Welcome to day 2 of the 4th annual Avalanche Blogger Roundtable. Avalanche bloggers from around the web are weighing in this week on our favorite unipronned team. We'll be covering question 4 after the jump. Questions 5 and 6 will run later in the day.
Question 1: Avalanche attendance woes
Question 2: Avalanche toughness
Question 3: Craig Anderson, workhorse
No goalie faced more shots last year than Craig Anderson and the Avalanche have lost perennial shot blocker Brett Clark (who ranked 11th in blocks last year despite missing 18 games). With the six other core defensemen all returning and no veteran acquisitions to augment the squad, can the Avs tighten things up defensively this year?
Grant Beery, Hockeyism: Defense or die. Anderson is good, but he's not good enough to keep facing the barrage of shots he had last season. He will get tired, and it will happen a lot quicker with the departure of Clark. Foote needs to prove his leadership this year and get his defensemen to the next level. Now that he's entering the twilight of his career, though, how effective can Foote be? Anyone who thinks that Foote will be playing extended minutes injury-free is crazy. What happens when the captain takes an extend IR leave? I don't think our younger defensemen have the ability to pick up the slack. Anyone who thinks Hannan and Liles can do it are on drugs.
Jaye Horbay, Patrick Kane's Loose Change: Can they? Yes. Will they? Good question. I'd like to answer this question around Game 10.
Aaron "Avalangelist" Musick, Hockeybuzz: They will if they buy into Joe Sacco's system and that's on everyone, not just defensemen. The forwards have to backcheck and take up passing lanes. Everyone has to clear on the first try. Then the offense has to hold the puck and cycle in the opponent's zone. It's cliché but true, the best defense is a good offense. It all has to come together for them for them to be competitive this year
Nic Zamora, Avaholics Anonymous: Can they tighten it up? Absolutely. Will they? We shall see. It will all depend on the young guys Cumiskey, Wilson and Quincey. If Wilson returns to his pre-concussion form and Quincey plays like he did in the 1st half of last season, I see no reason why the defense wouldn't improve. Hannan, Foote and Liles aren't getting any younger and they have probably all reached their ceilings defensively so as leaders, they are going to have to help those young guys develop their games and reach that next level. With that said, I still believe we're in for another season of being badly outshot every night.
Mike Verminski, Put It On Ice & The Hockey Writers: This is a tough question. I want to say yes, but I honestly don't see it happening. Losing Brett Clark potentially means more shots getting through to Andy, and with the same core group of D man as last season I just can't see it changing. In my eyes the only way this changes is by controlling the puck in the offensive zone more and maintaining possession.
Geoff, The Avslova Factor: Though the defensive group looks the same, the execution on defense should (and hopefully will) be much tighter. Forget Brett Clark - seemed like a nice guy, but for every shot block there was a time when he was out of position. I'm excited to see Kyle Quincey - a year older and with more experience as a Top-2 guy. I'm hoping Scott Hannan can take what he did last season - becoming our steadiest defenseman - and build on it so it passes through the rest of the Top-6. The offensive guys will also help out in this respect. Down the middle, Stastny, Duchene, O'Reilly, and Winnik are all going to play responsible hockey in all three zones, and guys like Galiardi, Hejduk, McCleod, Jones, and Yip aren't going to quit just because the other team has the puck. The first couple pre-season games haven't been the best sign of things to come, but this core should be able to improve on what was a true shortcoming in 2009-10.
Matt Powell, The Burgundy Blog: They're going to have to tighten up their defense, there's no question about that. I think a lot of their success last year was that they came out of the gate with guns blazing and no one expected that from the team who held last place in the Northwest Division and 28th in the league in 08-09. They're going to have to improve on all fronts, but mainly defense. In mid to late last season I made a lot of comments to my wife about how it seemed that Anderson was the only one to show up for defense. I don't want to say that this season.
Adam Hersh, An Avalanche of Thoughts: I don't necessarily think that Andy needs to have another 71-start season in order for the team to succeed once again. Budaj, though streaky, has proven himself to be a very capable goaltender, but I think he will thrive on playing more often, as opposed to once every month or two when coach finally decides to yank Andy away for the night. Mr. Sacco, Give Peter A Chance, or GPAC.
Angélique Murray, Avs Prospects, Mile High Hockey, Chicks Who Give A Puck: This team will have defensive lapses and Craig Anderson will need to be their best player on most nights. There are bound to be mistakes as the defensive core will get young over the next couple of years. Adam Foote's minutes will be reduced, so his lack of speed will not be as exposed. The Avs will need Kyle Quincey to have a quality season as he did in the first half of 2009-10.
Derek Bell, Mile High Hockey: I will personally be watching for is the amount of shots that Anderson faces. Last year he faced 2,233 shots, far and away more than he had ever seen in his career and almost 200 more than the next closest goalie. I have said it before, and this year it will especially be crucial, to limit the number of shots Andy faces. It is going to fall on the fairly young defensive corp. I think that they can tighten things up, but the Avs are probably going to be out shot on most nights.
Terry Frei, The Denver Post: It depends on where the shots come from. I cited the numbers along with everyone else and marveled at his willingness to get drilled, but I'm not certain Clark's shot-blocking was as crucial in keeping the puck out of the net as I sometimes said. To me, the biggest red flag is if they eventually bring up Shattenkirk and have him among a six-man group with Liles and Cumiskey, because then you have three "undersized" D - one in each pairing or two in a pairing.
Stephen Crociata, Patrick Kane's Loose Change: The defense is definitely the biggest question mark the Avalanche have but crunch some numbers you will see shot blocking isn't. Clark led the team with 162 but Hannan and Quincey were close behind, both tallying over 140. Now I understand Clark put up the 162 in only 68 games, but Cumiskey had 105 in only 61 games, Liles 89 in 59, and Wilson 76 in 61 so it isn't that void I'm worried about. The surprising numbers are the Avs were 5-11-2 without Clark in the lineup this year. Now I'm sure some of this was coincidence but it just highlights the need for the Avs to buckle down on D this season. With Shattenkirk/Cohen/Holos all being on call this season gives the Avs much needed talented depth of which we have heard about for years but have yet to see.
Shane Giroux, Avs Talk: Without being able to watch any preseason games, it's hard for me to judge. So for now, I'm going to put faith in Sylvain Lefebvre tightening this squad up. If the defense can start limiting more shots to the outside, then there's no need to risk limbs on blocked shots.
Matt Jordan, Mile High Mayhem: I think Sylvain Lefebvre is a great defensive coach. Players will be more comfortable in his system this season.
From the Point, Real Denver Sports: This is a case of the Bertuzzi defense: "It is what it is." As DDC points out, the defensive core is little changed. For that reason I think it's going to be up to the forwards, who are much changed, to make the difference. I think the pressure is on the forwards to improve and to compliment the D when it comes to clearing the zone
Ryan Boulding, The Burgundy Blog: This is the most important question of the season: Can the Avs tighten things up defensively. Honestly I can't predict how this will go but I will say that the defense pairings need to be different this year. Also, Kyle Cumiskey and, to a lesser extent Ryan Wilson, need to be hitting their marks this season. Both of those young guys have had their learning curve moments and now it is time to lock it down and play smart, heads up hockey. Inevitably, it seems, the Avalanche will be allowing shots because they have faith in their goaltender for a change, but it is the game in front of the net, in the slot, that is really important. It will be interesting to see if Holos makes the team as he brings a lot to defense. Either way, having been a defenseman growing up, I'm excited to see the adjustments that they do make.
Mike Thompson, Mile High Hockey: Short answer? No. I expect Andy will be seeing north of 32 shots per game and the Avs will rely on a "Offense is the best defense" approach due to this discrepancy in logic.
David Púchovský, Eurolanche: We have sucessfuly started the rebuilding of the offense last year. The result? One of the most perspective young team in the league. Now, the defense is on the tap. It will be not great in the upcoming season, do not await miracles. But give chances to Shattenkrik & co. And then (within few seasons), I promise you, Denver will see the Cup again.
Courtney Beckham, Chicks Who Give A Puck: It takes a long time to develop as a defenseman and part of the reason previous Avalanche squads were so successful before included having key D who were in the prime of their career. Foote now is a sad comparison to the Adam Foote we all grew up watching. That man shut it down and he scored. Blake threw his weight around and had one heck of a slapshot. They were big guys, big guys you could count on. And let's not forget what Ray Bourque did to our team when we acquired him. There is no go to guy that you can depend on, there is no line that I feel can time after time can step up. With our lack of scoring, most shots faced and 'interesting' blue line last season it was a shock the Avalanche made it to the playoffs. If the blueline can play together cohesively instead of having a few superstars we have a shot, but they will have to be in sync with each other, bust their butts, work on fundamentals, and throw their bodies in front of a shot or at a player to do so. D wise, we're a far cry away from where we were.
Paul's Coffey, Mile High Hockey: I hate this question because as much as I want to shout "YES!", I have to whisper "no". I'm not saying it isn't possible, but it will definitely be a steep uphill battle. This analysis has less to do with the departures of the worthless combo of Clark & Salei (attorneys at law), and more to do with past inconsistencies of the remaining core. Honestly, if the wheel of D can be more consistent - and PLAY more consistent, I think the D will play better and tighter. Throw in the added pressure being applied by the bounty of prospects knocking on the NHL's door, and that should help to motivate everyone on the blue line to kick it up a notch.
Marc Parsons, Hendricks Hockey: As much as it was Important to let a few d-men walk this summer, I'm going to miss Brett Clark and his shot blocking. This season we may see someone try to step up and lighten the load on Andy. But its hard to say how defense is going to play until i watch them.
David Driscoll-Carignan, Mile High Hockey: I know the numbers don't look great on paper, but it is my contention that a lot of the shots the Avalanche gave up were "bad" shot - such as shots from the perimeter that Anderson could stop easily. And I'll stand behind that theory until Gabe Desjardins proves me wrong. Either way, with the same personnel I don't see how the Avalanche will be any better in this area this year.
Andy Robbins, Avs Weekly: THIS will be an issue, unfortunately. Brett Clark was instrumental in his ability to block shots. Time after time, Clark sacrificed his body for the well-being of his hockey team. Now the Tampa Bay lightning will improve defensively with his acquisition. Last year, the Avs were outshot nearly every game. During this preseason, they're being awfully outshot in a few games here and there. Realistically, the Avalanche can, without doubt, tighten things up on defense this year with a couple months of hard work. There is no need to panic; it just may take awhile. The existence of Jonas Holos, a minute-eating, solid Norwegian defenseman will do great things to the D-corps. Will Holos block 1,000 shots? Probably not. Will he be positionally sound and keep the puck away from dangerous areas? Yes, he sure will. Hannan looked physically solid in training camp, so let's all hope he can put that to good use. Hannan has been notorious for making weak plays in his own end. Maybe this year is the year he decides to prove why he makes a crazy amount of money. Foote will do as much as he can to clear the crease of pesky opponents. We are all aware of the style that Foote brings to the table. We all know it and love it. Cumiskey will be physically be tremendous in matching speed with opponents on 1-1's, but will not block quite as many shots as we'd hope. Liles will match Cumiskey's abilities, while sacrificing his body a bit more, and most importantly attempting to stay out of Sacco's doghouse. Wilson, with an adequate amount of playing time, will play great in his own end, blocking shots, and eliminating opponents with his aggressive style. It seems unanimous that Wilson did not have the greatest training camp, but let's give the guy some time. He played wonderfully last season. Keep it up!
Jay Vean, The Avs Hockey Podcast: Jay's podcast covering today's questions can be found here.
Question 4 is in the books. We've had a chance to weigh in on the Avs' defense and now it's your turn. You know what to do!