Sunday, August 7, 2011

Avs Offseason Moves

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.