Colorado, are they in trouble?
There were a lot of big free agent signings in the Northwest and a lot of big names moving out of Colorado this summer. They have a much different look than the team that could last year ice three very potent offensive lines and had one of the better defensive cores in the NHL. With the dramatic loses and with little in the way of replacements it will be interesting to see just how much the mighty will fall this year.
Gone are the days of Forsberg, Selanne and Kariya, and now are the days of Brunnette, and Turgeon. Not exactly stellar replacements, but they are proven scorers. However in a division with Vancouver and Calgary, and the newly improved Edmonton, the Avs will have no choice but to rely heavily on their top line as I don’t believe they will be having much in the way of balanced scoring. Youngsters like Svatos and Wolski will have to show a great deal of maturity and skill if the Avalanche hope rival even Minnesota in scoring. Yes the top line will provide quite a bit of offence, but not enough for all four lines. Last season they had far too many scorers and not enough roleplayers. This year they’ve reversed the trend and picked up a lot of very good roleplayers, but not much in the way of high octane skill that should dominate the new NHL.
On defence the Avs will have to rely heavily on an ever aging Blake whose injuries are beginning to catch up with him. Colorado brass will have to hope the offseason healed him well. Skrastins will also play a larger role on defense than has been asked of him in past years. He may well be up to it, but nothings certain. Beyond that they’ve brought in Brisebois to shore up the defensive hole left by Foote. Although a good acquisition Brisebois is a little lacking in the defensive side of the game. The Avs defence core is deep beyond that with Liles providing an offence punch, Vaananen defensive, Boughner, Sauer, and Leschysen rounding out the group. However these defenseman are all lower tier defenseman and not capable of bringing the high level of play Foote brought. Vaananen, if he has matured a lot over the off-season, may provide some help, but beyond that the others are all 6th or 7th defenseman or PP specialists, not well rounded top four players.
In goal the Avs have David Aebischer, and not much else. To back him up, they have Lawson and Budaj, two completely untested NHL goalies. If Aebischer struggles at all or falls to injury the Avs will be in a lot of trouble with their already high payroll. They will be relying more upon Aebischer than they have ever relied on any goalie in the past, even more so than Roy. And they will rely on him not only to succeed in the playoffs, but primarily just to get there as it will be a dogfight in their division.
I’m not optomistic at all about the chances the Avs have this year and I really think they should be planning for the future and begin rebuilding. Too many aging players that they will be relying on far too much, and too many players who they are counting on for far too much. At the ripe-old age of 36 Turgeon will be hard pressed to score 20 goals, and Brunnette just doesn’t have the skills to do it. Brisebois will be hard pressed to play a top four role effectively, and Vaananen will have to have improved a lot to do so. Lastly, and most importantly, if anything happens to Aebischer the whole team will fall apart. The have no depth beyond him. I project them to fight for the bottom with Minnesota in the Northwest and doubt very much that they will make the playoffs.