2011-2012 Preview: Colorado Avalanche

Posted: September 7, 2011 by Dan M in Colorado Avalanche, Season Preview
Tags: , , , , , ,

Last season: 30-44-8, 68 points. 4th in the Northwest, missed playoffs.

Key Additions:  G Jean-Sebastian Giguere, D Jan Hejda, F Chuck Kobasew, LW Gabriel Landeskog, D Shane O’Brien, G Seymon Varlamov

Key Losses:  G Peter Budaj, C Phillippe Dupuis, G Brian Elliott, LW Thomas Fleischmann, D Adam Foote, D John-Michael Liles

Offense: The young Colorado offense is led by 2009 first round pick Matt Duchene, whose production increased from 24-31-55 to 27-40-67 in his second NHL season.  Despite having a down year (22 goals, 57 points), Paul Stastny was elected to his first all-star game.  Although Milan Hejduk is years from his 50 goal season, he is still a reliable 20-25 goal getter.    David Jones came out of nowhere to lead the team in goals (27, tied with Duchene).  Landeskog, the #2 overall pick in this year’s draft, is a wild card.  If he makes the team, it should help the offense immensely.  T.J. Galiardi struggled with injuries last year but could be Colorado’s breakout player this season.  Like Galiardi, Peter Mueller was injured (concussion) and missed the entire year, but should be healthy this season.  2009 2nd rounder Ryan O’Reilly should continue to improve.  The club hopes free agent acquisition Kobasew regains his scoring touch from his Boston days.  Kevin Porter was finally given a full time role and scored 14 goals. Daniel Winnik (11 goals) had his best season in 3 years.  Brandon Yip took a step backwards last year, after leading rookies in goals per game in 2009-10.  Cody McLeod established himself as the team’s enforcer, getting 189 PIM thanks to 14 fights.

Defense:  Former #1 pick Erik Johnson leads the blueline after being acquired in February from St. Louis.  He’s got a rocket shot and can do it all.  Blue Jacket Jan Hejda was inked to a 4 year, $13 million deal and will look to fill the spot vacated by Liles.   Shane O’Brien was brought in to be a physical presence (164 hits).  The team missed Kyle Quincey while he was out with injury, but should help the offense if healthy this season. Like most of the team, Ryan Wilson struggled in his second season.   6’6 Ryan O’Byrne is a tough customer.

Goaltending:  The Avs retooled their goaltending position completely.  After trading Craig Anderson to Ottawa in February, they lost their return (Brian Elliott) to free agency.  Backup Peter Budaj also left via free agency.  To fill the void, Colorado dealt a first round pick to Washington to acquire 23 year old goalie Seymon Varlamov.  Varlamov only played 27 games (11-9-5) thanks to injury, but posted solid numbers (2.23, 92.4%).  The Avalanche also signed Jean-Sebastian Giguere, who has struggled the last two seasons.  He only played 33 games with Toronto last year before losing his position, going 11-11-4 with a 2.87 goals against average.  The two should battle for the starting goaltending job.

Standout Player: Matt Duchene
Duchene is only going into his third season but he’s the key cog to the Avalanche. He continued to improve last year and this year should be no different. Seeing him score 30 goals and hit the 80 point mark is not out of the realm of possibility.

Prediction: 4th in the Northwest, 13th West
Colorado is loaded with youth. The team will be better than last year, but the inexperience will cost them at times.

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