An Avalanche of Possibilities

Joe SakicHeading into the new season, the Colorado Avalanche hopes to regain their spot as one of the league’s elite.

“I like our chances, right away, to compete for a Cup,” said captain Joe Sakic.

It’s just like old times for Denver. And unfortunately for everyone else in the NHL, the Avs have what it takes to win, especially with their additions this offseason.

Signing big name unrestricted free agent Ryan Smyth fills many offensive holes for Colorado, as they needed a grinding forward, who can drive the net hard and play on the special teams. Veteran Smyth not only fit those criterias, but he’ll help light up the opposing goal.

Imagine Smyth causing havoc in front of the other team’s goaltender, with Sakic and Milan Hejduk releasing snipers at the net. It’s a dream come true for point-hungry poolies.

Colorado also has a strong supporting cast. One of the best players during the second half of last season was 21-year-old Paul Stastny, who has the making an all-star forward. Alongside him will be Andrew Brunette, who recorded a career high in points, and Wojtek Wolski, who tallied 22 goals as a rookie. (Look for Joel Quenneville to evenly distribute the top two lines by placing Brunette up front with Sakic and Smyth)

Also, Marek Svatos will try to redeem his lacklustre sophomore season, while Ian Laperriere and Tyler Arnason adds offensive depth to an already threatening forward unit.

One player to keep an eye on is 30-year-old Jaroslav Hlinka. Signed by the Avs this off-season after high recommendations from Hejduk, the winger was named best forward in the Czech League last year. No other GMs took a chance on him, and they might be kicking themselves later on this season.

Smyth HannonWhen it comes to defense, the arrival of Scott Hannan improves the blueline crew dramatically. Maybe the toughness aspect still needs some work, but a newer trap system implemented by coach Q near the end of last season contributed to their late success. Look for that again.

Also, look for Jordan Leopold to rebound from an injury plagued ’06-’07 showing, and play a major role on Colorado’s top unit. Offensively, the Avs are set in the back end, with John-Michael Liles, Brett Clark and Leopold hopefully finding the net. Defensively, it’ll be more of a challenge. Guys like Karlis Skrastins and Kurt Sauer will need to step up their game, or they might find themselves falling on the depth chart.

The biggest concern for Colorado is their goaltending. Peter Budaj is going to make it or break it for this team, and if the Avs want to be Stanley Cup material, they need their puck-stopper to be on top of his game all year long. Budaj is quick on his feet and has shown flashes of brilliance, but rebound control is a big problem for this young Slovak. However, if he does falter, they have the highest paid backup in the whole NHL. Yes, remember Jose Theodore? If Theodore, who makes $6 million this season, can outplay Budaj for the number one spot and regain his 2002 Hart Trophy form, there is no telling how far this Colorado team can go.

There’s only two possible conclusions for this Avalanche season:

  1. With all cylinders firing, they have what it takes to be one of the top teams in the Western Conference once again. There is no doubt that they possess the talent to succeed, especially offensively. After a couple years of dropping in the standings, Colorado is back as a threat. Don’t be surprised to see Colorado in the finals.
  2. The other option is for them to be ‘mediocre’. They have what it takes to be successful but how many times have we seen a skilled team not produce? However, whether the chemistry clicks or not, the Avs will be in a playoff contender-ship position, if not fighting for the Northwest division lead. Barring major injury, one thing is for certain: Don’t expect to see this team amongst the bottom dwellers.

Colorado looks good on paper, but that’s the problem. Until they can prove that they mesh well as a team, there are no guarantees.

The biggest question mark revolves around the crease, and it just might end up deciding their fate. Having said that, Colorado can still score with the best in the league and has a great chance reclaiming their past spot as division champions.

It’s time for some Mile High redemption.

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One Response

  1. you are damn right !
    “Colorado is back as a threat”

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