For a few years, the Colorado Avalanche have been accruing young talent, and a step forward was expected. Then, the Avalanche finished with the worst record in the Western Conference, and the second worst in the league. After this woeful finish, another in a long line of them, they jettisoned their GM and their head coach, bringing in Colorado legends Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy. There is an episode of The Simpsons where Lisa watches Kevin Costner’s The Postman with his audio commentary. Costner’s words are something along these lines: “I’m so sorry, but Field of Dreams was good, right? Made us all believe again.” This move feels like the Avalanche’s Field of Dreams. Maybe Sakic and Roy will help turn things around, but I figure just trying to generate good will was part of their hirings.
What will certainly help is the fact they had the first overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, where they got to select Nathan MacKinnon. I wish it had been Seth Jones, but Colorado is not building a team on my whims. Not yet, at least. There is some talent on this team. At center, they have MacKinnson, Ryan O’Reilly, not holding out this year which helps, Matt Duchene, and Paul Stastny. One of them will end up moving to the wing, where they already have Gabriel Landeskog, who I expect to play better this season. P.A. Parenteau proved to be a worth addition last offseason, as well.
That being said, I don’t see a ton of talent after that. Their wing depth isn’t very strong, unless you are enthused by the return of Alex Tanguay. There are also issues on defense. Erik Johnson is only 25, but things just aren’t working out for him, and the rest of the defensive corps is uninspiring. Then, there’s the goaltending. I didn’t mind the Semyon Varlamov trade when it happened, and he too is only 25, but he really struggled last season to the tune of a .903 save percentage. Fortunately, he should bounce back. His career SV% is .912, and even if he can return to that level it will really help.
I expect a step forward for the Avalanche this year, but I don’t think it will be enough to get them in the postseason talk. In fact, they will probably finish at the bottom of their conference. They may be able to keep up with teams like the Jets and Stars, and perhaps the Predators, but I think all those teams are better. The young talent is here, but they need to wait for it to develop and build around it. Roy and Sakic will have to be patient. It could take a few years. Maybe Roy can keep things interesting by turning his goalie fight prowess into coach fight prowess. Bring on John Tortorella!