September, a month where hope in the hockey world is abundant. The ice is fresh, the players rejuvenated, and the fans are drooling for meaningful hockey. The rookies hit the ice in mere hours and the vets are not far behind. In other words, much like a kid excited to go back to school, we are all restless in anticipation.
In Avsland we are no different. We are ready to hit the classroom with both apprehension and zest for what’s to come. Before the season starts we here at Burgundy Rainbow have your preseason syllabus ready. So sharpen your #2 pencils and have a seat. Here’s what you can expect to learn from your 2017-2018 Colorado Avalanche.
A – Andrighetto
Sven Andrighetto burst onto the scene last year after being traded at the deadline for Andreas Martinsen. As an Avs he posted 16 points in 19 games playing largely on a line with Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon. The big question surrounding Andrighetto this season will be can he keep up production over a full season as a Top 6 forward? Is he the guy who posted 17 points in 44 games with Montreal or the guy that nearly matched that in 19 with Colorado. If the truth lies somewhere even in the middle of those numbers the Avs will have gone a long way in their quest for help in their forward corps.
B – Bednar
Some say that Jared Bednar was thrown to the wolves last year and should be given more time to turn himself into the Calder Cup winning manager he was with the Lake Erie Monsters. Some say no matter what, the situation that occurred last season was too horrendous and that he should be on a short leash. This year Bednar will not have the same excuses that fans lavished upon him for last seasons performance. The coaching staff is now his own, he had ample time to both plan and execute what he wanted the offseason to look like, and he has a younger and more talented roster to work with. This year will be a make or break year for his tenure with the Avs as well as his credibility around the league as an NHL bench boss.
C – Confidence
48 Points. Let me repeat 48 points. How does one come back from that disaster? There are many factors that lead to seasons of epic failure, but one is that as losses add up confidence drops. So the question facing this year is: where does a younger roster turn to for a solid injection of confidence? I think the answer lies with the youth movement. Call me naive, but we are talking about sports here. There is something powerful that a youthful exuberance can provide. The players we are adding to the roster this year have the skill, that is unquestioned. I’m looking for our younger players to be hungry and seize their opportunities that are being afforded them. Play hungry and play confident.
D – Developement
Look, no one expects this years Colorado Avalanche to raise Lord Stanley’s Cup. It would be a mild accomplishment for this team to finish out of the Central Division cellar. But this seasons success will not be determined by where they end up in the standings. This seasons success will be determined by whether or not the front office sticks to it’s mantra of #youngerandfaster over the long haul of an 82 game season. The roster has been trimmed and there are open spots for young players to prove that they can compete and grow as players in the NHL. Last season was not fun, but we got to see growth in players like Anton Lindholm and JT Compher. This year I would expect that no fewer than 13 players on ELC’s are given an opportunity to play regular minutes. Remain committed to riding the wave with these younger and more talented players. Resist the urge to sign the Jared Cowan’s and Rene Bourque’s and let that opportunity go to the Chris Bigras’ and the AJ Greer’s. If only a few of these players turn out to be legitimate NHL talents this season will be considered a success.
E – Erik Johnson
For Erik Johnson it’s very simple. Stay healthy….profit. The condor flies high when it doesn’t have a gimpy wing. EJ has been a lynch pin for a shaky defense and one thing is certain, there is no replacement on our roster or in our pipeline for what he brings to the table. Last years collapse may have been unavoidable, but to me it’s no coincidence that the collapse started eerily closely to EJ’s injury. He is the only Avalanche defender who is capable to propping up a young talent (Barberio, Zadorov, etc) without sacrificing the integrity of the true top defensive pairing. Here lies the rub: he has completed a full season just 3 times in 9 seasons in the NHL. Cheers to health and happiness (mostly health), Condor.
F – Fast
The anchor has been lifted, the ship ordered full steam ahead. And this has me excited. We can expect a team that plays the game at a much faster level this year. Gone are the days of the USS Sloth led by Iginla, Beauchmin, & the myriad of boat anchors aboard that ship. In it’s place I think we can look to this season being the year of the USS Roadrunner. By Joe Sakic’s own admission the team will look to pick up the tempo this year. The days of plodding defenders are gone, replaced by quick twitch faster puck moving defensemen. If you look at the talent on this roster and you look to the players you would expect that this style of play will benefit it seems to be a no brainer. Two players in particular: Nathan Mackinnon and Tyson Barrie should be drooling at the idea of using their speed and skill to create scoring chances this year.
G – Growth
Growth and development often go hand in hand. For me I see them being a little different. When I think about development I think about the bottom rung of the improvement scale, you take something, see what you’ve got and see how you can make that into something tangible. When I think about growth I think about taking the next step forward. Players I expect to see grow are players who have shown that they have the skill to be NHL’ers, but can they take the next step forward? I’d like to see growth this year from a few key players. I’d like to see Nathan MacKinnon become a superstar center. I’d like to see Mikko Rantanen push for 30 goals. And, I’d like to see J.T. Compher solidify himself as a team leader and a 3rd line NHL center. That won’t be enough to make this team a contender, but it will be enough to provide a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.
H – Hope
I want the 2017-2018 season to end with a feeling of hope for things to come. I hope that by seasons end we can go into an offseason hopeful for competition across all roster spots when the next seasons camp breaks. I hope to go into next offseason feeling as if Joe Sakic is the right man for the job he currently holds. I hope next offseason to be dreaming of playoff chances in 18/19. I hope that the talk is of adding around the edges and not that of trading a star player because of roster deficiencies. I want to have the thing I haven’t had since MacK’s rookie season; HOPE.
I – Investment
Hockey is a business. Whether we or the players like it or not doesn’t make that fact any less true. For too many years the Avalanche have been investing in safe stock. They have been giving up on assets (draft picks) that could have a nice future return in exchange for short term low return stopgaps (aging slow veterans). If done once or twice, and in the right situation, that’s fine, but as a general philosophy it’s probably not the way to go. The Avs have a couple of decent players on the roster that could be traded for draft picks, I’d like to see my them be more proactive than reactive in the trade market this year. The days of waiting for the perfect offer need to make way for finding an acceptable offer and pulling the trigger. Invest in the infrastructure and future of your team and stop adding short term “fixes”.
J – Jost
I wrote above about hope. Tyson Jost is the glimmering light that I can already see at the end of the tunnel. He is the player that the future outlook of this team can rest it’s shoulders on. And he is in a perfect position this year to be properly developed. A roster spot is all but a certainty at this point. He will ply is trade on chartered planes rather than chartered buses. But he is also on a team of little expectation. He doesn’t need to be a savior this year in order for the Avalanche to make the playoffs. He can start on the 3rd line as a center as see where the results take him. But the best part for Jost is that if he earns the promotion there won’t be anything standing in his way. In other words, he can learn and adjust at his own pace but opportunity abounds.
K – Kerfoot
The summer of the NCAA Free Agent finally blew through Colorado. After years of watching top collegiate seniors choose other destinations, the Avalanche were finally able to wrangle a couple of their own. Alex Kerfoot and Dominic Toninato both signed ELC’s with the Avs. Why? These guys want to play in the NHL and the Avalanche can offer them a clear path to do so. Not many collegiate players who make it to UFA are ticketed for sure fire NHL jobs right away. Colorado is no different in this regard, but what Colorado can offer is the ability to compete for that job immediately. The best part of these signings from an organizational perspective is that it breeds competition for jobs, jobs that are actually available if you earn them. The best part about these signings for me is that both guys knowingly signed up for the fight.
L – Landeskog
Will the real Gabe Landeskog please stand up? Are you the Gabe that took the league by storm his rookie year en route to be a play driving power forward with 1st line capabilities? Or are you the Gabe Landeskog we have seen the last couple seasons who is trending towards play driving defensive stalwart who is best fit to anchor a shut down defensive forward line? I know that points are not the be all and end all, but his downward trend in production gives me pause for concern. On his best day, Landy can be matched up pound for pound with anyone in the league. I think he still has that ability and drive to succeed. But we cannot go another season of our best winger producing at less than a 1/2 point per game level.
M – Makar
Every now and then a shiny new toy comes around that gives you goosebumps just thinking about how much fun it will bring. You stay up all hours of the night dreaming about how much better life would be if you had that toy. For most Avs fans the 2017 NHL Entry Draft produced THAT toy. With the 4th selection in the draft Colorado took Cale Makar. I know that player comparisons are stupid and more often than not don’t come close to fruition, but when you get your hands on an asset that is mentioned in the same breath as the NHL’s current top offensive defenseman, Erik Karlsson, it’s okay to buy into the hype. Cale Makar will not sniff the NHL this year, or maybe next, but for a brief moment we can be very excited to watch a player of his skill level develop and wonder “what if?”.
(This is part 1 of a 2 part series, please check back this weekend for letters N-Z)