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Another Banner Year For Bruno?

Andrew Brunette
One of the biggest surprises of last season was the impressive offensive production of Avalanche left wing Andrew Brunette.

Bruno scored 83 points, including 27 goals, having never scored more than 70 in any season prior to 2006-07.  His success can be attributed to one man: Joe Sakic.  The reason?  Brunette played both on the top offensive line with the Avalanche captain as well as on the top power play unit with Super Joe.  Nearly half (27) of Brunette's 56 total assists came on the power play.  Spend enough time next to Sakic with a man (or two) advantage and you're bound to enjoy a boost in offensive production.

Now the question is, can he do it again?  Jes Golbez at the Fanhouse says no, warning fantasy hockey players to dump (or trade) Brunette from their rosters as soon as possible:

Unfortunately, Brunette isn't too fleet of foot, and is approaching his 34th birthday. One has to believe that his amazing streak of luck with his health and production will come to an end. Brunette will also be conceding some ice time to some of the Avs' younger forwards and, perhaps, Ryan Smyth.

It's true that Bruno can't skate very fast.  But he's got a keen sense of positioning and has learned exactly where to be on the ice when playing next to Super Joe.  And that's the real question: will Brunette be playing next to Sakic in 2007-08 as much as he did in 2006-07?

While Bruno can play both wings, he will be competing for his favorite spot on the top line against Ryan Smyth, a natural left winger who thrives down low and skates much better than he. Wojtek Wolski will likely occupy the second line's left wing spot, playing next to Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk.  So Brunette will almost certainly find himself playing right wing, a position he can handle but doesn't come naturally to him.  The most likely outcome will be a noticeable (though not drastic) decline in points.

It's also not unlikely that the Avs' top power play line will be Smyth-Sakic-Hejduk.  Smyth was a power play goal scoring machine last season, lighting the lamp 15 times with the man advantage (mostly while playing on a dreadful Oilers power play unit).  It's impossible that Coach Q won't stick Captain Canada in the slot and just tell Liles, Leopold and Sakic to feed it to him like crazy.

Combine the shuffling of Bruno in the top line (and from the top pp unit) with his age (34) and his slowness, and it's not impossible to perceive that a guy who's only scored more than 25 goals once will have trouble doing it again.

I'm going to have to go with Jes on this one.  Brunette will be a solid player on the Avs' top line, but he's not going to score 83 points again.  Luckily, the Avs won't need him to.