The Blue Jackets and Avalanche were both on the outside of the playoffs looking in, but have young rosters ready to blossom. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)
It's the 11th annual off-season look at each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint. In keeping with tradition, I run through the teams alphabetically - but switch starting points each year. This year I began with Anaheim and will finish up with Winnipeg in early September. Time to take a look at the Avalanche and Blue Jackets.
Pending UFAs – Milan Hejduk, Chuck Kobasew, Sean Sullivan
Pending RFAs - Tomas Vincour, Aaron Palushaj, Brad Malone
Looking to add – The Avalanche need help in all areas, other than perhaps the first line. But the team addressed their goaltending by not only hiring Patrick Roy as their coach, but also a goaltending coach with a great reputation in Francois Allaire. Semyon Varlamov has all the help he needs now, with a veteran trainer in Allaire and of course a mentor in Roy.
The issue of the second line could be solved if Paul Stastny would only find some of his old magic again. If he's going to continue to be a 50-point player, rather than the 75-point player we used to know, then the second line will be a glaring weakness. The best available second-line players are either too old to fit in with a team in the middle of a rebuild (Jarome Iginla, Patrik Elias, Jaromir Jagr) or too injury prone (Nathan Horton, Pierre-Marc Bouchard). However, teams tend to ignore the fragility factor when they go on their summer spending sprees, so maybe the Avs will sign one of the latter two guys after all.
Colorado boasts eight defensemen who should be in the NHL next season. The problem is each spot needs to be upgraded. Their No. 1 defenseman is more like a No. 3, their No. 2 more like a No. 4 and so forth. At this point, the team seems content to give Erik Johnson more time to take that big step forward.
Ready for full time: Forward Michael Sgarbossa was the Ontario League scoring champion in 2011-12 and then he went on to finish second in scoring for Lake Erie as a rookie-pro. He would’ve finished first if not for a lengthy NHL call-up in January. He's on the cusp and with the right linemates he could thrive.
Defenseman Stefan Elliott was up with the big club throughout April and posted four points in his last eight games. Prior to that run, he had really been struggling at the AHL level and his stock in fantasy leagues had fallen dramatically - at one time he was considered a top three prospect defenseman in fantasy leagues.
Fantasy Outlook: A new look with this team in terms of their coaching staff and head office will hopefully get things back on track. Not to mention the team's upcoming first overall draft pick. The Avs really struggled to both stop as well as score goals. That always spells doom in fantasy circles. And when it comes to prospects from a fantasy standpoint - move along, there's nothing to see here. Fantasy Grade: D+ (last year was D+)
Columbus Blue Jackets
Pending UFAs – Vinny Prospal, Blake Comeau, Adrian Aucoin, Michael Leighton
Pending RFAs - Artem Anisimov, Colton Gillies, David Savard, Cody Goloubef, Sergei Bobrovsky
Looking to add – I know it's only one (shortened) season of stellar play, but Sergei Bobrovsky is the Blue Jackets' best hope of a franchise player this side of Marian Gaborik. They need to sign him. If they don't, however, there is no shortage of starting goalies on the market (likely). The list includes Mike Smith and Niklas Backstrom.
The team also needs a No. 1 center and a top six winger to replace (and upgrade) Prospal. It wouldn't surprise me to see them approach Derek Roy and Mike Ribeiro to solve the former, and Clarke MacArthur, Nathan Horton, Michael Ryder, Bryan Bickell and David Clarkson for the latter.
Ready for full time – The one position where the team is strong is on defense, particularly next season when Ryan Murray is likely to make the jump. Murray missed most of last season with a serious shoulder injury, which is the only reason he may not be with Columbus in 2013-14. Were it not for that setback he would be a lock.
Goaltender Curtis McElhinney signed a one-way contract and will finally become a full-time NHLer in a backup capacity. The 30-year-old has certainly put in the time in the minors.
We've been waiting two years for defenseman David Savard to make the jump to the NHL. His AHL numbers have been solid (96 points in 176 games), but as of yet he has been unable to adapt to the quicker game one level up.
2011 second round draft pick (37th overall) Boone Jenner made huge strides over the past season, taking his offensive game up a notch. It's at the point now where he is considered a future top-sixer with leadership qualities, as opposed to a third-line energy guy. A year in the AHL might be best, but you never know…
Fantasy Outlook – The Blue Jackets are a young team with potential and they have a decent pipeline that is particularly strong on the blueline. With three picks in the first round of this summer's draft, the future is secure. With strong goaltending, they've shown they can be team that pushes for the playoffs. All this being said, they finished 25th in goal scoring as a team, which is the bread and butter of fantasy hockey. Gaborik over a full season will help in this area, as will a healthy Cam Atkinson, but until they get an upgrade it will continue to be problematic. Fantasy Grade: C+ (last year was D-)
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.
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