The 2016-17 Colorado Avalanche regular season campaign opens on Saturday night. Thank God. It's been a long time for us to sit on the bitter taste that was whatever you call that finish this team had at the end of last season. Much has happened in the six months in between, and the time is nearly here for us to stop talking and watch the boys play.
Before that comes, let's talk once more about complete hypotheticals. We've all spent far too many hours of our lives debating every player and front office member of this organization and whether they will make us happy or sad throughout the course of this season. Let's look at each player who we think will be integral to the Avalanche, ignoring Rampage fixtures, and predict what their final stat line will be this season come April. Sound good? Good! Let's begin.
#1: Semyon Varlamov. 60 GP, 143 GA, 2.57 GAA.
I will admit the 60 games played prediction is based sheerly on the fact Varlamov's average GP the last three seasons is 60, and that's with some nagging injuries each of the last couple seasons. I anticipate (and hope for) a fully healthy from Varlamov from now through next spring. I also plan on a very solid season from Varly; not quite as good as the amazing 13-14 season he had, but I will predict he finishes amongst the Top 10 in best GAA this season across the league. With a more balanced system in Bednar versus the one the Avs had in Roy, I think Varlamov sees the amount of shots he faces drop significantly and has a very solid year as a result.
#4: Tyson Barrie. 15 goals, 40 assists. -4.
For the first time since he burst onto the scene during the 13-14 campaign, we're assured Tyson's long-term future lies with Colorado after his multi-year extension this summer. I foresee the freedom in knowing he's here to stay paying big dividends for the dynamic defenseman. Few players in hockey right now are comparable to T-Beauty. The 15 goals and 40 assists is a step up on each stat from last season, while the +/- figure is starkly improved from his -16 last season. My hope is being with the rock that is Francois Beuchemin will help his defensive ability drastically, and he can get closer to being as dangerous a defenseman as there currently is in the NHL.
#6: Erik Johnson. 13 goals, 27 assists. -3.
You could make the argument that Johnson is the most valuable player to the Avalanche right now. His injuries each of the last two seasons caused a noticeable drop in overall defensive ability from the team, as well as a lack of punch on the offensive side. Let's hope he stays healthy for all of this season, because the chance is there for Condor to have a real breakout season and elevate himself amongst the true elite of NHL defensemen. He's already good enough to make Team USA, but a good year from him could earn him some nationwide praise qualifying him as an integral part of these Avalanche.
#7: John Mitchell. 7 goals, 7 assists, -7.
We already know Mitchell is a little banged up and won't be ready to go for the season opener versus Dallas, so what to expect out of Malkin is somewhat up in the air. Even though he's a bottom six player, the Avs seem to do vastly better up front when he's in the lineup for whatever reason, so hopefully that trend starts to change tomorrow. Depending on where the Avs stand come the trade deadline in February, Mitchell could top the list of current Avs most likely to be traded since he's coming up on a contract year. Much of that will depend on how some of the new acquisitions to Colorado perform this season in relation to Mitchell, but your guess is as good as mine with what happens to Mitchell this season.
#8: Joe Colborne. 14 goals, 25 assists, -5.
Colborne was a very under the radar, yet solid free agent signing by Joe Sakic this offseason. Last season in Calgary, Colborne amassed 19 goals and 25 assists; both career highs. His presence will help stabilize the 3rd and 4th lines significantly. We'll see what he does being in between the Bourques on the 3rd line to start the season. Hopefully it's good things. My guess is he'll make fans quickly in Denver, especially once non-college hockey fans around the area realize he's a DU alum.
#9: Matt Duchene. 28 goals, 35 assists, -1.
The new alternate captain was Colorado's leading point-getter last season, and I predict the same will happen again this year. Duchene looked to be on another level in the World Cup game versus the United States when he scored two goals in the first ten minutes of the game against, and alongside the best in the world. That's about as encouraging of a performance as you can ask for. I think his passion, leadership, and great play will spearhead the Avalanche back into the playoffs.
#12: Jarome Iginla. 17 goals, 6 assists, -8.
In what could very well be Iggy's last season, I don't expect much of anything different out of what he did last season. He'll score at least 10 goals from the left face-off circle when the Avs are on the power play, but won't do a ton to inspire elsewhere. I hope I'm wrong, because I have a ton of respect and admiration for what Iginla has done and would love to see him end his career on a high note, both individually and with the team. I'm not inspired though. Hopefully he gets off to a hot start to change my mind.
#14: Blake Comeau. 12 goals, 24 assists, -9.
This is Comeau's exact same stat line from last season. This is no accident, and that just comes down to the fact he's about as consistent and steady as anyone on the squad. His addition last summer made the middle of the forward depth substantially better and filled some holes. I'm hoping he's motivated by the fact he moved on from Pittsburgh a year too late and just missing out on the Stanley Cup with them will propel him to play harder and get the youngsters around him to play an even harder, so they can all get to that same spot sometime soon.
#16: Nikita Zadorov. 2 goals, 10 assists, -8.
I am so excited to see what Big Z does in his first full season at the NHL level. If there was to be an Avalanche this year that hits someone so hard it shatters the glass, I'd reckon Zadorov would be the guy to make that hit. He's got the top line job alongside EJ, so he'll have a good partner beside him that should help grow his game tremendously. Let's hope he takes that step forward and gets closer to realizing the vast amount of potential he has.
#20: Ben Smith. 2 goals, 3 assists. -10.
The former Stanley Cup winner in Chicago comes to Colorado after bouncing around the NHL and AHL in each of the last two seasons in San Jose and Toronto. I find it very likely Smith heads to San Antonio at least once this season, especially once Mikko Rantanen and John Mitchell are healthy. He does get the chance to show he belongs in Denver full-time though as those injuries have cleared a lane for him to start on the 4th line next to Comeau and Andreas Martinsen.
#24: Rene Bourque. 5 goals, 4 assists, -13.
Remember back in the late 00's when Bourque was this prolific goal scorer in Calgary? Yeah, I don't either. He got shipped to Montreal in 2012, and since then, his career's gone downhill. 57 games divided amongst the last couple of seasons in Columbus got him 7 goals and 5 assists. I'm not entirely sure what to think of Rene. He could be useful, he could be a waste. All that's certain is he has the chance to resurrect his career in Colorado. Whether he takes advantage of the chance... we'll have to wait and see.
#25: Mikhail Grigorenko. 11 goals, 23 assists, -6.
No one amongst this team had himself a better preseason than Grigs. Hopefully it transitions into a solid regular season. He, Zadorov, and down the road, JT Compher all have the chance to help prove the Avs won the R$R trade and display to the world O'Reilly wasn't all that useful in Colorado. What more could you possibly want to play for? If that's not going to motivate him into having a breakout season, I don't know what will.
#27: Andreas Martinsen. 7 goals, 6 assists, -5.
BAD ANDY! My favorite nickname amongst the current contingent of Avalanche. Except, Martinsen was kind of good at times last year. I try and tell people that if they've ever wondered what a Norwegian wrecking ball looks like, well, just watch Andreas Martinsen play hockey. As Editor-In-Chief Ryan Murphy knighted him, he is truly the Lord of Fjörcheck, which is another great nickname. I hope his play is as great as his vast amount of slang names.
#28: Patrick Wiercioch. 1 goal, 5 assists, +1.
Now joining the Avs from Ottawa, it's Patrick Weird-Cock as I will be referring to him throughout the course of this season. He's not much of a goal scorer, as the most he's ever had in a given season is 5. To make up for that, he's only had one season where his +/- figure was in the negatives. Being on the third of the three defensive lines will be tremendously important in making Colorado's bottom defenders not suck, like they have the last several seasons. I expect him to be a very welcomed newcomer to this team if he can keep defending the way he has.
#29: Nathan MacKinnon. 26 goals, 33 assists, -2.
Watch this goal once more. UGH. Who knew a hockey goal could double as pornography? Anyways, after that, we're all expecting big things out of the former #1 overall pick. God willing he stays healthy and dazzles like that for the whole season. I need to see him do something incredible in an Avs uniform again real soon because my soul needs it.
#31: Calvin Pickard. 22 GP, 44 GA, 2.6 GAA.
Congrats once more to Pickard on winning the #2 goaltender spot over Reto Berra. Having Picks in Denver all the time now will be oodles of fun. He's a very quality backup goalie and I have full faith in him to do a good job when Varly needs to have a night of rest. At some point this season, I'll predict he's doing so well there'll be another goaltending controversy like there was last March where many say he should be the starter instead of Varlamov. We'll cross that bridge if/when we get to it. I just look forward to seeing Picks being a badass again.
#32: Francois Beauchemin. 6 goals, 28 assists, -7.
The leader of Colorado's skating guardians and former Cup winner enters his second season with the Avalanche with the alternate shield on his chest now. Duchene and MacKinnon now have that distinction as well, for the record. Beauch played a lot of minutes for his age last season because of the little depth Colorado had. Now that that's improved, hopefully he won't be on the ice nearly as much and plays as good as possibly advertised. He was a "very good" addition to the team, based on what they did with him last year. Hopefully he'll be worthy of being called a "great" addition after this forthcoming campaign.
#34: Carl Soderberg. 8 goals, 45 assists, +3.
That stat line is meant to have some humor in it. I don't actually think he'll get 53 points THAT way, but would it be crazy to write that off? Probably not. Soderberg proved last season that he has an ungodly amount of gift-wrapped assists in his arsenal. He scores his fair share of times, but his ability to set up goals did not go unnoticed by me last season. I'm very much looking forward to watching him amass 8 assists in a single goal at some point this season.
#44: Eric Gelinas. 5 goals, 5 assists, -12.
Man, I cannot wait to see him get his first slap shot goal in an Avs uniform. For as much as people say, "THIS GUY HAS A CANNON OF A SHOT" he has a legitimate Gettysburg War cannon hidden in his stick. I'd rather be in the path of a U-Haul cruising along I-25 than a Gelinas slap shot. His first goal might break the twine of the net. Clearly, you can tell I'm excited. I'm equally as un-excited to see him get cut up like swiss cheese on defense, because I'm afraid that's exactly what will happen to him. Maybe I'll be wrong! I expect the worst in that regard though, sadly.
#51: Fedor Tyutin. 2 goals, 3 assists, -4.
I don't know much about Tyutin. Here's what I can tell you. In my GM mode on NHL 17, Tyutin has been a very reliable player for me and I have him on the 1st line at the moment. If that inspires confidence in you, well, hopefully he'll exceed expectations. I had no clue who he was until I heard the Avs signed him out of Columbus. Last season he got 1 goal, 2 assists, and a -6 differential. Make what you will out of that. There's not a whole lot of excitement about ole Fedor the Tugboat amongst the fandom right now. We'll see if there's a reason for that or not sooner than later.
#55: Cody McLeod. 0 goals, 0 assists, 0.
I don't care for McLeod that much. I've never understood why people love him so much. He's not very good and takes stupid penalties at the rate of which a newborn baby poops. Therefore, the 0/0/0 prediction just boils down to the fact I hope he doesn't play one game with the Avs this season.
#57: Gabriel Bourque. 1 goal, 1 assist, -5.
The Bourque-ier, the better. Gabriel and Rene promise to make this the most Swedish Chef-like sounding season out of Mike Haynes we've ever seen. Gabriel never did much that was flashy in his five seasons in Nashville. Will he in Denver? Probably not! Oh, were you hoping I'd say yes? My bad. Sorry to disappoint.
#92: Gabe Landeskog. 25 goals, 32 assists, 0.
Oh captain my captain. I cannot wait to watch Landeskog's beautiful blonde hair move with the win during warmups once more this season. I also look forward to him scoring the occasional ridiculous goal, beating the hell out of someone like Brad Marchand or Milan Lucic, and dropping a great quote in an interview like "balls to the wall." Landy had himself a nice World Cup for Sweden, and while I don't expect he'll be an unstoppable force, he'll be very valuable to Colorado once more and demonstrate his immense worth to the club in a big way.
#96: Mikko Rantanen. 10 goals, 10 assists, -8.
Can't wait for Rants to get healthy and get into NHL action this fall. His play in San Antonio was so inspiring and gives out ample amounts of hope for down the road. He, Duchene, Landeskog, and MacKinnon driving the core of this team for years to come makes me so happy to think about. While I know he has to carry that success from the AHL into the NHL, something he struggled with last season, I have no reservations about him not being able to do that. He'll be pretty freaking good. We're a year or two away from seeing him on a Artemi Panarin kind of skill level.
Regardless of how these gentlemen do, and the other unknown individuals who will surely contribute to the club at some point, all I want is for them to do enough as a team that gets the Avs back into the playoffs, something I'm confident they can do. Let's just celebrate the fact this is the least speculative kind of article you all will read this offseason, and we can soon watch these boys do what they do.