Previews

Your Friends And Neighbors – ’17-’18 NHL Team Previews: I Don’t Mind The Sun Sometimes, The Image As It Shows

For Hawks fans my age, the Colorado Avalanche probably has an outsized presence in our psyches. It’s the scars from having them parachute that unholy team into the conference from Quebec at a time when the Hawks were probably icing their best team in a decade. And while we knew the Hawks couldn’t hang with the Wings, there was always a puncher’s chance in a series (1992 wasn’t that long ago then). But once the Avs showed up, we knew the Hawks were doomed. They couldn’t get through both, and promptly didn’t get through either.

Those two Cups the Avs managed in ’96 and ’01 seemingly have given them an outsized presence on the national stage, too. Because the Avs haven’t mattered in a very long time. In the past 10 years, they have the same amount of playoffs berths as the Panthers. They’ve won less rounds than the Coyotes. They haven’t won a game beyond the first round in 13 years. If it wasn’t for the Varlamov-inspired, PDO-from-hell season of ’13-’14, the Avs would be embarking on their eighth-straight playoff-less season. But we don’t put them in the same category as the Arizonas and Floridas of the world. Flags fly forever, I suppose.

Anyway, let’s get into this muck.

Colorado Avalanche

’16-’17 Record: 22-56-4  48 points  (dead ass last everywhere)

Team Stats 5v5: 48.5 CF% (23rd)  46.6 SF% (28th)  48.0 SCF% (26th)  6.2 SH% (29th)  90.6 SV% (30th)

Special Teams: 12.5 PP% (30th)  76.6 PK% (29th)

Goalies: Maybe Avs fans are still under the impression that Semyon Varlamov can conjure up another fantastic season and at least make the Avs representative. They shouldn’t. That one season looks to be a a total outlier, when he got into the Russian good stuff that Putin injected into all his athletes or something. He was ok in the season after, and he’s been stunningly mediocre or worse since. He was an imploded warehouse last year, with a .898 SV%. The Avs can’t count on a free agent year bounce either, as he’s got another year left on his deal. He’s 29, so he shouldn’t be clinically hockey-dead yet but the past two years don’t fill you with a lot of faith. And if the Avs are going to get league-worst save-percentage at even-strength again, you’ll be able to smell this outfit from Arkansas.

He’ll be backed up, and eventually usurped you’d guess, but Jonathan Bernier. Bernier was an acceptable backup to John Gibson in Anaheim last year, after he was hounded out of Toronto like every other goalie who plays there. Bernier isn’t going to save this team either, but he can probably do better than whatever one-legged crow Varlamov is attempting in net these days.

Defense: It’s hard to believe that Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie are still here, given their apparently club policy of having the shittiest d-men possible and trying to trade both for a while. EJ, or Golf Cart Maximus as we refer to him around these parts, never turned into the atom-smashing, #1 Lone D-Man Of The Apocalypse the Blues and Avs hoped for (aside from those two weeks in 2010 during the Olympics). But he’s been more than serviceable, though awfully ouchy. He’s only gotten to the 80-game mark once in his career, and has missed huge chunks of a season in three of the last five.

Barrie was just about the only puck-mover on this team again, though his 38 points were a comedown from the previous two seasons. Could have been a result of having absolutely no one to pass to. Anyway, most of the Avs engine is still him, which isn’t really a good thing.

The Avs must be hoping this is the year Nikita Zadorov takes a leap, because how they need it. Anton Lindholm is another kid they’ll hope can provide anything whatsoever.

Forwards: This crop sucks now. It’s going to suck a whole lot worse whenever they finally put Matt Duchene out of his misery, as now that they’ve dragged this on long enough and dogged his value whatever is coming back is not going to be ready for primetime.

Here’s something they don’t want to admit either, nor anyone who watches this team. Nathan MacKinnon isn’t that good. Sure, if he could play the Hawks every game he’d already be in the Hall of Fame, but he doesn’t. Since his rookie year he’s been a 50-point player, which is second-line center numbers. Good thing they want to trade the guy who’s probably more of a #1 center than he is. MacKinnon was actually a really good possession player last year, so maybe if they can get any talent around him at all his numbers could shoot back up. But the jury on him being a top line center in the league is still very much out.

What they might be able to admit is that Gabriel ThreeYaksAndADog isn’t all that good either. He put up 33 points last year, and Patrick Roy might have broken him. At one time he looked like a baby, Swedish Hossa with a nifty two way game. Then he became captain, and Roy apparently told him that meant being the biggest jagoff possible. It ruined his game. They need the other guy back, because LaxativeLog can also be a very effective second-liner on a good team. Which I assume the Avs want to be one day.

Beyond that, once Dutch is elsewhere… bring some gloves and boots. Blake Comeau, Joe Colborne, Mikko Ratanen, Colin Wilson, Carl Soderberg… fuck’s sake this is where Nail Yakupov is trying to save his career.

There will be big hopes for Tyson Jost, A.J. Greer, and Rantanen. Greer has decent numbers in the A last year, Jost will be attempting to jump from North Dakota, and Rantanen will try and build off a 20-goal season. The Avs will need all of them to be even watchable, and they’ll need a haul for Duchene.

Outlook: They can’t possibly be as bad as last season, but they’ll make a run at it. They won’t get other-worldly goaltending, which is what makes bad teams seem not bad. The blue line can’t really be anything more than fine. The forwards are going to lose a bunch of firepower and they need too much from guys either on a revival tour or ones who need fake IDs. Making it worse is they play in what is probably the most balanced division in the league, and the other six teams in it are simply better than them. That’s more than a third of the season when they’ll mostly be getting dunked on.

Good thing no one in Denver gives a shit.

 

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