Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Joe @ MHH here, bringing you the lowdown on the Avalanche from [MileHighHockey.com.]
Thanks to the heroes behind the Pensblog (and especially Charlie, wink wink), I'm honored to bring you all a preview of the Colorado Avalanche as the 2008-09 season nears. Why should you care about the Avalanche? Because your bitter defeat at the hands of the nefarious Red Wings in the finals last season makes you brothers and sisters to all Avalanche fans everywhere.
We Avs fans feel your pain. The Avalanche went 0-4 against the Red Wings in the regular season, and then 0-4 in the playoffs, for a grand total of 8 losses in 8 games last season. You think losing in the Stanley Cup Finals hurts? Well, I don't know if it does because the Avalanche have never lost in the Stanley Cup Finals. Sorry, I digress. Losing eight games straight to your arch rivals is pretty lousy. What I'm trying to say is, we feel your pain, and you no doubt feel ours.
So the preview.
There was a distinct possibility that the Joe Sakic era in Colorado would be over this summer. Super Joe, our patron saint and savior, took his sweet time figuring out if he wanted to come back or not. Thankfully, he figured one more season wouldn't hurt too bad---and neither would another $6 million. If that piece of shit Chelios can keep playing, you know Joe can do it. Consider it a Christmas present in August.
So Sakic returns as captain and leader of the Avalanche offense. That offense is not quite as impressive as it was back in the day, but it's still got some punch. Still hanging around is Milan Hejduk, who can score a few goals when he's got a decent center feeding him the puck. The other grizzled veteran is Ryan Smyth, who had a rough year under a lousy coach (Joel Quenneville) and will hopefully be back to his old pain-in-the-slot hijinks that made him famous in Edmonton.
The rest of the offense is pretty young. Paul Stastny, one of the four or five best young players in the entire NHL, is back and will lead the second line. His fellow young scoring threats, Wojtek Wolski and Marek Svatos, are also back for more fun. Wolski is a superb skater and passer, and Svatos is a dynamite finisher, especially off of rebounds.
Those six, Sakic, Hejduk, Smyth, Stastny, Wolski and Svatos, are the main scoring threats. The rest of the forwards, with the exception of one guy, are all agitators and bangers. Ian Laperriere, the heart and soul of the team, will lead a rag tag bunch of third and fourth liners to spend literally hours in the penalty box, no doubt. New pickups include Darcy Tucker and Swedish bad boy Per Ledin, along with returning toughs Ben Guite, Codys McLeod and McCormick, and Scott Parker. The one exception to this impressive band of dickheads is Tyler Arnason, who can neither hit nor score with any regularity. He's weak on defense, weak on offense, and has about as much heart as that "Amumshiba" guy from Temple of Doom.
Oh yeah, and Peter Forsberg might come back some time. Nobody really knows. So I won't hold out too much hope that we'll get to see more of this:
All of those guys could be your dad.
Other players to look out for are whippersnappers TJ Hensick, Chris Stewart, David Jones and Jack Combs, who could all be making the transition from the minors soon, depending on how bad everybody else gets hurt this year.
The defense is the most solid part of the Avalanche, at least until the injuries start piling up again. Adam Foote re-signed over the summer and will lead the blueliners. The top six include Foote, Brett Clark, male model John-Michael Liles, Ruslan Salei, Scott Hannan and constantly-wounded Jordan Leopold. Or "Leoprone," as we call him at MHH. In that bunch you have hitters, passers and scorers, and they should provide pretty solid support for the Avalanche goalie.
And who is that goalie? That goalie's name is Peter Budaj. Not Andrew Raycroft, who sucked something awful for Toronto, and not some unnamed minor leaguer, either. Peter Budaj. After three seasons with the Avalanche spent almost entirely in the shadow of Jose Theodore, Budaj will finally get his chance to be the undisputed number one goalie. And he's earned it. Though his overall record is okay but not awesome, he's excelled any time he's been given consistent starts. Over at MHH, I noted that in the four times he's been given extended, uninterrupted starts, Budaj has gone 31-10-7. While some Avalanche "fans" have convinced themselves that Budaj is unreliable or unready, we at MHH are fully confident he will be a solid starter.
As far as the coaching staff goes, the Avalanche will have a new but old face behind the bench. Tony Granato, once the head coach for a brief period before Joel Quenneville's reign began at the end of the Lockout, will get a second chance. Granato actually has the best winning percentage of any of the four past Avalanche coaches, but he had a much better lineup back in the day. If he's really that good, the soft spots in the current lineup won't make any difference to him.
I'm crossing my fingers as hard as I can.
If you've read all of this, you're a hero. Congrats.
If you're just skipping along, all you really need to know about the Avalanche is that they could finish anywhere between 3rd and 10th in the West. At least that's how it looks to me. There are a lot of unknowns and unpredictables at work this year.
Personally, I'll be happy if the Avs just get to kick the crap out of the Wild again in the playoffs. That whole organization sucks. F them. Calgary sucks, too.
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