Wednesday, September 30, 2009

2009-10 Season Preview

We are just a day away from the beginning of Avs hockey AJ (after Joe). The Avs will begin their first season under new captain Adam Foote against the San Jose Sharks tomorrow night.


Last season's most blaring weakness was in the goaltending department. As we already know, Peter Budaj is not a starting goaltender and Andrew Raycroft signed for league minimum with Vancouver. Knowing that, the Avs brought in Craig Anderson from the Florida Panthers. While Anderson has never been a true number 1 tender, he has at least shown improvement over the years (.924 sv% since the 2005-06 season and .911 throughout his career) and nearly stole the starting job away from Florida starter Tomas Vokoun last season. He seems to play a lot better with the more shots he faces. Also, at just 28 years young, he is just entering the prime of his career. Returning from last season's duo is Peter Budaj. Last season was Budaj's first (and probably only) shot at being a number 1 goalie. Budaj has shown in the past that he can at least be a capable backup so the Avs won't be forced to play Anderson like he was Brodeur or Luongo.


While goaltending didn't help the defense out much last season, the same could be said about the defense helping the goaltending. Despite the Avs being one of the leading teams in blocked shots, they often got out of position, couldn't get the puck out of the zone, and left the goalie out to dry. Another big problem with the defense last season was lack of offensive production. John Michael Liles' 39 points lead the defense corp while the rest of the D accounted for just 50 points. Bad news for this season is that the same D will be running the blue line this season. There is one positive though, the acquisition of Kyle Quincey. Between him and Liles, they should really help bolster the Avs offense from the blueline, especially on the power play as that would give the team 2 point threats. Being a contract year, Ruslan Salei and Brett Clark should also see increases offensive production.

Under new coaching, the defense should also be more physical. Under Cloutier, it seemed like the only was the D would try to shut the other team down was to just lay down in front of the shot. Sylvain Lefebvre will instill some more physicality in the defensemen's game. This will benefit guys like Adam Foote, Ruslan Salei and most importantly, Scott Hannan, who was brought in to be our shut down guy.


The offense will be the wild card in whether or not the Avs will compete for a spot in my opinion. With the goaltending now bolstered, the offense is going to have to find a way to score more goals. The Avs were one of just two teams last season that didn't score 200 goals. Paul Stastny will be heavily relied on to stay healthy and finally have a break out year with more points than he had in his rookie year. Milan Hejduk will be good for 25-30 goals as usual. One of the most important players for the Avs this season will be Wojtek Wolski. Heading into his 4 full season in the league, he will need to put everything together. He has the size, speed, playmaking abilities, and scoring touch to be a top player in this league but he needs to find a way to be more consistent with it to become that player. The Avs need to have big years out of their big power forwards, Chris Stewart and David Jones. Stewie showed his offensive touch in his rookie season last season and should improve on that. Jones, when healthy, has the size and speed to be a top power forward in the league but needs to work on finishing and staying healthy. Those 2 should get around 90 points combined. Another player who will need to stay consistent and healthy is Marek Svatos. He has yet to play a full season but is also a former 30 goal guy. If he can stay healthy, 30 goals is not out of the question. Super Rookie, Matt Duchene is not expected to have an Ovechkin or Crosby-like rookie season with over 100 points but he should be able to score around 40. TJ Galiardi showed last season that he has the scoring touch and now that he has added around 20 lbs to his frame, should be able to really produce over a full season. A guy like Darcy Tucker, who recently went on record saying he's having a bounce back season. He could be an important piece if he can get around 20 goals from the bottom 6. Also rounding out that bottom 6 is Cody McLeod who probably won't get the 15 goals he got last season but will still be a spark plug for the team and pitch in around 10 goals.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Duchene and O'Reilly to start the season with the Avs

The Avs made 3 cuts today that sent Chris Durno, Derek Peltier, and Tyler Weiman down to Lake Erie. With those 3 down, the Avs now have 24 players on the roster but Tom Preissing will be put on injured reserve making the 23 man roster complete.

That means that the two 18 year olds who were both just drafted in June will start the season with the big club. Matt Duchene was pretty much a lock for a spot but O'Reilly really impressed coach Joe Sacco enough to earn him a spot for the beginning of the season.

Duchene will more than likely begin the season as the team's 2nd line center behind Paul Stastny. O'Reilly should begin as the 3rd line center. This is shaping up to be a really young center group with Stastny being the dinosaur at just 23 years old.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hejduk gets 1 year extension

The Avs just signed RW Milan Hejduk to a 1 year extension through the 2010-2011 season. No terms for he deal were announced but I would guess it's for around the same amount $3.9 million he currently makes maybe a little more now that he also has more of a leadership role. There is also no mention of a no trade clause but I also assume that would be on there since his current contract includes one.

Update: According to the Denver Post, the deal is for 3 million. Great to hear the Duke even took a paycut to stay with us.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Avalanche Blogger Roundtable Day 3

Welcome to Day 3 of the Avalanche Blogger Roundtable. Once again, Mile High Hockey is hosting this whole Roundtable and you can head over there to get linked up to all the answers to the questions you know you have for this upcoming season.

Today's question will be discussing the Avs new bench boss, Joe Sacco and what is to come from this 1st year NHL head coach after 2 seasons with Monsters in Cleveland.

Also, today head on over to Avalanche of Thoughts for some other rumblings of the new Joe in town.

What will be the most successful change Sacco will bring to the team? Why?

The most successful change Joe Sacco will bring to this season's Avalanche will be making the team a tougher one to play against on nightly basis. He mentioned this fact numerous times during his press conference. Last season's Monsters showed that. They were basically forced to have an ECHL roster with all of the injury call ups the Avs needed and yet, they still were competing for a spot in the AHL playoffs. I believe he will achieve this by getting the players working hard and finishing checks, something last season's Avs did not do much. TJ Galiardi mentioned that was something that Sacco taught in his time with the Monsters in the Denver Post article.
Me - Avaholics

Work ethic, a thing this team lacked last year. They will fight in the corner, skate for loose pucks and all of the small things that make your team hard to play against. Simple stuff like having the defensemen play face-up to the skaters, defending the blue line, pressing the attack and creating break-out plays. If he can do that, the Avs should be better than last years incarnation. If not? well, we've see it all before. Oh and forget about the ghost of Patrick Roy watching over your shoulder, Sacco. This is your team right now and coach the best you can to make a decision of firing you as hard as possible.
Aaron M - HockeyBuzz

It's been said that Sacco has been a great developer of talent in Lake Erie, and that's a change that's not necessarily welcome for all of the obvious reasons, but if that's what the organization needs right now, let's go with it. Some coaches need to be able to manage talent, some need to develop it, and some need to do a bit of both. He's going to need to develop talent for a few seasons right now, and that is what he's known for, so hopefully that's the most successful change he's able to bring with him to the show.
Jay - The Avs Hockey Podcast

The change that Sacco will bring will be in the area of youth development. He proved successful in growing the youngsters in the minors, thus the logical move to elevate him to head coach for the rebuild. What Sacco must do is continue to grow the kids while serving as a steadying force during the inevitable hiccups that will come over the next couple of years. The sad part is that if he is successful in cultivating a strong team, he may end up as the odd man out when the time comes to take things to the next level, ala Michel Therrien in Pittsburgh. My hope is that his abilities will evolve along with the team and he will stick.
Aaron D - The Dog and Pony Show

From the sounds of how he ran the camps, it will be work ethic. Sacco sounds like a coach who is all business yet doesn't alienate his players. He seems to be able to push players to reach their potential and they appreciate and respond to the way he does it. That's exactly what this team is going to need as they grow up together. Too often last season, after one of their many losses, I never felt confident that Tony Granato was standing up and calling the guys on their inconsistent play. With Sacco, I'm already confident that he won't let players get away with not trying. Lucky for him, Arnie isn't around anymore. Or maybe it's lucky for Arnie...
Shane - AvsTalk

And there it is. Work ethic and developing the young guys is what we can all expect Joe Sacco to turn around with this year's Avalanche squad.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Will Ryan O'Reilly make the big club this season?

Ryan O'Reilly just signed a 3 year entry level deal with the Avs today. He hasn't been cut yet and has been getting praise by Joe Sacco all training camp and preseason.

When drafted, many people believed O'Reilly would need to spend another season in the OHL before making th jump. The fact that he has not been cut yet and is constantly talked about and is now signed makes me believe he will be on the Opening Night roster.

Now whether he does get cut or makes the team and stays past the 10th game is up to Ryan and the coaching staff. I'd love to see him get the 10 game tryout and see what he's made of.

Stoa among latest cuts

The Avs today announced that they cut Ryan Stoa. Stoa was a player I thought would definitely be on the Avs roster. Dater had mentioned that he didn't look up to NHL speed but I figured his size would land him in a top 6 LW spot. Hopefully he will spend time working on this in Cleveland this season and we will see him in the not so distant future.

Stoa had a goal in the first preseason game against Dallas and only logged 8 minutes in last night's 2~1 victory against the Blues. None of those 8 minutes came in the 3rd period.

Avs also sent down defenseman Ryan Wilson. This was kind of expected since we curently have enough NHL dmen under contract. The latest cuts take the roster down to 27.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Shawn Bates released

Shawn Bates came to Avalanche training camp on a professional tryout. Today, he was released from that tryout.

I felt Bates could'be been that true 3rd line center that we haven't seen in Denver since Nikolishin or Yelle. Over 50% in the circles and great on the PK.

As Dater mentioned, the Avs will probably use Galiardi as 3rd line center and go with a more offensive 3rd line which wouldn't suit Bates' style.

other cuts today included Tom Fritsche, Patrick Cusack, Samuel Finn, Peter Delmas, Brandon Maxwell, and Cedric McNicoll leaving the Avs with 49 players for the Burgandy and White game tomorrow night.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Rookies Done. Vets Next.

In just 12 short hours, the Avalanche veterans will be taking the ice for the first day of on-ice training camp. The rookies, who just finished up the third and final day of rookie camp, got the day off today while the veterans reported for physicals and will re-join the vets on ice tomorrow morning.

Over the next 3 days, 59 Avalanche hopefuls will be competing for a chance to make the big club for the 09-10 season. It will be mainly the forwards who are competing for spots as the Avs have a plethora of NHL defensemen. Early favorites to make the squad Matt Duchene and Ryan Stoa will get the opportunity to show the coaching staff what they bring against NHL caliber players.

The 3 day training camp concludes on Tuesday and on Wednesday the team will be split up for the annual Burgandy and White game. The night after, the Avs will open their 6 game preseason schedule against the Dallas Stars. For some great pictures of rookie camp check out The Avalanche Guild's photo album.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Training Camp Roster Announced

Today the Avs finally announced the roster for its rookie and training just 5 days before rookies are expected to take the ice. Of the 59 players taking part in training camp, 30 will be taking part in rookie camp.

One name that you might not recognize is forward Shawn Bates who last played in the NHL for the Islanders two seasons ago.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Sporting News Avalanche Preview

Starting today, The Sporting News will be previewing one team per day. It appears they will start from last place as they kick things off with the Avs.

Read the preview here.

Avs Hire Thibault as Goalie Coach?

According to RDS and Mile High Hockey, the Avs have hired former goaltender Jocelyn Thibault as the team's new goaltending coach. He played 16 seasons in the NHL last in 07-08 with the Nordiques, Avs, Canadiens, Blackhawks, Penguins and Sabres. Thibault was also part of the deal that brought Patrick Roy to Denver.

The Sheriff Calls it Quits

Scott Parker officially announces his retirement after 308 NHL games spanning 11 seasons on the Fox in Denver today. He finished with 7 goals and 14 assists for a whopping 21 points. Best known for his evil stare and crazy goatee, Parks amassed 699 PIMs in his NHL career including 70 fighting majors. Usually only playing 4-5 minutes a night, the Sheriff was counted on to protect the stars and he did his job quite well becoming one of the League's top heavyweights.

This official retirement announcement came almost a year from when Parker had his contract with the Avs terminated because he failed to report to the Lake Erie Monsters last season.

Parker was also a member of the 2001 Cup team.