coach, he smuggled Tim Thomas in there to serve an educational role and invented the story that Thomas is taking a year off in Springs as cover. We'll find out mid-March when he's spotted at a Chick-Fil-A on a road trip.