R. Aaron Houde Aug 9th, 2019
The Colorado Avalanche will begin their six-game pre-season on home ice on September 17 versus the Vegas Golden Knights, giving GM Joe Sakic and Coach Jared Bednar a chance to test how the off-season changes are going to pan out. A lot has changed across the ice for the Colorado Avalanche, and it is hard to speculate just how those changes are going to pan out for their club.
The Avalanche added Joonas Donskoi, Andre Burakovsky, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and Nazem Kadri to their offense during the off-season. How and where these players are going to fit into the line-up will be interesting. The central focus of the offensive line has been the Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen line, and secondary production, while not non-existent, has been an issue for the Avalanche.
Additions to the blue line are Calle Rosen and Kevin Connauton, along with their fourth overall selection of Bowen Byram. How much ice time the rookie will see is not definitive, but he was signed to a three-year entry-level contract.
The Avalanche traded Tyson Barrie and Alexander Kerfoot (along with a sixth-round pick in the 2020 draft) for Kadri and Rosen (and a third-round pick in the 2020 draft), and Connauton was acquired (along with a third-round pick in the 2020 draft) for Carl Soderberg. They also did not renew goaltender Seymon Varlomov’s contract, who signed with the New York Islanders. Colorado also did not re-sign defensemen Patrik Nemeth (who signed with the Detroit Red Wings).
Overview of Changes:
The Avalanche are focusing heavily on their younger defensemen like Samuel Girard, Cale Makar, and Byram to provide the speed and offense that will match their offensive mindset, while the likes of Nikita Zadorov and Erik Johnson will give the size and defensive presence to the back end of the ice. The Avalanche’s offense is continuing the trend of trying to get younger and faster. GM Joe Sakic has been patient in turning his team into a Stanley Cup contender, and his patience is starting to pay off.
Where does the goaltending fit in?
Goaltender Philipp Grubauer earned his spot as the number 1 goaltender during a hot stretch leading into, and during, the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs (this was the first time since 2009-2010 season the Avalanche made it past the first round of the playoffs). But can he produce for 40 or more games a season?
Pavel Francouz was signed for a one year deal on March 24th, 2018 after posting a 0.918 save percentage in 48 games with the Avalanche’s AHL affiliate, the Colorado Eagles. But, at 29 years of age, and with so little NHL Experience (only 2 games), is he a viable option for a backup?
The Central Division has a lot of stiff competition, in the likes of the Winnipeg Jets, St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators, and Chicago Blackhawks (yes, they are still competitive). But, the Avalanche have built a strong team around a core of impressive talent. They could be first in the Central, they could be 4th in the Central, it is difficult to say. But, it would be hard to count them out.
Final vote – Playoff-bound. would be hard
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