Some of these guys are old rivals, some are new friends, so let's take a look at the new Central Division. This is a weekly feature that will run on Tuesdays (more or less) up until the start of the pre-season.
Thank you so much to Cheryl at Mile High Hockey for her assessment of her club. She was the first to respond to my request for help, so the Avs are up first!
1. If you had to come up with a team motto/mantra for your club, what would it be?
Colorado Avalanche: It Can't Possibly Get Worse...right?
2. Who do you consider your most potent forwards?
Forwards are not the Avs' problem. The team has three legit top-line centers and a fourth who will be one by the end of next season. Matt Duchene showed last season that he really is going to live up to his potential as an elite player in this league. Paul Stastny has continued to prove that one can quietly be a formidable threat at both ends of the ice. Ryan "Character" O'Reilly, arguably one of the best two-way forwards the Avs have seen since Forsberg, has been deemed too talented to drop below the top-6, so he's being shifted to first-line wing. And then there's Nathan MacKinnon, whose talent and speed has Roy as giddy as a school boy. When you can take a number-one overall pick of MacKinnon's talent and shelter him on the third line, you're pretty stacked down the middle. Add in guys like PA Parenteau, Gabe Landeskog, and Alex Tanguay on the wings, and you've got a forward corps that can stack up against any team in the league.
3. Which player, if you could magically make him disappear, would you vaporize? Why?
All of our players we wanted gone were ousted when St. Patty and Super Joe came to town. Shane O'Brien? Gone. Greg Zanon? Gone. Chuck Kobasew? Gone. Even moving David Jones was a net positive as his contract is ridiculously stifling for someone so inconsistent and lol Calgary. The other guys on the team are not ones on which I'd wish vaporization. They're great for their roles. They're just not able to be utilized in their roles because there are so many of the same type of player, and slotting them above their ability level just isn't fair to anyone. I'm talking the defense here, which I'll get to later.
Colorado Avalanche: It Can't Possibly Get Worse...right? -Cheryl, MHH.
4. How do you feel about your team's coaching staff? What would you consider your head coach's trademark?
In 2009, the Avalanche offered Patrick Roy the head coaching position. I was annoyed that they did it and relieved when he turned it down. This time around couldn't be more different. I'm genuinely excited about what he's going to bring to the Avs. His trademark "No more rats" attitude is exactly what this young team needs. More than one player has already commented that they're looking forward to his passion for winning. The support staff he's brought in with him encourages me, as well. I'm a bit concerned about the number of guys he's pulled from the Q, but they've all been head coaches and know Roy's style. He also has Tim Army and Dean Chynoweth, both of whom have some NHL experience, to lean on. The best choice Roy made, in my opinion, was bringing in renowned goalie coach Francois Allaire. He made both Roy and Giguere MVP goaltenders, and I think he can do the same with Semyon Varlamov.
5. Goaltending controversies: would you say your team has one? If not, could you make one up really quickly? St. Louis media looooves them some goalie controversy.
Huge controversy in Colorado. Huge. Ginormous. Since our young Russian has been struggling, it's terribly frightening to see the train wreck that's coming without anyone around him with high-level goaltending experience. The lack of role models for him is disturbing, and there's such a void in voices of experience that--
Yeah, I can't even finish that thought with a straight face. Giguere has publicly stated he accepts and continues to look forward to his role as back up to Varly. Varly has said he's looking forward to working with Allaire as he felt his growth was going in the wrong direction. Allaire has talked about his excitement at getting back into the game with Roy at his side. I guess the only real goaltending controversy one might find in Colorado is how Varly will handle being coached by one of the top three goaltenders in hockey history. Roy, however, has made it clear that Allaire and Jiggy are the go-to guys for Varly. He will rely on them to be the goaltending coaches.
6. What are some things you think your team does well? Needs to improve upon? Would you say that the team would agree with you?
The Avs' biggest assets are speed and vision. Duchene was clocked at over 20 mph last season during a game, yet his self-proclaimed focus this off-season is the desire to get faster. MacKinnon ranked second fastest of all skaters at the combine, and he's training with Duchene (and Crosby) this summer, so you can expect an increase in explosiveness. (Side note: D Chris Bigras, 2nd round pick for the Avs, was ranked the fastest skater at the combine. Built for speed, indeed.) The entire forward corps has the ability to see the ice so that they know where the play will be rather than where it is. Parenteau is crazy good at this, as is O'Reilly. That top line of O'Reilly-Duchene-Parenteau will give other teams fits.
he biggest problem with this team has been, and continues to be, the defense. There are too many 5-7 d-men and not nearly enough top 4. With Tyson Barrie breaking through to a become a bonafied NHL player last season, the team has a solid second pairing in him and Jan Hejda. Erik Johnson needs to reach potential to be a top pairing d-man, but also needs someone to compliment him if that's to happen. He has struggled finding *that* partner. The remaining players on the team are either bottom pairing or total rookies. The team execs recognize this is the issue as evidenced by their defense-heavy drafting in June. I suspect it's a goal this season to trade for that guy to pair with Johnson if they don't see prospects like Bigras and 2011 11th overall draftee Duncan Siemens showing that they will be ready to make the leap soon.