The Colorado Avalanche landed Nathan MacKinnon through the draft, but need major improvement on defense. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)
THN’s PRE-SEASON PREDICTION: No. 6 in Central Division
2013: 16-25-7. 15th in West.
KEY DEPARTURES: David Jones, Shane O’Brien, Aaron Palushaj
KEY ADDITIONS: Alex Tanguay, Cory Sarich
THE PROS: The last time a No. 1 overall pick came straight to the NHL and won the Calder Trophy was in 2008, when Patrick Kane received it. Nathan MacKinnon will chase after the accomplishment this year as he adds another large helping of potential to a decent, growing forward unit. But though he’s the new young star in the making in the lineup, others will be they key players. Matt Duchene is gunning for a spot on the Canadian Olympic team, so will have that motivation, as will Landeskog in his bid for Team Sweden. Growth and improvement is anticipated and must happen at least among the forwards for the team to get out of a rut near the bottom of the standings. After all, that part of the lineup is their biggest strength, but ranked 26th in overall offense last season with 2.38 goals per game. Having Ryan O’Reilly for a full season should help, and the acquisition of Alex Tanguay was made with an eye towards creating more offense.
THE CONS: There is a reason Joe Sakic was given a prominent role in the front office and why Patrick Roy was hired as the new coach: there’s a lot of work to do to reestablish past dominance. The Avalanche defense doesn’t create much in the way of offense and is in need of an overhaul. Last season the team leaned on rookie Tyson Barrie, who averaged 21:34 of ice. While Barrie, a third round pick in 2009, is certainly a promising player for the team, the fact he led Colorado in ice time said a lot about the rest of the blueline, especially how disappointing (and frustrating) Erik Johnson has been. Even in goal unreliability and disappointment has bitten the Avs. Semyon Varlamov has been inconsistent and his save percentage dropped 10 points from 2011-12; Jean-Sebastien Giguere had better numbers in 18 games. There are a lot of goalies floating around in the movements market, but do any fit with Colorado’s long-term goals? Or will the Avs even be prepared to give up on the 25-year-old Russian, who will be a RFA after this season?
X-FACTOR: Everybody is eager to see what kind of NHL coach Patrick Roy will be. Certainly successful in the QMJHL, where he had five consecutive 40-win seasons, Roy won’t control all the strings in Colorado as he did with the Quebec Remparts. But as far as coaching goes – and coaching youngsters – Roy appears to be a solid and dedicated choice. He certainly knows his hockey and experienced all there is to experience as an NHL player, which should only inspire confidence in his young lineup.
PERIPHERAL PREDICTION: P-A Parenteau continues to post impressive “post-Tavares” numbers – is still underrated.
CENTRAL NO. 7: COLORADO AVALANCHE