Colorado Avalanche 2014- 2015 Season Preview

2014 Offseason
Losses: (Free Agency) D Andre Benoit, F Bryan Lerg, D Matt Hunwick, F David Van Der Gulik, F Brad Malone, F Paul Stastny (Trades) F PA Parenteau (Retirement) G J.S. Giguere

Additions: (Free Agency) F Jesse Winchester, D Zach Redmond, F Ben Street, D Bruno Gervais F Jarome Iginla, D Brad Stuart (Trades) F Daniel Briere

The Colorado Avalanche certainly had a busy offseason, leaving some with mixed feelings. While the addition of Jarome Iginla seems great, it comes with the price of the subtraction of Paul Stastny- who had helped play a key role in the Av’s ultimate defeat to Minnesota in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Nathan MacKinnon is ready to lead the second line as a center and the Calder Trophy winner is capable of putting up plenty of points this coming season, but how will he perform as the number two center alongside guys like Alex Tanguay, Iginla, Ryan O’Reilly, or Gabriel Landeskog? Head coach, Patrick Roy, has the flexibility to play around with his top six forwards for the first couple of months.Iggy is back in the Western Conference, something he may prefer, however, how must his game evolve given that a lot has changed in the Western Conference during his short time in the East with Pittsburgh and Boston- that and being on a younger team in general. The Daniel Briere for PA Parenteau trade with Montreal looks like it will be a solid in retrospect, however, Briere is nowhere near the scoring capability that he once was. Strength down the middle might concern the Av’s fourth line, but can be resolved with the addition of Jesse Winchester. Perhaps a bigger question of the Avalanche prospects regards Joey Hishon- is he finally ready for the NHL? If he is, is he the one that fits the missing piece to the puzzle on the third or fourth line? The only thing that concerns Av’s fans with regards to Iginla is whether or not they will be able to realistically make a deep Cup run within his three year contract. Let’s face it, Iginla is nearing the end of his career, and as of right now, Colorado appears to be at least three years out of a potential Stanley Cup.

On the blue line, the Av’s have a solidified defense in Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, Brad Stuart, and Jan Hejda, but whether Nick Holden and Nate Guenin can successfully complete the top six defensemen remains to be seen. Despite the success of last season, there are plenty of question marks for the Colorado Avalanche in the 2014- 2015 season. The Av’s have a little flexibility with excess defenseman that could be utilized from Lake Erie, but their depth at the blue line remains shallow in comparison to other teams. However, given the fact that the Avalanche have rid themselves of the Matt Hunwick atrocity, significant gains have been made. A lot of questions will be asked of the Avalanche this season, but with good intentions. Nobody doubts Roy’s- Jack Adams winning- ability to coach, however some may recall the last time the Av’s made the playoffs and the subsequent years in between playoff runs. To get to the top of the league, this young, relatively inexperienced playoff roster must remain a consistent force in both making the playoffs and lasting for longer than a round or two. Failure to make it back into the playoffs this season and the Avalanche organization suddenly looks like the Toronto Maple Leafs (sorry Leafs fans). Consistent final bows in the first round and the Av’s will look like the San Jose Sharks (sorry Sharks fans). To win a Cup, a team has to go through a few losses first, but it cannot take forever to do so.

Semyon Varlamov looks to improve on his Vezina Trophy finalist season and will take on more minutes with Reto Berra as his new backup. Quick question, whatever happened to all of that hype about Calvin Pickard? Is he still just a few years off? Varlamov is a clear starter in Colorado, potentially erasing all recent memories of the roulette of goalies and struggles in the crease in the forms of Peter Budaj, Andrew Raycroft (interesting fact, I still have his rookie card somewhere), Brian Elliott (before he was good in St. Louis), Craig Anderson (not that he really struggled, just the team that was in front of him), and whatnot. No matter what anyone says, Berra is a weak backup until proven otherwise. Sure he had that impressive save last year in Calgary, but sometimes it just happens. Regardless, the Avalanche need another year or two of making it into the playoffs and getting to the second round. First of all, they have to avoid the Minnesota Wild; something tells me the playoffs are not kind to the Av’s when they play the Wild. Secondly, the have to see how they can pit themselves up against perennial powerhouses such as Chicago or Los Angeles. Only then will they be ready to take on a Western Conference Final battle and perhaps even a Stanley Cup Finals run. Their number one goal for 2014- 2015 season, though, must be to continue to improve and aim for the second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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