Rant Sports NHL 30 In 30: Previewing The Colorado Avalanche
The Colorado Avalanche season ended with more optimism than their 11th place finish suggests. While the Avalanche did crumble down the stretch, the emergence of young talent and the prospect of remaining healthy convinced many that the Avalanche were moving in the right direction.
Rookie-of-the-Year Gabriel Landeskog had a stellar year, leading the club with 22 goals. Despite being the youngest member on the club, his leadership and ability to come through with the big play earned him the captaincy for the upcoming season. Ryan O’Reilly also had a break out performance in his third year, leading the team in hard work and points, with 55. Goalie Semyon Varlamov gained a rhythm in the second half and justified the trade the Avalanche made for him. Defenseman Erik Johnson began to find his groove at the blue line for the Avalanche consistently.
On the negative side, Matt Duchene played in just 58 games and struggled to find himself for much of the season. Last year’s captain, Milan Hejduk, failed to score 20 goals for the first time in 11 years and was demoted to the bottom lines or out of the line up at times. The Avalanche ran out of gas down the stretch and could not regain its footing, despite adding exciting players, Jamie McGinn and Steve Downie, late in the year.
Key Off-season Additions
While fans were hoping for a bigger free agent haul, signing forward P.A. Parenteau seems like an upgrade for a team looking to find someone to play with Matt Duchene. Parenteau played well with Duchene’s draft partner John Tavares with the New York Islanders. The Avalanche made no noise in signing Greg Zanon or John Mitchell.
Key Off-season subtractions
Jay McClement was a veteran leader on the team who helped on the penalty kill and played defensive center. The Avalanche currently do not have a player to replace him. Forward Peter Mueller’s departure from the team was odd because the Avalanche invested so much in his recovery. However, there were whispers that the organization was unhappy with his work ethic.
Coming out of his rookie season, Matt Duchene made it clear that he was ready to lead the Colorado Avalanche into a new era. However, there have been questions about Duchene’s potential after his development stalled, partially due to injuries. For the Avalanche to go anywhere, Duchene must evolve into the offensive threat he has the capability of becoming.
Under The Radar
The rest of the league does not yet respect Semyon Varlamov’s capabilities. The Russian started a career-high 52 games and won a career high 26 of them in his first season with Colorado. Varlamov really began to dominate in the second half. Having a mentor and more than acceptable goalie in J.S. Giguere did not hurt his situation. The Avalanche are very happy with the 24-year-old Varlamov in net going forward.
With a physical defense and a lot of young players throughout the roster, the Avalanche future appears to be bright. If they can find consistent scorers in what appears to be three lines of offense including the likes of David Jones, Paul Stastny, Landeskog, Duchene, O’Reilly, Parenteau and McGinn, they could be a real threat in the west. Continued strong goaltending by Varlamov and defense by Johnson are key. Also, bringing O’Reilly back into the good graces of the club after the lockout with a contract can only bring good karma. The Avalanche should be a playoff team in 2012-2013.