Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Offseason So Far

We are around the midway point of the NHL's offseason, one that saw many changes go on around the once elite Avalanche organization. Some changes for the better, some not so much. Lets recap.

First, Pierre Lacroix fires Francois Giguere. Under Giguere, the Avs missed the playoffs 2 of 3 seasons. A move that needed to be made as Giguere just seemed like he was just fine with losing not doing anything at the trade deadline last season. One area Giguere actually made some improvements for the team was in the prospect pool where he drafted some promising talent like Kevin Shattenkirk and Cameron Gaunce.

The organization gave itself a bad rap to the rest of the league when a report was leaked out that Pierre Lacroix had been meeting with Patrick Roy where Lacroix had offered the coaching and GM job to Roy. At the time, Tony Granato was still under contract as the head coach. Ultimately, Roy turned the job down to return to coach the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Pretty sure it won't be the last time we'll hear of the organization wanting Roy to be the coach.

Probably the best move of the offseason was the firings of Head Coach Tony Granato, assistants Jacques Cloutier (who has a long history with the club), and Dave Barr. Granato was too much of a players coach who never really instilled a system for the players to buy into. Cloutier was best known for turning our defensemen into non-physical, shot-blocking pylons. Replacing them will be former Lake Erie coach Joe Sacco. His assistants will be former Avs Sylvain Lefebvre and Steve Konowalchuk. Good moves as Sly should be able to re-teach our defensemen how to play physical and Kono should be able to improve our special teams.

That brings us to June 25th where the Avs received their highest draft pick since the team moved to Denver. They used that 3rd pick to take Matt Duchene who was seen by many scouts to be the best all around player in the draft. A 1-2 punch of Paul Stastny and Matty Duchene should be great for the future of the organization. The draft also saw the Avalanche select future 3rd line center, Ryan O'Reilly (33rd), D Stefan Elliot (49th), Tyson Barrie (64th), Goalies Kieran Millan (124th) and Brandon Maxwell (154th), and completed the draft with D Gus Young (184th).

Free agency saw the Avs bolster their goaltending with the addition of UFA Craig Anderson formerly of Florida. This is a signing to get excited about as Anderson has one of the best save % over the past few seasons. Only problem is he's never had a true shot as a number 1. Sadly, Peter Budaj was not only re-signed but also given a pretty nice raise. I guess he'll be good as a back up for Anderson but the raise wasn't deserved. Free agency also saw fav favorite Ian Laperriere leave to sign with the Flyers, Andrew Raycroft sign with Vancouver, and best of all Tyler Arnason sign with the Rangers.

Only days after free agency started, the changes kept rolling in. Ryan Smyth, a guy that gave it his all everynight and played with more heart than almost all players in the league, waived his no-trade clause and was dealt to LA where he will finish his contract with the Kings. Coming back in the deal was a solid potentially #2 defenseman Kyle Quincey, veteran (and somewhat injury plagued) defenseman Tom Preissing and a 5th round pick.

Then a move that changes the whole identity of the Avalanche, captain Joe Sakic decides to hang up his skates after 20 seasons in the League, all with the Quebec/Colorado franchise. Sure, Joe was on the back end of his career and couldn't play a whole season in each of his last 2 seasons but having to see a jersey with a C on it and not see the number 19 on it will take some getting used to. Joe Sakic's jersey will be retired opening night October 1st to the Pepsi Center rafters.

The losses of Sakic, Smyth and Lappy is really going to hurt in the leadership department but there are still some pretty decent vets on the team for leadership roles. Adam Foote and Milan Hejduk will have to step up to take this role next season or maybe one of the young guys (looking at you Mr. Stastny) will step up and begin to lead this team. Whoever wears the C next season is going to have huge shoes to fill.

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