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Colorado Avalanche 2013 Opening Night Roster: who will be there?

Opening night is right around the corner, and we still have some questions when it comes to the Colorado Avalanche roster.

Doug Pensinger

Stories have been unfolding since the CBA agreement was announced, none more controversial than that of Ryan O`Reilly. Training camp has its own intrigue, though, so we’re left to wonder what numbers will be hitting the ice in Minnesota on Saturday. Head coach Joe Sacco has said, in no uncertain terms, the decision will be announced sometime before tomorrow’s practice.

There are, of course, some givens for the Avalanche. No doubt, the following players will be there:

Paul Stastny
David Jones
Jamie McGinn
Matt Duchene
PA Parenteau
Gabriel Landeskog
John Mitchell
Milan Hejduk
Steve Downie
Cody McLeod
Chuck Kobasew (much to Dario’s joy)
Erik Johnson
Jan Hejda
Ryan Wilson
Ryan O’Byrne
Shane O’Brien
Greg Zanon
Matt Hunwick (yes, he’s a guarantee)
JS Giguere
Semyon Varlamov

Should Ryan O`Reilly return from the USSR KHL, he’ll be on that list. Yet, no one is sure when or even if that will happen. Therefore, there are three spots available as teams are allowed a total of 23 men on their roster. Who are the players vying for those spots?

Mark Olver
Patrick Bordeleau
David van der Gulik
Michael Sgarbossa
Tyson Barrie|
Stefan Elliott

Assuming there are always two goaltenders, teams will either carry 14 forwards and 7 defensemen or 13 forwards and 8 defensemen. As it stands, the roster has 11 forwards and 7 defensemen.

Here are the possible scenarios that could play out:

Scenario A: O`Reilly returns, Sacco keeps a forward and a defenseman
Scenario B: O`Reilly returns, Sacco keeps two forwards
Scenario C: O`Reilly does not return, Sacco keeps two forwards and a defenseman

Whichever way, we have two players from the Lake Erie Monsters staying in Denver. The question is who they will be. Much of that depends on the areas of need in Sacco’s mind.

Clearly, he is looking for offense from his blueliners; otherwise, Cameron Guance would most likely be in the Mile High City. Moreover, the defense is already stacked with stay-at-home, defensive-minded players. Based on AJ’s reports of camp activity (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3), Barrie looks like the odds-on favorite here. It’s the forward situation that gets a little murky.

Without O`Reilly, the team needs a center. That means either Olver or Sgarbossa. Olver is better suited to that 4th line role given his feisty nature and a willingness to go into the dirty areas along the boards. However, he’s horrible at face offs (36.3% in 91 attempts). He showed last season that he’s more successful at the NHL level when playing on the wing. Sgarbossa, a true center, is a rookie in every sense of the word, and there’s no way to really tell if he can—at this point in his career—be successful in the big leagues. His talent also seems more appropriate in that top-6 role, which is just not going to happen on a team that has Stastny and Duchene as your top two centers. Long story short, without O`Reilly, that 4th line looks a bit precarious.

Should O`Reilly return by Saturday, things become a bit more straight-forward. It has already been suggested that Sacco is leaning towards the 13 forwards/8 defensemen scenario. If he does go that route (and it wouldn’t be the first time he has), we are looking at adding one forward and one d-man. Given his showing last season, in camp the past week, and with the Monsters this season, most people think Olver is a shoe-in for one of those two roster spots. For the same reasons, many think Barrie is as well.

With the new CBA rules regarding re-entry waivers, though, it may not be so cut and dry. Bordeleau and van der Gulik are both left-wingers, just like McLeod. It’s hard to believe that either one of the LEM boys could push the Highlander off his 4th line horse (especially with the average showing in camp), but stranger things have happened. It’s worth noting that Bordeleau plays the same type of role as McLeod, although McLeod clearly has more offensive upside. It could be that the protector/agitator duties fall to the defense, leaving VDG open to take that LW spot.

Kobasew hasn’t impressed since joining the Avs, and Olver’s diversity makes it conceivable that he could take Chuck’s spot on the right.

Then, of course, there’s the press box. Any of the LEM guys could be deemed worth keeping just in case. One would hope the team would rather see Sgarbossa playing in the AHL, honing his skill, than sitting by the nacho bar, but it’s not unreasonable to imagine the other three forwards being there.

There is no shortage of possibilities going into Saturday, and the absence of O`Reilly makes for even more of them. It’s anyone’s guess what happens.