Avalanche reloads through trades, draft, free agency
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A good guess of the Colorado Avalanche’s worth this season is somewhere in the middle, the medium of the last two seasons.
The Avs probably weren’t as good as their 112-point season of 2013-14, and they were likely better than their 90-point campaign last year. The 22-point difference was startling, yet educational.
In Year 3 of the Joe Sakic–Patrick Roy-led front office and coaching staff, the Avs want the truth. They want to dissect what they did right in Year 1 of the Hockey Hall of Fame hierarchy and avoid doing what turned them into the NHL’s most disappointing team last year.
Three areas are of the utmost concern – possession time and being on the positive side of shots for/shots against, the power play (just 15 percent in 2014-15) and injuries.
Here are 10 questions entering the Avalanche’s 20th anniversary season:
1 – Will Mikko make it? Rookie Mikko Rantanan, who fell into Colorado’s lap with the 10th pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, is 6-foot-4 and 217 pounds. The Avs signed the 18-year-old Rantanen to a maximum entry-level contract in July, but is he ready for full-time NHL duty?
2 – Will the shots cease? Colorado’s 33.2 shots-against average last season was tied for fourth most in the NHL. Defensive personnel can be blamed, but so can the coach’s systems and game management. New coaches Dave Farrish (defensive) and Brett Heimlich (video) will help.
3 – Is Reto Berra on the trade block? Your backup goalie isn’t usually a major concern, but Calvin Pickard is far better suited to serve as Semyon Varlamov’s backup and occasional starter. Problem is, Berra is guaranteed to make $1.45 million this season and Pickard is on a two-way deal.
4 – Did they do enough on ‘D?’ It appears the Avs did not adequately improve their defensive corps by acquiring Nikita Zadorov via trade and Francois Beauchemin through free agency. Zadorov, 20, might be too young and Beauchemin, 35, might be too old. Twenty-year-old Chris Bigras is a top prospect and Colorado just traded for former first-round pick Brandon Gormley, just 23. Welcome to the youth movement on the blue line.
5 – Fair trade? Carl Soderberg is pegged to replace the traded Ryan O’Reilly as one of the Avs’ top two centers, playing between captain Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon. Soderberg is more physical than O’Reilly, but on paper, Colorado lost some scoring and elite-level intelligence.
6 – Will “Great Nate” return? MacKinnon won the Calder Trophy in 2014 as an 18-year-old, but often looked lost in his second year before a foot injury ended his season.
7 – Where’s the power outage? Colorado went from a 19.8 percent power play (tied for fifth in the league) in 2013-14 to 15 percent (29th) last season. The Avs must get better in this area to reach the playoffs.
8 – “Iggy” and “Tangs” – can they repeat? Your two oldest forwards aren’t expected to be your most consistent scorers, but that’s just what Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay were last season. Iginla, 38, tallied a team-high 29 goals, while Tanguay, 35, might be entering his final season.
9 – Healthy depth? Patrick Bordeleau missed 81 games because of back surgery and a broken kneecap and Jesse Winchester did not play in the 82-game season because of a concussion. The two depth forwards were both missed last year.
10 – Will Matt Duchene return to form? “Dutchy” had just 21 goals in 82 games last season. The No. 1 center must produce more offense, and there’s little doubt that he’ll do just that.
Photo/Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images
— Mike Chambers