Despite the loss to Calgary on Wednesday, the Avalanche are off to a solid 6-3-0 start attracting recent accolades from hockey experts as well as Pierre Maguire. In light of all the new attention, I thought it might be a good idea to give the newcomers a little primer on the 2011 Colorado Avalanche. Reading through should give you a greater understanding of all things unipron. If you have any questions, please feel free to email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or just post your question in the comments section below.
First, let's step behind the bench and introduce the coaching staff. The one who looks like he just ate an entire box of sour patch kids while watching Ryan Stoa practice stickhandling? That's head coach Joe Sacco. He runs the show with the help of two ex-Avs, Adam Deadmarsh (big hair) and Sylvain Lefebvre (not-so-big hair). The trio push the team to excellence by focusing on aggressive play, puck control and accountability. For non-hockey fans who don't get those crucial concepts, they can be easily defined: lean on Varlamov, score a late goal and win in the shootout.
What is a Varlamov, you ask? That's our new superstar Russian goalie. The cost-conscious Avalanche are paying him almost $3,000,000 per year. That's a hefty salary but the accountants were able to sign off on the deal when they calculated that this works out to only 12 cents per save. While the Avalanche have a goalie coach, he works about as frequently as Joe and I write new articles for this blog. Thankfully, Varly has a great mentor in Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who fills the annual French-Canadian goalie slot the Avalanche were forced to agree to as part of the deal to leave Quebec (damn unions). He also meets one other critical requirement for Avalanche goalies: a Stanley Cup ring for the ear to block out Jeremy Roenick (don't worry about who he is, new fans; he's not relevant).
The Colorado Avalanche are renowned around the world (or at least the greater Denver area) for their gigantic defensemen. The Avalanche front office has been building for blueline size for years using a foolproof method: draft small, mobile defensemen, feed them lots of calcium supplements and, when they don't get a growth spurt, trade them for someone bigger. Key cogs on the blueline include Erik Johnson (adept at generating offense for both teams), Kyle Quincey (a key component in the trade that brought the cap floor cushion of Tom Preissing) and Shane O'Brien (two minutes, roughing...oops, sorry, reflex action there).
I'd like to point out that everything I said about the defense was all in good fun, mostly because even the "little guy", Ryan Wilson, could squash me like a bug. Also, our D is doing a fairly good job pitching in offensively. This is really welcome, because some of our forwards have been about as dry as a Qatar bar (inside staff joke - please move to the next sentence). Star forward Matt Duchene is a prime example. Although the Skyy's the limit on this kid's potential, his struggles have been Absolut. But, there's really no question about his ClearHeart and I'm sure he'll be kicking ass on the Blue Ice before you know it. T.J.Galiardi gained 20 lbs of muscle this summer, but, with just one goal in 9 games, I suspect that may be mostly in his tweeting hand. Some people have been down on Chuck Kobasew for his slow start, but he is actually right on pace to match the 9 goals he scored in each of the last two seasons. No worries there.
That's not to say there aren't positives among the forwards. Paul Stastny continues to lead the team in points and eye commercials. Ryan O'Reilly has added offense and cool facial hair to his already solid arsenal of skills. Gabriel Landeskog (or, as our broadcasters call him, "John Cocktosen") has been electrifying. Milan Hejduk has been his usual self ("Hejduk" is czech for "steady") and David Jones is becoming a goal-scoring expert. Now, I wouldn't go so far as to call Jones selfish, but he has the 2nd highest ratio of goals to assists in Avalanche history, currently sitting at +18. Oddly, only eight players have scored more career goals than assists for the Avalanche (10 goal minimum) and four of those players are currently on the roster (let's see who can guess the eight below).
I hope this short primer is enough to give the new folks a good grasp on the Avalanche. We have a lot of room on the bus, in case any of you would like to stick around. You do know how to change a tire, right?