2008-2009 Recap: Summarily awful. The team finished with the 3rd worst record in the league (32-45-5) and finished in the bottom 3rd in all the major statistical categories: 30th in goals scored (190), 26th in goals allowed (269), 25th in powerplay efficiency (15.7%) and 21st on the PK (79.9%). The team's leading scorer had just 59 points, the lowest number since the franchise joined the NHL in 1979. The bright spots? The team was 9-4 in shootouts and an inexplicable 20-0-2 when leading after two periods.
Who's In: The Avalanche were all about cutting payroll this summer, and didn't go hog wild in free agency market. The only two notable free agent signings were goalie Craig Anderson from Florida and enforcer David Koci from Tampa. New GM Greg Sherman also acquired defensemen Kyle Quincey and Tom Preissing from the Kings in a trade for Ryan Smyth. Oh, and they drafted some kid named Matt Duchene.
Who's Out: Joe Sakic, Ryan Smyth, Ian Laperriere, Ben Guite, Tyler Arnason, Cody McCormick, Daniel Tjarnqvist, Andrew Raycroft, GM Francois Giguere and the entire coaching staff.
Team Strengths: [This space intentionally left blank]
Team Weaknesses: Offense, defense, goaltending, faceoffs, special teams.
Depth Chart: best guess:
- Galiardi - Stastny - Hejduk
- Wolski - Duchene - Stewart
- McLeod - Hensick - Svatos
- Tucker - Willsie - Jones
- Hannan - Foote
- Liles - Quincey
- Clark - Salei
Also in the mix: F Ryan Stoa, F David Koci, D Tom Preissing
Prediction: On paper, the Avalanche haven't done much to improve the team. If Anderson is the real deal, the goaltending should be greatly improved, but it still won't be on par with other superb goalies in the NW (Khabibulin, Luongo, Kiprusoff and Backstrom). Kyle Quincey is a nice addition on the blueline, but he joins a squad that underperformed badly last season; hopefully new assistant coach Sylvain Lefebvre can turn what should be a deep squad around. Up front, question marks abound. Only one forward has ever scored 80 points in the NHL (Hejduk, once) and only 3 have ever cracked the 60-point mark (Hejduk, Stastny and Tucker). There is potential; Chris Stewart, T.J. Galiardi, Wojtek Wolski and David Jones have all shown flashes at time and, of course, Matt Duchene is hopefully ready to burst onto the scene.
There's no other way to spin it; the Avalanche are in rebuilding mode. Look for Greg Sherman to try to move more veterans this year, acquiring picks while trimming payroll. Scott Hannan and new captain Adam Foote may very well be on the move at some point, and don't be shocked if the team trades upcoming UFA Hejduk (who has a NTC...but also a cap friendly salary). If the Avs can get some picks for some older players and if the youngsters show progress, the season will likely be considered a success no matter how dismal their final record is.
I hope I'm wrong about this, but I figure the Avs finish near the bottom of the conference this year. I'm guessing 14th, one spot ahead of Phoenix.