Well, you can’t say the Colorado Avalanche haven’t been consistent. In three seasons since the lockout, the Avalanche have recorded 95, 95, and 95 points. That wasn’t good enough to get into the playoffs one year and they’ve been knocked out in the second round the other two years. Tony Granato is back for a second go-round as coach, but this franchise is not what it once was — like when they were in the NHL’s final four six times in a seven-year stretch (and won the Cup twice) from 1996-2002.
2007-08: 44-31-7, 95 points (second in Northwest)
PLAYOFFS: Lost to Detroit in second round
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Paul Stastny looked like a future star. Jose Theodore might have saved his career with a bounce-back campaign, and Jeff Finger was a nice revelation. Marek Svatos was certainly efficient, scoring 26 goals while averaging less than 14 minutes per night. Despite a rash of injuries, the Avalanche got back to the postseason and even upset Minnesota before being blitzed by the Red Wings.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Did we mention injuries? Four of the top seven scorers missed at least 16 games, as did at least four other mainstays in the lineup. Sure, Theodore and Finger were nice stories, but they both left town via free agency, along with second-leading scorer Andrew Brunette (to division rival Minnesota, no less) and solid d-man Kurt Sauer. Peter Forsberg returned for nine regular-season games (there was an injury involved, of course) but his status for 2008-09 is in doubt.
ARRIVALS: G Andrew Raycroft, LW Darcy Tucker, LW Per Ledin, RW Brian Willsie, coach Tony Granato
DEPARTURES: C Joe Sakic ???, C Peter Forsberg???, G Jose Theodore, D Jeff Finger, D Kurt Sauer, LW Andrew Brunette, F Jaroslav Hlinka
IMPACT PROSPECTS: C T.J. Hensick, RW Chris Stewart
What about Burnaby Joe and Foppa?
Joe Sakic is expected to announce his decision about whether or not to play next season soon. There have been conflicting reports about Peter Forsberg’s ability/desire to play another year. It seems like the Avalanche need to move on, but at the same time, they could certainly use them considering the dearth of top-end skill guys up front.
Is there a No.1 goaltender in camp?
Peter Budaj and Andrew Raycroft have been No. 1 goalies in this league, but neither were last season. Both have a lot to prove during camp, and maybe the organization has to look elsewhere if one of them doesn’t look like he can do the job.
PROGNOSIS: Without Sakic and Forsberg, it would seem likely to expect a step backwards. Maybe Tucker and Ledin will help, and maybe Hensick (who isn’t really a rookie since he played in 31 games last year) will breakout, but this team looks like it could be in trouble. Paul Stastny is going to have to be great. The underwhelming d-men from last year (we’re looking at you, J-M Liles and Jordan Leopold) are going to have to be better. One of the goalies needs to have a Theodore-esque bounce back. If all of this happens, then MAYBE the Avalanche are back in the playoffs. Otherwise, it looks like a rebuilding year in Denver.
|Brian Willsie/Scott Parker
*NOTE: This is not necessarily an attempt to guess line combinations