After 113 days, the NHL and NHLPA finally came to an agreement on a new CBA and all that's standing in the way of the puck finally being dropped is ratification from the players and the owners. This is a step that should be done by Friday or Saturday. That would make training camps ready to be opened by sometime this weekend and a 48 game season ready to be started on January 19th.
Now that we're back to work on the ice, the Avs still have some work to do with last season's top scorer and probably best all around player Ryan O'Reilly who is still without a contract and a restricted free agent. Before the lockout when other teams' GMs were spending like crazy, the Avs chose not to do the same with O'Reilly for whatever reason. As what appeared to be a sign of displeasure with the organization, O'Reilly accepted a TWO year offer from Magnitogorsk of the KHL. There was an opt out clause in the deal in the event the NHL settled their lockout so now O'Reilly's agent is set to get back in talks with Greg Sherman and Co. O'Reilly knows how important he is to the team and knows this kind of game could be his ticket out of Denver for good but their are a few reasons why that may not be the case.
Historically, the Avs have had a take it or leave it mentality when it comes to re-signing their own free agents. If the offer wasn't accepted or a player filed for arbitration, that player was usually shipped out (see: Laperierre, Drury). This summer, Jamie McGinn filed for arbitration and while many thought that would be the end of his days in Denver, the sides worked and got a new deal done for McGinn before arbitration. The fact that McGinn got away with filing for arbitration and not accepting the first offer from the club and was still able to get a new deal with the team was a sign that the Avs finally put their own egos aside and did what was best for the club.
Also, the line of O'Reilly, Landeskog and Downie was the most productive line for the team all season last year. On either side of the ice, these three were making things happen whether it be a big hit or a huge defensive play that ended in a last second overtime goal. At the beginning of the season, most teams would've looked at that line as a third line but by the end of the season, they were a top line. Any GM with even half a brain could see that this is the kind of line that needs to remain together.
The last lockout saw the Avs have to say goodbye to fan favorites, and franchise legends, Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote due to salary cap constraints. This time around, there is no reason the team can't afford to hang onto such an important piece. As of right now, the Avs only have a little over $50 million in salary against a cap of $70.2 million for this season. Money cannot be an excuse after this lockout.
The Avalanche know exactly how important O'Reilly is to the team and especially the fans. All around the League, teams are thinking of ways to make this dumb lockout up to the fans. I can't see the Avs being any different. Sure it's a ballsy move by O'Reilly to force the Avs to make a higher offer than they may have originally wanted but the organization owes it to the fans and especially the very deserving O'Reilly..
Thursday, January 5, 2012
Earlier tonight, Ducks GM Bob Murray told the LA Times' Helene Elliott that everyone on the Ducks roster is in play except for Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu. Yes, this includes the big 3 of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan who just last season no one would of ever thought would be for sale.
Bobby Ryan is an interesting one as his name has already surfaced in trade rumors earlier this season. Another thing to note there is that the Avs did have some interest in possibly trading for Ryan. Sure, a lot of other teams also had interest and for good reason. Ryan is only 24 years old, in his 4th full season and has scored at least 30 goals in every season so far. The only player taken before him in the 2005 draft was some guy named Sidney Crosby. He also comes with some good size at 6-2 209 lbs. He may be having an off year with only 13 goals through 37 games but honestly who on that Ducks team is having a good year? Also, on his current pace he's still going to get pretty close to 30 goals.
He would fit in great with this Avs team who is one of, if not the youngest teams in the League. He already has more goals than anyone else on the team (in a down year). He is also a pure goal scorer which is one thing the Avs could really use in the top 6. With the exception of Hejduk, the Avs have no wingers who are capable of scoring 30-40 goals on the wing. Maybe Gabriel Landeskog will get there one day but after Hejduk is gone are the Avs supposed to rely on only Landeskog to score the goals?
Another argument is that Paul Stastny needs a winger to play with. That's a valid point since they've stuck him with just about everyone on the team including fellow center Matt Duchene. Ryan would be a huge upgrade to a Stastny centered line over guys like Winnik, Kobasew, Porter etc. They have also already played together for the USA during the Olympics 2 years ago so there should even be some chemistry. This would also take Duchene back to his natural center position to give the team added center depth.
Only problem is what the Ducks would want in return. In that same interview with Helene Elliott, Bob Murray said he is not interested in draft picks and would only want core type players if his core players are traded. This would mean for Ryan they would probably want a Duchene, Stastny or O'Reilly. Those 3 also would be considered untouchables from the Avs standpoint. One deal I would try to work out is one that centered around David Jones. Throw in a top prospect like Tyson Barrie and the other 2nd rounder that we still have and maybe Murray would think about it. Jones would have to start scoring for that to work out though. Another option would be to give them 2 forwards like Jones and Peter Mueller to give them some added depth on the wing.
Bobby Ryan is one of the top young players in the game right now and if the Avs are serious about wanting to build for the future, this could be the elite goal scorer that could help take them to the next step. It's all speculation at the moment and there's no guarantee that the Avs will even make an offer now that they've started winning again but it should definitely be something Greg Sherman and co. take a long hard look at.
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
If you were to ask any of the hockey experts out there if they thought we would be sitting here just after the new year and have the Colorado Avalanche, they would probably all say no way. Well here we are 3 days into the new year and the Avs find themselves holding down the number 8 seed after their shootout victory over the Los Angeles Kings last night at Staples Center.
The Avs got a break early when Jason Williams allegedly tipped the puck into the net with a high stick. It didn't look like it was high but the war room in Toronto felt otherwise since they kept with the call on the ice that it was no goal. The Kings kept the Avs in their own zone for much of the 1st period and ended the first 20 with a 12-5 shot advantage but couldn't score a good goal.
It didn't take long for the Kings to find the back of the net in the 2nd period. King's captain Dustin Brown was able to slip the puck between Semyon Varlamov's legs just over a minute and a half into the period. The Avs were able to keep the shots a little bit closer in the 2nd but the Kings still had the 9-7 edge in the period.
Jonathan Quick looked like he was on his way to his league leading 6th shutout heading into the 3rd but Ryan O'Reilly had other plans. With just under 6 minutes left to play in the 3rd, he made a nice move around a Kings defenseman and fired a beauty of a wrister off the pipe and in the net on the far side of Quick.
Varlamov stole the show. He was brilliant the whole game and the reason the Avs held on for the win as he stopped some really good Kings chances in the final frame and all 3 shooters he faced in the shootout. Varly improved to 6-0 in shootouts. He ended the game with 31 saves and was the game's 1st star.
The win gave the Avs a 22-18-1 record on the season and moved them into 8th place in the West 1 point ahead of San Jose. The Avs have played the most games in the league so the teams behind them all have games in hand. It is very important that the Avs just keep winning to avoid losing that spot. Avs now have a 3 game win streak and have won 8 of their last 10 overall.
Sunday, August 7, 2011
Well, we're now into August and it doesn't appear the Avs will be bringing anyone else into the team. Since the team played their last game of the season, they have been building up for next season and into the future. Management has made some bold moves that could either make or break the team.
The offseason started on the last game of the season when captain Adam Foote announced his retirement after a very solid 19 year career which included 2 Stanley Cups with the Avs and a brief stint with Columbus. Foote was never very flashy but he was the rock on the back end that opposing forwards hated playing against. While it was apparent that last season would be Foote's last through his play on the ice, his presence off the ice will be missed next season. It won't be long before 52 is raised to the Pepsi Center rafters either.
The Entry Draft saw a few more additions to the organization and one that is a lock to make the team next season. Gabriel Landeskog was taken with the 2nd pick, the highest the Avalanche have ever had since coming to Denver. Landeskog was said by many to be the most NHL ready player in the draft. His combination of size, skill and leadership screams Mike Richards, a type of player the Avs desperately need especially after Chris Stewart was shipped off.
The other 1st rounder the Avs received was from St. Louis in the Stewart-Johnson trade. It was the 11th overall and they used it to select Stefan Elliott's defense partner Duncan Siemens from Saskatoon. He's a physical defenseman who is compared to Scott Stevens. Siemens has stated that he has no intentions of changing his style of play at any level. He's still a year or two away from cracking the Avs lineup. The other draft picks brought in at this year's draft were Joachim Nermark (4th round), Garrett Meurs (5th round), Gabriel Beaupre (6th round) and Dillon Donnelly (7th round). A lot of size added this draft.
Hours before the draft, the Avs shipped off veteran defensemen John Michael Liles to Toronto for 2nd round pick in next year's draft. The 2nd rounder will be Boston's so it likely will not be a very high pick. The move was made to make room for younger guys like Stefan Elliott, Tyson Barrie, or Cameron Gaunce who are all just about ready for primetime. Liles was the top puck mover but the prospects (mainly Elliott or Barrie) have higher ceilings than Liles.
Along with the Liles trade, free agency completely remodeled the back end both on defense and in goal. The Avs waived bye bye to both goalies who finished last season, Peter Budaj and Brian Elliot who went on the Montreal and St. Louis respectively. GM Greg Sherman knew goaltending was a problem and all signs pointed to veteran goalie Tomas Vokoun landing in burgundy and blue. That didn't happen for whatever reason and Vokoun ended up signing in Washington on the 2nd day of free agency.
The Caps had an open spot in goal because the Avs had acquired Semyon Varlamov from them for a 1st and 2nd rounder. This is a high risk high reward situation for the Avs. Varly is very athletic goalie who is capable of playing at a high level and is still just 23 years old. The problem, he has not been able to stay healthy but a new training regimen has him focused, strong and ready to show all the doubters wrong next season.
Backing up Varly will be veteran Jean-Sebastian Giguere. The former Leaf and Duck won the Conn Smythe in 2003 despite his Mighty Ducks' team's loss in the Finals. He was, however, a Cup winning goalie for the Ducks in their 2007 run. While he is older and no where near the level of play he was in 03 or 07, he is still a decent insurance policy in case Varly goes down with injury.
On defense, the Avs bulked up. Last season the back end was so small with Liles and Cumiskey or Hunwick. With the Likes of Erik Johnson, Ryan O'Byrne, Kyle Quincey and Ryan Wilson, the Avs also added 6'4" 237lb veteran defender Jan Hejda from Columbus and 6'3" 230lb Shane O'Brien from Nashville. Both guys are steady stay at home defensemen who are very capable of playing physical hockey. Hejda should be a good mentor and partner for Erik Johnson and also should take some pressure off Ryan Wilson so he won't have to get top pairing minutes anymore. Slotting both those guys in should give the Avs one of the biggest defense groups in the league.
The last move the team made was bringing in forward Chuck Kobasew from Minnesota. He's played full time in the NHL for 9 seasons and has scored 20 goals once with the Flames and twice with the Bruins but is coming off 2 pretty disappointing seasons for the Wild. He was brought in to add some scoring depth on the bottom lines and fill in for injury duties on the top lines.
The Avs have a very good core group of guys already in Stastny, Duchene, O'Reilly, Jones, Galiardi and Johnson. All of them should also get better next season and with the rebuilt defense and if Varlamov can stay healthy, play at the high level he is capable of, there is no question the Avs are a playoff team. Also with the potential arrivals of Stefan Elliott, Tyson Barrie and Gabriel Landeskog, the future is looking bright.
Friday, June 17, 2011
Last week, I mentioned the Avs best option for a goalie would be Tomas Vokoun as he would only cost money and be a perfect stopgap until one of the prospects like Calvin Pickard or Sami Aittokallio are ready. Well it's sounding like Vokoun would be willing to accept an offer from the Avs. He told a Czech newspaper that he would accept an offer from the Avalanche and that he feels that they are close to contending for the Cup. Interesting stuff since most fans feel the team is still 3-5 years away from seriously contending.
Dater wrote tonight that GM Greg Sherman seemed pretty confident that the team will upgrade it's goaltending through free agency. Hopefully there isn't any tampering going on as that would leave a huge black eye on the organization who doesn't really need any more bad press coming off the worst season in Avalanche history. July 1 can't come soon enough.