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Revisiting MHH's 2013-14 Avalanche Season Analysis: Part 1 - The Offseason

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For the next two weeks, we're going to look back at what we said before the 2013-2014 season started to see how accurate—or how off—we were about how the Avalanche would perform.

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We started off our analysis with a look back at the 2013 off season moves. You'll notice that some folks have commented on their thoughts from a year ago.

How do you feel about the off-season moves, both subtractions and additions? Which one will provide the biggest benefit? Is there something you wish the team had done but didn't?

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What Earl said then: I think the Avalanche did about as well as they could have this off season, there wasn't a realistic move out there to acquire what the team truly needs, an elite defenseman. Jones and SOB could have really helped this team, they just didn't, so its nice to be able to trade them rather than buy them out. Getting Tangs back is a win, and hopefully Sarich can be O'Byrne from 2 years ago. The Benoit signing was odd, but it says a few things. First, Elliott isn't ready yet. Second, no one else in the system is either. Third, the D needs to score more, and there needs to be effective D on the power play. I think Tanguay will be the most beneficial, at least at first, but if McKinnon has a rookie year like Duchene he'll surpass him in the end.

What Earl says now: The defense definitely scored more, but showed that upgrades on the upgrades were needed. I was right about Tangs, just not in the way I meant. Mack was all we expected and so much more, so happy we drafted him. Looking back, there were a few things that might have been done in the off season that probably should have, but at the time they did about as well as they could have with the information they had

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What Cole said then: Shane O’Brien is gone? David Jones’s contract is gone? Greg Zanon is gone? That’s a lot of addition by subtraction. Not only did the Avs shed a locker room problem and a bad contract, but they made a statement to the rest of the roster about expectations and professionalism. I think we’ll see a lot less coasting and a ton less "Vegas planning" now that it comes with the very real threat of getting "Feastered."

Tanguay is a nice feel good signing for the fans and he seems like he has a little something left in the tank. I doubt his scoring will increase much, but after scoring 69 points just 3 years ago, I’d say 50-60 points on a line with Stastny and Landeskog is a possibility. Tanguay gives the Avs some good forward depth and, more importantly, he replaces Milan Hejduk’s steady veteran influence on the front end.

Rounding out the Calgary trade is veteran defenseman and former big hitter Cory Sarich. He’s not going to light people up like he used to, but is probably an upgrade over Zanon, despite similar issues with foot speed. Honestly I doubt he will play much unless there are numerous injuries on defence.

It’s probably just a depth signing, but I’m kind of intrigued by Andre Benoit. 3G and 7A over 33 games isn’t a specatcular introduction to the NHL and he’s already 29 years old, but his numbers in the AHL aren’t bad at all. In the 2010-2011 season he scored 11G and 44A in 73GP, much better than Elliott’s AHL numbers.

Without a doubt the team’s most important addition is rookie centerman Nathan MacKinnon (dat rhyme). Admittedly, I haven’t seen a lot of film from Matt Duchene’s OHL career, but from what I have seen, I think MacKinnon looks to be a step ahead as he prepares for training camp. More on this Wednesday.

What Cole says now: The Avalanche's 2013 offseason was objectively great when it comes to their roster moves for all the reasons I listed above.  Boy do I miss those days too. When the Avalanche just made objectively good financial and hockey sense moves and the only analysis required was "Awwwwww yussssss so excited to see Alex Tanguay in an Avs uni again."  Look at the efficacy of those 2013 moves: just over a year ago, the biggest story we had on this team was J.S. Giguere calling out his teammates over a lack of focus and commitment to winning, now we're talking about whether or not they can repeat as Central Division champs.  Like then, I still think that dumping some of the "dead weight" and distractions like Shane O'Brien and David Jones a big contributor to the 2013-2014 team's success, especially when they were replaced by steady veteran leaders like Sarich and Tanguay.  Combine that with the addition of a Calder winner and significantly improved coaching, particularly in net, and you've got a recipe for massive improvement. Thumbs up! I wish it was still so cut and dry.

One thing that definitely sticks out to me about what I said last year is the meteoric rise (or in some cases just a "meteoric" promotion) of career AHL'ers Nate Guenin, Andre Benoit, and Nick Holden.  Looking at this year's roster there is certainly less room for surprises, but it's a good reminder that Roy is willing to promote a young guy (Corbett? Redmond? Bigras? Siemens? Geertsen?), or an AHL guy (Noreau?) over more established NHL'ers struggling to prove their worth (Hunwick, Zanon, Wilson).  Food for thought as we get closer to training camp.

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What Sandie said then: Off-season moves: Before there was Daniel Winnik, there was Alex Tanguay. It should be no surprise to anyone that my favourite thing about the off-season is that he will be back in Avalanche gear this season.

Every season I waited for David Jones to finally get his break out year. Every season I thought, "This is it, this is his year" and it never was. I don’t think the Avs are better without him, but I think that due to the fact that MacKinnon is slotted for opening night left not much room for this man.

I will not miss Shane O’Brien on the ice for the Avalanche. He may have been a "great personality for the players" off ice, but on-ice? I don’t believe he brought much that no other defenseman could bring. He’s another guy that was unbelievable when he tried, but only seemed to put the effort in once in a blue moon. That would not fly with Patrick Roy. It’s best for both parties that he isn’t part of the team. Greg Zanon is gone!? What will the Avs do without the beard? The same thing they did with him on the ice. He was another incredibly frustrating player to watch.

I think the biggest benefit is going to be Tanguay, but not on the scoreboard. His leadership abilities will be relied on heavily this season. I think the scoreboard will be Nathan MacKinnon’s place to shine, and to prove himself.

I wish the Avalanche had gotten a stronger on defense.

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What Mike said then: I was surprised with the efficiency that the bottom log jab was dealt with and then the addition of Benoit went completely against that. Clearing out the driftwood to make room for Barrie and Elliott and then signing a guy that will cost them minutes is odd.

I'm a huge David Jones fan, but last season was an abomination. He needed a change in scenery and we needed to not see #54 on the ice. I like Tangs, but it reeks of nepotism and I worry about him riding off into the sunset in a gentle manner and not beast mode. Sarich used to be good but it's hard to tell based on his time in Calgary.

Part of me wished they'd made a decision on Stastny/O'Reilly, in that I wish that they had shipped out Pauly Walnuts for a good return. Not because he isn't one of the best all-around players on this team, but because he deserves better and the roster building with a couple of young scoring centers pushing him isn't doing him any favors.

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What Steve said then: I like every subtraction. Jones is not a top six forward on this team, O'Brien can go frustrate Calgary and I'll be happier, Zanon was shocking, and the attempt to waive Hunwick is a good job getting rid of our bottom D cluster.

Which brings us to additions, where we swapped SOB for Sarich (good because Sarich is a free agent sooner) and Jones for Tanguay (an upgrade and also TANGS!), but also added Benoit (balls) which doesn't make any sense to me. I wish they had done more to upgrade the defense but given the reality of our roster spots, there just wasn't a whole lot that COULD be done, unless this is HF boards and every other GM wants everyone else's trash for their stars.

Overall the offseason gets like a C+/B- for me because it's mostly good moves but the team is still broken. Subtractions that simply weren't re-signed? I'm pretty ok with all of them.

What Steve says now: I think I agree with all of this. The only thing I'd add is "why Guenin?"

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What Andi said then: I actually thought the Avs had a pretty good offseason. Our defense still terrifies me - Sarich and Benoit are our typical meh defensemen and certainly aren't going to fix our top pairing problems - but I loved our forward additions. McKinnon is going to be a stud for us for a long time, and Tanguay's still only 33 and has a lot left to offer. Part of me is upset that Hejduk wasn't brought back (especially since we're getting the band back together), but he just didn't fit into our lines anymore. Hopefully he retires, we raise his jersey, and he's back in the front office in a couple years. I'm rather excited that we lost the frustrations of Zanon, O'Brien, Jones, and Kobasew, but I wish we had invited someone like Ron Hainsey to camp to help bolster the blueline. All in all though, I'd give our offseason a solid B.

What Andi says now: Um, yep, pretty much that. I did neglect to mention Holden, who turned out to be a much more pleasant surprise than I (or anyone else) was expecting. Benoit was a bit better than expected too, and Roy's system was way way WAY better at covering up our defensive deficiencies than I thought it'd be. Tanguay was awesome until the injury, so I'm excited to see what he can do this year. I still do not miss O'Brien, Jones, Kobasew, or Zanon even a little, and the team gelled better than it has in recent memory. Looking back, our additions and additions by subtractions were actually closer to B+/A- territory. Not splashy, but solid. I hope this off-season's moves turn out that well.

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What AJ said then: The big moves of the off-season were the Tanguay/Jones swap and drafting of MacKinnon. On paper, it's really difficult to tell where the problem with either of these moves lies. The Avs added another reliable playmaker in Tangs and while they downgraded on defense from O'Brien to Sarich, removing the attitude and over the top selfish play that forever tainted O'Brien's better qualities is fine with me. As a personal bonus, I don't have to listen to female Avs fans tell me how much they don't care about him...all the time. Eating salary to be rid of Zanon and at least the attempt to move on from Hunwick showed the Avs are looking to improve regardless of money owed. As for moves not made, I wish the Avs would extend an offer to Ron Hainsey or Tom Gilbert to come in and add proven talent to a blue line that’s still very shaky. I understand the team wants to truly find out what it has in Barrie, Elliott, and Wilson but if we’re gunning for a shot at slipping into the playoffs, I can’t see how passing up Gilbert or Hainsey makes much sense. It wouldn’t be a huge addition, but it makes us just that much tougher to play against.

What AJ says now: Turns out all of those moves worked perfectly. I even admitted a defensive loss going from O'Brien to Sarich and then Sarich had a pretty solid bounce back year before getting hurt while O'Brien ended up playing so poorly the Flames bought him out (hahahahahaha). Somehow I managed to completely overlook that Nick Holden was going to have the season of his life and score 10 goals, something he's only done one other time in his life. My lamenting over a lack of Hainsey signing turned out okay as he predictably played very well in Carolina and was rewarded with a nice extension. Just think. Had we done that deal last year, we wouldn't have been forced into the Brad Stuart deal THIS year. Oh what could've been. Still, despite the Tangs injury issues last season, damn near all the moves we made, including moving on from Hunwick/Zanon, turned out pretty nicely for the Avs. Hopefully I get to type that sentence again (sans the Tangs injury issues) 12 months from now.

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What Cheryl said then: Shipping out the dead weight on the blueline was a great first step. Bringing in a couple of guys who are improvements was the right direction, but I don't think the guys selected are good enough. On the bright side, it gives the kids a chance. I think (to no one's surprise) Barrie will continue to show that he's a solid top-4 defenseman and may even surprise us with a top-two showing.

Letting go of David Jones was also the right move. As much as I like him, he just wasn't working out in Colorado. I love that Alex Tanguay is back with the team and not for just nostalgia's sake. Tangs has a chip on his shoulder and has said repeatedly that he believes his best hockey is still ahead of him. I'm hoping the synergy of a fast, goal-scoring forward corps will help him realize that goal. The addition of Tangs could prove to be the biggest benefit, but you can't discount the addition by subtraction with Shane O'Brien and Greg "The Beard" Zanon.

What Cheryl says now: I have to admit that Cory Sarich and Andre Benoit performed better than I expected of them. They did a good enough job to get the team a division banner, and that's something special. I still think they weren't good enough for a playoff run, and the loss of Tyson Barrie really exposed that defensive weakness in the post season. Speaking of Barrie, he defnitely solidified himself as a top-four d-man and, at times, was considered a top-two on the team. I'm excited to see what happens next season with him.

Really would have loved to see Tanguay for more of the season. Stupid injuries. I'll probably cut and paste my comments above for this September's predictions, especially with Iginla now in the fold. Let's hope the injury bug stays away this time. As for addition by subtraction, you didn't see anyone talking about Vegas in May, did you? The thing I loved the most about not having Shane O'Brien on the team is that it took until the third game against Calgary for me to remember he was even in the league.