Colorado Avalanche 2008 Offseason Report
”I’m ready for the start of camp and am looking forward to the upcoming season” - The words that the entire state of Colorado has been waiting to hear from Joe Sakic. For the past six months general manager Francois Giguere has been uncertain of Sakic’s future and after a very busy offseason, he can stop sweating, or can he?
Last season the Avalanche snuck into the playoffs under the radar and defeated Minnesota in the first round before being embarrassed by Detroit. There is no question that injuries had a large part to do with the series loss since three of the Av’s top four scorers were in the press box. Actually, only two players (Andrew Brunette and Ruslan Salei) played in all 82 games of the regular season.
Paul Stastny led the team in scoring with 71 points but that was in 66 games while Ryan Smyth played in only 55 games. To make things worse, Sakic managed to only play in 44 games and score only 40 points; both career lows. With these three spending a long time on the IR, it was up to the depth to help out.
Andrew Brunette, who left the team, Milan Hedjuk and Marek Svatos all did a good job as secondary scorers. So did Peter ”I should retire from hockey” Forsberg for the nine games he participated in. They did sign Darcy Tucker this offseason and he may fit well in the Avalanche system. It will be interesting to see who will cry themselves out of more fights; Tucker or Ian Laparriere.
Where the team lacked offensive support was on the blue-line.
Colorado re-signed the only versatile defender they have, John-Micheal Liles. His 32 points were two points better than Ruslan Salei’s for defenders but he is much more valuable. Either way, after those two it comes down to “stay at home” defensemen. Scott Hannan and Adam Foote will serve coach Granato well with toughness and consistent play.
Jose Theodore decided to actually play last season and was remarkable in the post season so in return, his value went up. So valuable that Washington signed him the moment they could which leaves Colorado to live on the shoulders of Peter Budaj. Though he could not record a shutout, Budaj did finish the season with a 16-10-4 record in 35 starts (he was pulled once).
Not to sure how the Av’s think that Andrew Raycroft is the definition of a solid back-up goaltender. He is terrible. Don’t believe me? Raycroft played in 19 games last season, winning twice, losing nine and was pulled three times. Oh, he also allowed 63 goals during that time which means that over three goals go by him every game.
If Colorado can somehow stay healthy, they can have a good season. I can understand the happiness Sakic’s signing brings Giguere but every time his star players go into the corners, the sweat will drip wondering if injuries will ruin another year.
> Pro Hockey Fans now features Colorado Avalanche apparel & merchandise available online!
Notable top players staying for the Colorado Avalanche:
Joe Sakic, Milan Hejduk, Paul Stastny, Ryan Smyth, Wojtek Wolski, John-Micheal Liles, Marek Svatos, Adam Foote, Peter Budaj, Tyler Arnason
Colorado Avalanche - Players added via free agency & trades:
Andrew Raycroft, Darcy Tucker
Colorado Avalanche - Players lost to free agency & trades:
What Colorado has:
A veteran core. Sakic, Smyth and Hejduk are all well oiled machines that can still provide solid points.
A young core. Stastny, Wolski, Svatos and Liles are all machines waiting to have seasons that will take them to the next step.
A new coach. Tony Granato has previously had a stint coaching the Av’s and led them to a 100 point season during his only full year behind the bench. With that record in the Western Conference, a fourth place seed is worst case scenario.
What Colorado needs:
Defensive threats. Liles is a possible threat but there is nobody else that poses a serious concern.
Goaltending. Budaj is the official #1 goalie for the first time in his career. He has to prove a lot of critics wrong.
Stay out of the hospital. Last season was all about injuries.
Expectations for the Avalanche next year:
In the really tight Northwest Division, there is no room for error but I can’t see the Av’s doing worse than last season. The playoffs are not a sure thing because of how close all the teams are in this Division. If Sakic and Smyth both play 70+, than the playoffs are a guarantee, otherwise, I am counting them out.
By Kevin Chaves
ProHockey-fans.com Director of Content
Want to add your comment to this article? Leave your comments on our NHL hockey blog today!
> Follow the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs online with Pro Hockey Fans!
> Find all of the NHL news & articles online from Pro Hockey Fans.