Roster Spots Vulnerable to Competition

Now that free agency is in the books, the 2014-2015 Colorado Avalanche roster can begin to take shape. This roster will obviously look drastically different from the one that won the Central Division in 2013-2014 and the new additions will initiate fierce roster competitions. As the roster stands now, I see a few positions that are certainly up for grabs.

1st Line RW

The top line for the Colorado Avalanche in 2014-2015 begins with Ryan O'Reilly at left wing and Duchene at center, plain and simple. Roy will not break up Slap Fight to put O'Reilly at 2nd line center. That position belongs to Mackinnon now. The right wing spot, however, is wide open with two veterans competing for the honor of top forward minutes: Iginla and Tanguay. The responsibility of a top scoring line is to create chances, maintain offensive possession and score goals. For the Avalanche, this is accomplished by Duchene cycling the puck down low and making elite level passes to the wingers along the boards or in front of the crease. O'Reilly owns the boards and it is where he makes his magic. This leaves the center of the ice as the void for the right winger to occupy. As much as I love Tanguay, clogging the crease is not his specialty, he is a pure playmaker and excels in space rather than in the gritty areas of the ice. Therefore, it makes sense for Iginla to win the role out of training camp as he can excel in the gritty areas and is not afraid to get his hands dirty. Iginla also has averaged ~3 shots on net per game over the last 5 years where as Tanguay has only averaged ~1.3. The pure offensive scoring potential of Iginla gives him the edge over Tanguay to begin the summer.

3rd Line RW

The checking line of the Avalanche has arguably gotten weaker offensively since the Parenteau trade for Briere. Briere is a shadow of his former self and will be relying upon his " veteran leadership" and his $4 million price tag to cement his role on the 3rd line wing rather than his offensive skill. The third line does not need much more offensive upside as it already contains 20 goal scorer McGinn and utlilty-knife Mitchell. Both players take chances in the offensive zone and are somewhat unreliable defensively. If Briere can provide a good defensive presence to the line, then I believe Roy commits to him here. If he cannot, then the door is open for someone like Talbot or McLeod to rise up and take his spot. There is also an outside shot of Hishon making a run at this spot. If Roy decides to give the middle finger to the notion of having a defensively responsible third line and fully commits to having three high octane offensive lines, then Hishon gets the nod hands down. Personally, I hope for the latter. The Avs strength is offense so why not fully commit to that strength?

6th D-man

Possibly the most intense area of competition this summer will be for the 6th and final spot on the starting D-corp. Johnson, Stuart, Hejda, Barrie, and Holden have all but solidified their starting positions for next year with Nate Guenin being the lone starter who is in real danger of losing his job. Coming up the pipeline, the Avalanche have several prospects who could impress at camp and take his place: Elliott, Bigras, and Siemens. The Avalanche have also added Zach Redmond from Winnipeg in free agency. I believe Roy truely likes Guenin's game but the skill of either Elliott or Redmond might be too much for Roy to ignore. Neither player needs more time in the AHL to mature and both can make a positive impact as the 6-7 D-men THIS YEAR. Guenin provides very little offensively and his only plus comes on the PK. Newcomer Brad Stuart can fill the void on the PK and can nulify Roy's need for Guenin. This could leave Guenin on nacho duty long term and will leave MHHers dancing with delight.If I had to make a bet, I believe Redmond wins the job and plays slightly better than Beniot did. (Note: Intentionally leaving Wilson out as I don't believe he fits into Roy's defensive system.)

Most likely Starting Line-Up

This leaves the roster looking as such:

Starting Forwards

O'Reilly - Duchene - Iginla

Landeskog - Mackinnon - Tanguay

McGinn - Mitchell - Talbot

McLeod - Briere - Winchester

(Nachos = Bordy)

(Next Up = Hishon)

Starting Defensemen

Stuart - Johnson

Hejda - Barrie

Holden - Redmond

(Nachos = Guenin, Elliott)

(Next Up = Stollery)



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