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Season Preview Overload

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We all know that season previews are generally worthless, especially considering that last year the teams that appeared in the previous Stanley Cup finals didn't even make the playoffs.  Anything can happen.  But, regardless of how meaningless they can be, predictions, power rankings and the various other forms of season previews are always fun.

So how does the Avalanche stack up?

Generally speaking, Colorado is getting a much better shake in this season's predictions and previews than it did last year.  The off-season acquisition of Ryan Smyth, Scott Hannan and Jaroslav Hlinka is really starting to ease criticism for a team used to nothing but glowing reviews.  The "experts" are buying the notion that GM Francois Giguere wants another Cup banner hanging from the ceiling of the Pepsi Center.

The team preview at TSN.ca is pretty positive, but the focus of doubt lies on the goaltending situation, appropriately.  I'm worried about it, too.

Sports Illustrated also is relatively supportive of the Avalanche, and, if order is any indication, expects the team to finish third in the Northwest behind Vancouver and Calgary.  I don't think Calgary is going to be that good, but whatever.  Anyway, the one major weakness cited by SI is, of course, goaltending.  Oh, and what they refer to as "smallish defensemen."

Now, I don't usually agree with much of anything Scott Burnside says, but his preview of the Avalanche at ESPN.com has to be commended.  He goes out on a limb, at least as far as his colleagues are concerned, and predicts a Northwest Division title for the Avalanche and a three seed in the Western playoffs.  I think he's right, just based on roster strength and pre-season performance.  

Burnside's colleague, John Buccigross, doesn't share the rosy view.  He has the Avalanche ranked seventh in the West, and finishing third in the Northwest behind Vancouver and Calgary.  Bah.  

Finally, ESPN.com has released their pre-season power rankings, and, to my surprise, the Avalanche is listed extremely high.  They are ranked fifth in the Western Conference (behind the Sharks, Ducks, Wings and Flames) and eighth overall.  Not too bad for a team that missed the playoffs last season.  Personally, I don't see how it's possible for the Flames to be ranked so high, but I don't get my own ESPN column, so I guess I should shut up.

At any rate, the Avalanche did very well in the previews.  Not that any of them matter, but it's nice to know that a franchise with such a winning history is regaining some of the high regard it lost in the salary cap era.

MY MEANINGLESS PREDICTION: The Avalanche will finish 49-26-7 for 105 points and the Northwest Division title and a 3 seed in the playoffs.  Not that it's worth anything.

The hockey season begins tomorrow night for the Avalanche, as they face the Dallas Stars at home on Pepsi Center ice.