The Avalanche have a new coach and some skilled young forwards, but they don't have the depth to compete in the extra tough Central Division.
THN is rolling out its 2016-17 Team Previews daily, in reverse order of 2015-16 overall finish, until the start of the season. Today, the Avalanche.
THN's Prediction: 7th in Central
Stanley Cup odds: 75-1
Key additions: Joe Colborne, F; Fedor Tyutin, D; Rocco Grimaldi, C; Patrick Wiercioch, D
Key departures: Mikkel Boedker, LW; Shawn Matthias, LW; Nick Holden, D; Reto Berra, G; Brad Stuart, D
-Is Mikko Rantanen ready to rock? The Avs drafted Rantanen 10th overall in 2015, and he was a consensus pick to go directly to the NHL. Even at 18, he was 6-foot-4, 211 pounds and had several years of pro experience in the Finnish League. But Rantanen’s nine-game trial flopped, and Colorado assigned him to AHL San Antonio to avoid burning a year of his entry-level deal.
Rantanen racked up 24 goals and 60 points in 52 games and was the circuit’s co-rookie of the year. He has more than earned a full-season look in the NHL and will challenge for the Calder Trophy playing on a scoring line in Colorado.
-Has Colorado improved its 'D' enough? Per corsica.hockey, the Avs finished last in the NHL in score- and venue-adjusted Corsi against per 60 at a pitiful 63.42 percent. They’ve ranked between 24th and 30th four straight years. They allow far too many scoring chances.
The Avs acquired Patrick Wiercioch and Fedor Tyutin for veteran blueline help. They added Nolan Pratt from AHL champion Lake Erie to coach the D-corps. Will these changes be enough? Don’t bet on it. Wiercioch and Tyutin are bottom-pair types. Youngsters Chris Bigras and Nikita Zadorov haven’t shown they’re ready to contribute as impact NHLers yet. The blueline still looks thin after Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie and Francois Beauchemin.
-When does Joe Sakic blow it up? With Patrick Roy stepping down in August, this team has a new look on the coaching side. But what about player personnel? Should Colorado fall flat again, Nathan MacKinnon and his seven-year contract extension would be the only safe body in Denver. Matt Duchene has been the subject of trade rumors, as has captain Gabriel Landeskog.
Player projections are based off a three-year version of Game Score (which you can read about here) weighted by recency and repeatability and then translated to its approximate win value (Game Score Value Added or GSVA). Team strength was derived from the combined value of every player’s GSVA on a team. The season was then simulated 10,000 times factoring in team strength, opponent strength and rest.
The Colorado Avalanche are going to be one of the most interesting teams to watch this season, mostly because of the change behind the bench. After a surprising first season under Patrick Roy, the team hasn’t been able to find the same magic under a mostly similar roster. Many observers have felt Roy was holding the team, and its young stars, back and new blood could unleash their shackles.
At forward the Avalanche have the big three – Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene – who still have some room to grow. MacKinnon is still just 21 and this season has breakout campaign written all over it. The other two are solid first liners, but need to find another gear in order for this team to take the next step. That means spending more time in the other team’s zone which is hopefully something that improves under new coaching.
The issue with the Avalanche isn’t those three, it’s the guys below them. Carl Soderberg is solid, but after him the team is incredibly weak. Mikko Rantanen and Mikhail Grigorenko should be better than projected here though as they're still in the developing stages of their career.
Defence should be another place of interest as the team bolstered their bottom pairs with a slew of additions. At the top, the time-on-ice dynamic should change this season with a bigger focus on moving the puck up ice. That means more minutes going to Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson as opposed to the older and less capable Francois Beauchemin.
Goaltending is the team’s strongest position as both Semyon Varlamov and Calvin Pickard rate extremely well. Varlamov had an off year last season and if he can’t bounce back, Pickard is ready to take over.
As has been the case over the last few seasons, the Avs are just not a very good team leaving them at the bottom of the pecking order in a very tough Central. Maybe they surprise with a new coach, but don’t bet on it as the roster still looks thin.
Up next: New Jersey Devils