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

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Raise your hand if you expected Nick Holden to break out like he did. Yeah, put your hand down, you liar.

Hannah Foslien

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

What Andi said then: 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.

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

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What Sean said then: 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.

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What Cole said then: 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.

What Cole says now: Ummmm well this is interesting.  I got a little bit of this right, Ryan O'Reilly was certainly a breakout player this season and he did gel really well with Matt Duchene, and I guess, in his own way, O'Reilly did make us all forget about his holdout after the lockout  (he just did it with a brand new public contract dispute). I kid, I kid, I don't think things are as dire as some others do.  So yeah... Ryan O'Reilly did have a breakout season.  On a team with Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Paul Stasnty, and Nathan MacKinnon, O'Reilly led that team in goal, finished 3rd in points, led the NHL in takeaways, picked up a Lady Byng Trophy for his near penalty-free season, and even picked up some votes for the Selke trophy.  That's awesome. The reason he did that is because he's awesome at hockey.  That side of things is really simple.  Personal bests in every category for O'Reilly (unfortunately that includes shooting percentage but lets not worry about that for now).

Here's where my predictions went belly up... Hishon did not have a great camp, in fact he didn't have a camp at all *sigh.  There were no call ups to the Avs top nine, but I don't know if anyone could have predicted Roy's aversion to Cleveland dudes.  Hishon did make his NHL debut in the playoffs and picked up his first point, a pretty assist in an enormous playoff game.  I'll count that as a victory and bump my prediction back a year. ThisistheyearHishonplaysintheNHLforreal TM.

Now time to eat some crow. I was wrong about Tyson Barrie, really, really wrong.  I always thought Elliott was the better prospect because of his shot and I thought he'd retake his spot ahead of Barrie in the depth chart.  But wow Tyson Barrie, he got better and better throughout the year and he played his best when it mattered most.  He blew me away this season and he probably edges out Ryan O'Reilly for breakout player of the year (stick tap to Nick Holden too).  Clutch is a real thing, and this guy does it right.  After some poor play early in the season, and even some time spent in Lake Erie, Tyson Barrie turned on the afterburners in the second half to the tune of 38 points in 64 games (49 point pace).  So... regress a little on the back end, improve a little on the first half, give Barrie an improved defensive partner, and make it a full season and I could see Barrie joining the elite defensive class of 40 point scorers this year.  That would be pretty cool.

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What Mike said then: 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.

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What Earl said then: 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.

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What Steve said then: 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 :

What Steve says now: Well I got Ryan O'Reilly right but for the wrong reasons. It wasn't an inflated assist total, it was a career-anomaly shooting percentage. OH WELL LIKE I'M TOTALLY BROKEN UP ABOUT THIS.

Downie, lol, about that.

I'm kind of sad to have been right about Wilson too. I generally like being validated in stuff but this one is just, like, dammit, you know?

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What AJ said then: 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.

What AJ says now: hahaha oh wow. Landy had a great year, putting up a 26/39/65 slash line. If he does that every year, I'll be pretty stoked. Bordy went 6/5/11 and tossed 115 PIMs into the mix so I guess he pulled off the Cody Mac Lite feat. As for the Agozzino call...leave me alone. Looks like O'Reilly proved me wrong again. Strange that this time last year I viewed Dutchy-PA as a powerhouse of sorts and O'Reilly as the question mark. I've spent O'Reilly's entire career being skeptical of him. I wonder what happens this year now that he's made a believer out of me.

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What Cheryl said then: 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.

What Cheryl says now: Okay, so I tried not to be the big ole homer that I am for Barrie when I wrote this last year. I wanted to say, "TYSON BARRIE, BITCHES!" but I didn't. Clearly, I should have. Maybe I should continue to underestimate him. As far as that Varly prediction goes, totally nailed it. I still believe it's a breakout, and not a flash in the pan. People talk as if his numbers HAVE to come down because otherwise he'll be an elite goaltender. What makes you think he can't/won't be an elite goaltender? Maybe we have a Hall of Famer on our hands. I'm going to believe that until it doesn't happen. Fatty did better than I expected, but I wasn't far off. I still prefer him on the third line.

And as for Hishon...I'm so glad to have been right on this. I know his games didn't come until the post season, but after he shook off the rookie jitters, he looked like he belonged. And this was at playoff-hockey level. I really hope we get to see him on the opening night roster for 2014-2015. Foreshadowing: he's my pick for surprise out of camp.