Hockey is back! The new CBA was finalized on Saturday night, and with that, North America has it’s hockey back. Training Camps opened on Sunday, and there will be a shortened 48-game season in the NHL that will start on January 19th, and one has to think that should prove to do good for teams like the Colorado Avalanche.
In a lock-out shortened season, team chemistry will be a huge factor for teams vying to make the postseason. When it comes to teams like the Minnesota Wild who have newly acquired firepower in Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, there is a period of time in hockey where teammates will have to get acclimated to each other and the style of hockey that will come with playing for a new team. But with the Avalanche, the squad is beginning to become fairly familiar with each other. The team coming back for the 2013 season almost fought their way into the playoffs last season, coming up just a bit short. But what lies ahead for the Avs in the 48-game season? Hopefully success.
The Avalanche have many familiar faces on their team. There’s the likes of Matt Duchene, Milan Hejduk, and Paul Stastny. And then there’s the new acquisitions of PA Parenteau, John Mitchell, and Greg Zanon. The addition of Parenteau is the one that is the most intriguing. PA will most likely be put on a line alongside Duchene and Landeskog. That top line becomes very dangerous. Parenteau provides high end play-making ability that should make Duchene and Landeskog elite scorers in the years to come. And that’s just the top line of offense. We already saw a good amount of scoring from the other 3 lines last year.
Defensively for the Avs, there are 4 solid defensemen in Hejda, Johnson, O’Brien, and O’Byrne. Didn’t even put Stefan Elliot, Tyson Barrie in that conversation and both are up and coming in their game as well. Then there’s Matt Hunwick and Ryan Wilson who have seen their TOI alter from week to week depending on their play. Both were a tad stingy and had some questionable play last year.
Then there’s the goaltenders. Starter Semyon Varlamov had a very solid offseason, playing well for Russia in the World Championships. For the Avs last year, Varlamov went 26-24-3 with a .913 GAA, and 4 shutouts. Those numbers need to improve if he wants to keep his job in the net next year. He’ll have consistent competition in Jean-Sebastian Giguere, who has been a solid goaltender throughout his 16 seasons in the NHL. Giguere went 15-11-3 with a .919 GAA, and 2 shutouts with the Avs last season. Both goalies provide some hope between the pipes, and both look to build on their average seasons last year.
Overall, the Avs are a young up and coming team who look to continue to build chemistry even in this shortened season. With an average age of 26, making them one of the youngest teams in the NHL, you have to look for this young team to keep getting better. One of two things can happen this year. They can use their fresh legs to their advantage in every game this year and hopefully build good chemistry with the new guys sooner rather than later, or falter early on and struggle to make the postseason for the second year in a row. Hope for the best.