Since coming home to the Colorado Avalanche front office, Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy have been extremely forthcoming about the team's intentions to both media and fans. Although there are still big holes in the Avalanche defense and some questions as to the depth of the forward core, Sakic and Roy confirmed Tuesday, in a conference call with season ticket holders, that the Avalanche will not be very active in the free agent market and are wary of overpaying for talent.
Roy's Projected Lines:
Depth: Mark Olver - David Van Der Gulik
On Their Way Out:
Milan Hejduk (Retirement)????
While those top three lines look good on paper, there is definitely room for improvement. In his first press conference with the Avalanche, Patrick Roy identified the Avalanche's need to get bigger on the front end of the ice. Additionally, while Patrick Bordeleau is excellent at punching things... the roster could benefit from a bottom six forward who can play on the penalty kill, thus saving the top forwards ice time for even strength and power play opportunities. Although the forward corps is packed full, the Avalanche could pick up a depth forward Friday.
|2012 - Nathan Horton||43||13||9||22||1||22||0||0||1||114||
Horton is perhaps the biggest prizes of this years free agent class. Horton has all the tools you want from a power forward and has had some great success in his NHL career. Horton has scored at least 20 goals in 6 of his 7 full seasons and was well over that pace during the shortened 2012-2013 campaign and his injury ridden 2011-2012 season. After returning from concussions which plagued him the last two years, Horton dished out a respectable 41 hits and 114 shots in just 43 games this season. Horton would be an excellent fit on either of the Avalanche's top two lines, but his recent Stanley Cup appearance and the contract inflation from a relatively week UFA group will likely drive Horton out of the Avs price range.
|2012 - Viktor Stalberg||47||9||14||23||16||25||0||0||1||113|
Viktor Stalberg is a big body with a decent shot and excellent skating for his size. Stalberg is a gritty winger with some nice offensive upside. He tied Dave Bolland for 3rd on the Blackhawks in hits, 43 in 47 games and still managed 113 shots on net, good for fourth on the Stanley Cup winning Blackhawks and trailing only Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa (good company). He scored 22 goals in the 2011-2012 campaign and has maintained a 40-50 point pace in each of his last 2 seasons. Though there isn't a clear spot on the depth chart for Stalberg on the depth chart, he could be a serious upgrade on the third line and give the Avalanche more depth in case of injury or give the Avalanche room to deal one of their other middling forwards.
|2012 - Ryane Clowe||40||3||16||19||1||93||1||0||0||87|
Ryane Clowe had a tough go of things in the 2012-2013 season. He couldn't score a goal in 28 games with the Sharks and managed just 3 goals over 40 games. That said, a poor half season following a lockout doesn't mean the 30 year old winger is washed up. Clowe scored 52, 57, 62 and 45 points between 2009 and 2012 and topped 20 goals twice in that same span. His foot speed could definitely be a problem, but if the Avs are looking for size and depth up front Clowe could be a good, and potentially cheap option to clear space in the offensive zone.
|2012 - Boyd Gordon||48||4||10||14||0||8||0||0||0||59|
Gordon led the Phoenix Coyotes forwards in SH TOI/G with 2:51 on the penalty kill per game, good for 4th in the NHL among forwards playing more than 10 games. Gordon also led the Coyotes forwards in blocked shots with 44 in 48 games, good for 9th in the NHL among forwards. While Gordon is another center, he could slot in on the fourth line and bump John Mitchell back to the wing (where he played much of last season). Gordon would alleviate some of the penalty killing pressure placed on Matt Duchene and the Avs other top forwards.
Roy's Projected Lines:
Ryan Wilson - Erik Johnson
Stefan Elliott - Corey Sarich
On Their Way Out:
Matt Hunwick (AHL), Greg Zanon (AHL) - While it's still possible that the Avalanche will retain their bottom pairing d-men, their placement on waivers months before training camp seems to indicate that the Avalanche intend on heading in another direction, regardless of whether or not Hunwick and Zanon are picked up by another team.
Needs: To get better? Everywhere? No doubt that Ryan Wilson's return from a high ankle sprain, Tyson Barrie and Stefan Elliott's continued growth, and better defensive matching and minute management from the coaching staff should, SHOULD, help group improve next season. But how much? There are still some massive holes in this defensive corps, and unfortunately they are all at the top. The Avs are missing a true top pairing and seem to expect Ryan Wilson to play out of his league again and face opposing top lines with Erik Johnson every night. Jan Hejda has been a steady rock on the Avs blueline but beyond those top three the Avs have a pair of unproven puck movers and an over the hill, shot blocking, stay at home dman, with poor footspeed (sound familiar?). It's difficult to fathom how the Avs will use that combination of personnel to both be competitive while protecting Tyson Barrie and Stefan Elliott enough for them to grow.
On a more practical note, the Avs will need a seventh defenseman on the roster when injuries occur. During their conference call on Tuesday Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy indicated that Chris Bigras will likely return to juniors, though Coach Roy did hint that he could challenge for a roster spot, and 2011 draft pick Duncan Siemens would start the season in Lake Erie. Of course those two players could change the depth chart significantly with a good training camp, but the Avalanche will likely need to sign a depth defenseman this Friday so their prospects can continue to develop in Lake Erie and Owen Sound.
|2012 - Ron Hainsey||47||0||13||13||-8||10||0||0||0||52|
Hainsey doesn't get on the board often, but he is a solid minute munching defenseman who plays responsibly in his own end. Hainsey was 3rd on the Winnipeg Jets in TOI/G with almost 23 minutes a night and led all Jets defensemen in SH TOI/G with 2:57 on the penalty kill every night. Hainsey isnt particularly physical, laying only 36 hits last season, but he is an excellent shot blocker, jumping in front of 123 shots last year, good for 3rd in the NHL behind Dan Girardi (125) and Greg Zanon (124). (So maybe shot blocking isnt the best metric to measure defensemen). Hainsey could fit well next to either Erik Johnson or his former teammate Jan Hejda in a shutdown role, or play defensive anchor for one of the Avs younger puck movers, as Hejda has done for Tyson Barrie.
|2012 - Rob Scuderi||48||1||11||12||-6||4||0||0||0||33|
Another pure shutdown defenseman, Rob Scuderi ranked 3rd on the LA Kings in TOI/G and first on his team in SH TOI/G with an enormous 3:13 on the penalty kill average. Scuderi would bring the experience of two Stanley Cup victories to Colorado (for those counting, thats as many as the entire Avalanche roster combined: Tanguay 1, Giguere 1). At 34 Scuderi's best years are likely behind him, but the defender can still play tough minutes in the NHL and is particularly good in and around his own crease, an area where the Avalanche have struggled in recent years.
|2012 - Andrew Ference||48||4||9||13||9||35||0||0||0||66|
When the Bruins announced they would be parting ways with defensemen Andrew Ference, Claude Julien told USA Today: "We're losing not just a good player, but also a leader in the dressing room and everything else, he's always gone above and beyond with the little things in the dressing room and everything that comes with it. He's been a good teammate, smart." A quick look through Stanley Cup of Chowder's Thank You to Andrew Ference and it's easy to see that he is a consummate professional loved by fans for his big personality and commitment to the team and its fans. Ference. Ference ranked 4th in ice time per game on the Bruins last year both at even strength and short handed and pulled just under 20 minutes a night on the Bruins Eastern Conference Champion squad. Ference is a very servicable 2nd pairing defensemen and would bring the experience of 1 Stanley Cup win and 3 appearances the Avalanche dressing room. Ference's 89 hits last season would have ranked 2nd on the Avalanche blueline. One thing is for sure, we know Steve Downie is rooting for this signing.
|2012 - Jonathon Blum||35||1||6||7||-1||6||0||0||0||26|
A combination of mediocre play from Blum and a crowd of hyper talented defensemen in Nashville has placed the young defensemen on the outside looking in. Blum's season review at On the Forecheck cites a lack of physical play as a problem but most think he could still develop into a decent NHL defenseman. Blum is more of a project than the other available defensemen, but he has the size, smarts, and skating ability to become a decent bottom pairing puck mover. If the Avalance want to avoid spending on an older veteran, Blum could be a nice project for the third pairing.