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MHH's 2013-14 Avalanche Season Analysis: Part 4 - Breakout Players, Surprises and Disappointments

Christian Petersen

It's Thursday, and we're continuing our analysis of individual players. This time, though, anyone's game.

Who's going to be the breakout player this season? Any surprises out of camp? What about let downs?

Andi: I think Landeskog, Johnson, and Varlamov are due for a good year.... or at least I hope they are. We're in deep trouble if they all don't have a breakout season soon. Stastny and O'Reilly will be duking it out for a contract, and I'm also excited to see Downie and Wilson coming back from injury. If I had to pick one though, I'd say the Captain. Add in a little health and a little Stastny/Tanguay, and he's going to have a good year. Out of camp, I could see Siemens, Bigras, Elliott, Hishon, Sgarbossa, and maybe even Colin Smith making a run at a spot. I doubt any of them get it, but along with Pickard and Aittokallio, those guys are likely to be the late demotions and early call-ups. As far as let downs go, I gotta say Barrie. I hope I'm wrong, but sophomore slumps happen.


Sandie: Break out player: David Jones…. Oh wait a minute… Actually, I’m going to take Steve Downie this season. Surprises: Bigras.


Sean: If one player is to break out - and replace that Kevin Shattenkirk quotient that the Avs still miss - it's Tyson Barrie. You could even argue he already broke out last year. But with a longer time frame to show his worth, a new head coach who (hopefully) is smart enough not to send him down without justification, and yet another year of much needed experience, this is Tyson's time to make his greatest strides yet. Conversely, it's just as easy to see him fall into a slump. Such is the life of a young NHL blueliner.

Cole: Ryan O’Reilly is going to be the breakout player of the year, and he’s going to make everyone forget about that nasty contract business. The guy has such a high compete level, he wants to win, and he wants to play top minutes, not on the third line. Well… here’s your chance Ryan. I think that Ryan O’Reilly is going to be a force on the wing with Matt Duchene and P.A. Parenteau. He’s more of an offensive weapon than Jamie McGinn, who spent the majority of last season on that line, and his forechecking ability should increase the time of possession in the offensive zone. When Ryan O’Reilly had his first breakout season during Gabriel Landeskog’s rookie season, they created a lot of goals off by changing turnovers in the neutral zone into odd man rushes. That’s a nice tactic when you have Gabe Landeskog to carry the puck up ice, it’s a deadly offense when you have high speed finishers like Matt Duchene and P.A. Parenteau looking for a breakout pass up ice.

Here comes the imaginary awesomeness… I do not think that he will make the team out of camp, but I do think that Joey Hishon will come into his first Avalanche training camp with a full head of steam and make some noise. After waiting years for the opportunity to play a full, healthy training camp, you can bet that Hishon wont hold anything back. I don’t think he’ll make the team considering his size and the Avs’ depth at forward, but he will make a compelling case for a first call up in the event of an injury to any of the Avalanche’s top 9.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows in Avalanche country this season, and while the Avs have shed some of their biggest under-achievers, there are still going to be problems. Ryan Wilson will, once again be asked to do too much in a top line defensive role with Erik Johnson, which will be disappointing all over again. I also think that entering the season, there are some really lofty expectations for Tyson Barrie. I think the young Avs defenseman will have another solid season, like last year, but the many fans expecting him to have some big breakout, especially on offense, are going to be disappointed. Barrie will still play a solid two way game and his point production will increase a bit but fans looking for another John Michael-Liles or Kevin Shattenkirk ought to keep looking, because Barrie ain’t it.

Mike: Historically, I'd say David Jones here, but I'm gonna shock everybody with a call for Varlamov to be a "breakout" guy. He's gonna have to be behind a defensive platoon of "Wha?" and "Again?" So the unabashed homer vote from the goalie guy goes to the goalie. Shocking I know. Not to mention he's integral to my fantasy hockey team this season. I think Barrie sticks with the big club, Elliott doesn't, and Hishon also goes back to LE. Letdowns...Johnson. He talks a good game, but he really needs to take a huge step forward and I just don't see it.

Earl: Not a big surprise, but I don't see Stefan Elliott making the team out of camp. I'm not even sure we'll see him in Colorado all season. There's a lot more competition this year than last for callup spots and while he's been standing still, both the Avs and the guys behind him on the depth chart have been moving forward.

Competition for the last forward spot should be interesting. I think the staff would want someone big and physical so Malone probably has the inside track, but J.T. Wyman or Trevor Cheek might get a long look. If they are looking for depth skill then Sgarbossa(!) or maybe even Paul Carey could be in play.

My breakout guy is Landeskog. Playing on a line with Stastny and Tangs, you know the puck will be right where it needs to be, the question is can he finish it off. I could see him putting up 40 goals easy.

Steve: I fully expect Ryan O'Reilly to put up big big points. His ability to drive possession will rack him up tons of assists with Duchene and Parenteau this season. Maybe even a few extra tap-in goals. Is that really a surprise or a break-out though?

Unexpectedly good could be Steve Downie. He has plenty of experience feeding a beast playing with Stamkos in Tampa and has threaded some sick stuff in his time here too. Just wait til he's setting up Nathan MacKinnon against second and third D pairings.

Let down: Sorry, Ryan Wilson, I love you to death but you are not as good a defenseman as this roster asks you to be, no matter whether your hips lie. Also stop getting concussions :<

AJ: Looking for the “breakout” guy is one of the more fun parts of looking at the upcoming season. Last year we saw Duchene and Barrie have two different types of breakouts, as one established himself as a star and the other began to establish himself as an NHL regular. Regardless, both breakouts were great. Looking at this year’s team, I could see similar breakouts for Landy to turn into the star. This is more hope than prediction, but I really hope Bordy turns into Cody Mac Lite and forces the team to play for more than his size and ability to use other people’s body to help him stop. After getting the 3 year deal and suddenly playing in a forward corps that should scare opposing teams, finding ice time for the fighter in Bordy is going to get harder and harder to justify is his hockey skills don’t improve significantly. From Landy, it’s pretty simple. I want 30 goals, 200 hits, crazygonuts advanced stats, and leadership literally oozing out of every single pore. Homie just got paid, time to show we didn’t just get played, ya dig? As far as a surprise player from training camp, I’m looking past all the obvious candidates and going with Andrew Agozzino. A 20 goal scorer as an AHL rookie last year, Agozzino is a natural left winger, putting him at our weakest position, and when the inevitable injury bug occurs and we have to tap into our obscene center depth, I think Agozzino would make for a solid first call up. I’m looking forward to seeing how he does against the big boys in camp. As one of Ryan O’Reilly’s biggest detractors so far in his career, it should come as no surprise that I view him as a potential letdown. While I think his skillset should make for a very fine winger, if he’s unable to keep up with the offensive production of the Duchene-Parenteau dynamic duo, his biggest remaining question mark will start to be answered with the kind of negativity he would like to avoid as he heads into Round 2 of Restricted Free Agency. I’m hoping, as I continually have been about O’Reilly, that I’m proven wrong and he makes that line even more effective than last year.

Cheryl: Most people would expect me to say that Barrie is the breakout player. However, I think we've seen Barrie's talent. I think he'll improve with experience, but I don't see him wowing us this season. I'm putting my money on Varly. New goalie coach that specializes in the areas in which the Russian is the weakest will give him a boost of confidence. The foundation he'll develop will turn last year's worst nights into this season's meh nights. I believe he's going to make the defense look better than they should (although I think they're better than people give them credit for).

Biggest surprise out of camp won't make it on the opening night roster. He will make it at some point during the season, though. My surprise guy is Joey Hishon. So many people have already written him off because of that (admittedly, fucking ass nasty) concussion, but I think he'll stay healthy and begin to show why he was picked in the first round. With his play this season, we'll be saying this time next year that he'll probably be on there for the 2014-2015 opening night game.

Biggest letdown is going to Fatty McGinn. He had a great run in his first stint with the Avs after the trade. Last year, we saw him fall back to earth. Yes, he'll get some of those post shots to go in (low hanging fruit), but I don't think enough will hit twine to put him back on that post-trade pace. I think we'll see exactly what we got in McGinn: a third-liner with the ability to pot some goals here and there. It's a great thing that's the role he's been given this season. So in that sense, he'll live right up to expectations.