It's really here folks, hockey season is all around us. So while the players take their physicals and chat with Denver media for the first time this season AJ and I decided to take one last swing at this training camp preview thing. Here's a few last thoughts before the Avs take the ice tomorrow.
So A.J. 67 players on the Avalanche's camp roster and some long, long camp sessions these next two days. How's this new camp structure going to work out?
AJ: I really have no idea how they're going to make camp work with that many guys. Two sheets of ice? 67 guys? 67??? I guess it's a good thing they're lining up marathon sessions of 5 hours long to make this all work. My guess is they'll run 4 mini squads out there with 2 teams scrimmaging on one sheet, one team running drills on the other, and the 4th team resting up and they'll rotate accordingly. That's just a stab in the dark, though, because I really don't have any idea how to maximize 67 freaking players.
Cole: I think you're probably right. People who've attended camp in the past have seen them pull a rotation like that with three squads (2 scrimmaging 1 doing drills). I think having 67 guys at this camp is going to be overwhelming for fans, but I also think there will be a few benefits. First, I think the cream is really, really going to rise to the top. It's going to be fun to watch guys like MacKinnon and Duchene surrounded by ummm "less experienced prospects" in some of those scrimmages. Those top guys are going to look beastly.
That is a double edged sword though, I'm hoping that the sheer volume here will help with competition for the Avs 4th line and bottom pairing defense. Right now Roy seems keen on rewarding the guys who played last year (ugh) but if those guys fade into the crowd of "meh" that makes up the bottom half of that 67, it could help change the coaching staff's minds
AJ: I really have no idea how Marc-Andre Cliche and Nate Guenin are going to separate themselves in a pack of 67 but I wish them all the luck in the world. Kind of.
Cole: Guys like Nate Guenin shouldnt be able to float through this camp with an average performance like last year. There are too many guys forcing them to stand out.
Cole: That said.... I do have serious concerns that Patrick Bordeleau will play another 82/82 for the Avs, while Nate Guenin and Bruno Gervais hold NHL roster spots. It just seems like Roy's style
AJ: No. God damnit no, Cole. I'm the one who worries about Bruno Gervais. You worry about somebody else making the roster. He's mine.
AJ. I'm really worried that Borna Rendulic is going to make the Avs roster.... and score more goals than the NHL can handle
If the NHL suddenly turns into a no-hitting league, it's possible. Guy can make some moves.
Seriously though. Let's talk about the Avs bottom six, because I can just anticipate my frustration with this season from a mile away.
AJ: 100% agree with you on this. We went out and brought in players to upgrade that area of our roster and then the coaches drop sound bites that make it sound like we stood pat all summer and this ain't no big deal, ya dig?
Cole: Heading into this year I think its safe to pencil in something like
That's a bottom six that I'm pretty happy with. There's some good versatility and some good role players in there. Fine. I'm fine with that.
Now the first Avs player goes down with an injury and we ask "who gets inserted into the lineup?" The answer, it seems like, is Bordeleau or Cliche and I think, in a camp with 67 players that keeping McLeod, Bordeleau, and Cliche as your 12-14 forwards is flat out unacceptable.
AJ: Lemme hit you with something crazy. Why not a third line of McGinn-Hishon-Briere and a fourth of Mitchell-Winchester-Talbot?
Cole: Because (OLD SCHOOL HOCKEY INCOMING) who will protect the skill players from thugs around the league?
That antiquated, ineffective garbage held this team back last season and I think it will again.
AJ: I HATE THIS ARGUMENT AND I WANT IT TO DIE.
Cole: Look, Patrick Bordeleau can't hit without taking a penalty (correct calls or not), no one will fight him, and despite increased minutes he did exactly ZERO to protect MacKinnon from Cooke's headshots and Barrie from a knee. Facts are facts he is a waste of a roster spot that should be going, without question to Joey Hishon.
AJ: You ever see 500 Days of Summer?
Cole: Yes, I love that movie
AJ: I feel like Joseph Gordon-Levitt when he's on the bus after he and Summer broke up and he randomly screams "I HATE THIS SONG". That's how I feel anytime we have this conversation about how the Avs use their 4th line.
Cole: And if Joey Hishon makes the team like he deserves to then I'll feel like Joseph Gordon-Levitt when Zooey starts singing The Smiths in the elevator #swoon
AJ: This analogy was surprisingly effective. Well-played all around, sir.
Cole: And you as well.
But look, if the Avs need a fight, like really NEED one there are plenty of guys who will oblige. Talbot, Stuart, McGinn and Winchester will dust up when necessary. That should be the end of the discussion. Having 1 "nuclear deterrent" let alone 2 is just bad management.
AJ: It's not like Landy and Iginla are afraid to throw the mitts, either. Too bad Sobotka left for Europe so we have to remove Dutchy from that group of potential fighters.
Cole: Dont you worry AJ, the Blues brought plenty of new Euros in for Dutchy to lay the smack-down on.
AJ: Hell yeah. I'm excited for Dutchy-Mueller.
Cole: If Mueller isn't hurt by Game 12 then yeah
The other big positions in question are the last three D spots. Assuming that 8-6, 17-4, and 2 are locked in, who are your last three picks?
AJ: in my ideal world, it would be 44, 46, and 22
In this world, I think it's going to be 44, 5, and I hope like hell 46
Cole: I can live with Nate Guenin sitting as the 7-8 defenseman, but I think Roy's making a colossal mistake if he's on the 3rd pairing opening night over any number of Elliott, Redmond, Siemens, and Wilson. He's not the best player in that group.
AJ: He's not the best at anything from that group! They're all better offensive players than him, Wilson for sure is better defensively, and the PK won't need to rely on him nearly as much with the addition of Stuart and growth of Holden so his usefulness is already being pinched out and the season hasn't even freaking started. The writing is just all over the damn wall regarding Guenin. He doesn't belong.
Cole: But he's Roy's guy. That seems to matter here. Just ask PA Parenteau
AJ: Yeah. That's a huge concern for me. "Roy's guys". The Avs were forced into making the pretty terrible Briere deal because Roy wasn't interested in trying to make it work with PA. We threw away a top 6 player, albeit a flawed one, in the midst of his prime because our head coach threw a fit about him. That's...troublesome. Roy did a lot of things well in the first year but there are definitely some areas where he could blatantly use improvement. Clearly making it work with a guy he's not BFFs with is one of them. Be professional, guys.
So you mentioned Ryan Wilson earlier... Obviously this is his last chance with the Avalanche organization. What's he have to do this week to make this team again?
AJ: Stay healthy. He's the perfect 7th defensemen for this team. Siemens needs to play a lot for his development so having him sitting in the press box is a bad idea but Wilson largely is who he is going to be at this point. With the Avs clearly setting themselves up for potential transition to kids next year, you can see Ryan Wilson making this team and fitting in well on it. I doubt he's retained beyond this year but he should definitely make the roster out of camp.
Cole: I think Ryan Wilson could actually be a darkhorse to take the right side spot on the third pairing if he does one thing. Be mean. Like, mean as all hell. I've always thought that Roy's Guenin fandom has a lot to do with the guys' abrasiveness and compete level. You can fault Guenin for a lot of things, but he's pretty much always throwing a forearm at someone and I think if Ryan Wilson shows that snarl in preseason he could get back in the lineup with some consistency.
AJ: That'd be amazing
Cole: And you know what? Even if Nate Guenin does make the roster there's a bright-side to Avalanche camp so far
AJ: Wut's dis
Cole: No off ice "altercations"
AJ: When our starting goalie suffers a serious injury at the hands of another one of our players, then we'll know we have issues. At least we have regression to look forward to all season!
Cole: I do think this team will suffer some from regression, I think they'll have some very real challenges to overcome and all that, but I really believe that this team is focused on winning, cares about winning, and that they will carry themselves as such.
Unlike Minnesota. lol
AJ: I think there's going to be natural regression from a few guys but I think we're about to see Landy's best season and obviously the growth of guys like MacKinnon and Barrie help to offset some of the losses every team takes. The entirety of our core is comprised of players under 25 still so there's still plenty of room left for these guys to grow. Iginla may not score 30 again but....he doesnt really have to for us. His veteran intangibles should pay nice dividends and Landy should immediately look to Iginla as the model to aspire to.
AJ I just
I cant even
Alright well, lets close this sucker out with a little game. It's called: "How many rounds of cuts will Mitch Heard survive."
Cole: I say 1.
Cole: Poor Heard. If you're reading here, it's nothing personal dude.
AJ: It's a little personal. Be less terrible.
Cole: He doesn't mean that Mitch.