The Colorado Avalanche are a long way from their dynastic days in the late '90s and early 2000s, when they were perennial Stanley cup contenders.
Ever since the lockout in 2005, the Avalanche have struggled to regain their swagger, and have only made the playoffs twice. While the team’s record has shrunk to one of the worst in the NHL over the last couple of years, they have done a great job of rebuilding and look to have a very young and incredibly talented squad for years to come.
Last season, the Avs barley missed the playoffs, being edged out by the LA Kings in the last few games. However, by adding a few veteran players through free agency this offseason, the team could return to their glory days and make a run at Lord Stanley’s cup.
Colorado already have a very talented team. That being said, very few of these players have playoff experience and many are still evolving their game in the NHL. Nine of the team’s top ten point scorers are under the age of 28, including Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan O’Reilly, who are all 21 or younger.
There is an immense amount of potential on this team. However, the Avs need more veteran leadership in order to quickly develop these young guns, so they can start dominating games like they are capable of and bring back a winning culture to the franchise.
While the team has already begun this process by re-signing long-time Avalanche great Milan Hejduk, as well as picking up forward P.A. Parenteau, who looks to be entering the prime of his career. Nevertheless, if the team is going to make a push for the Cup in 2013, the Avalanche must take this a step further and become very aggressive in free agency.
The first step is signing those Avs players that are entering free agency. Peter Mueller needs to be re-signed, as well as Erik Johnson and Ryan O’Reilly. All are young guys and great players who will be a major part of the foundation of the team for years to come. The Avalanche cannot afford to let these guys go, especially when they are asking for relatively small contracts.
The next step is targeting some of the top free agents on the market like Ryan Suter, Zach Parise and Alexander Semin. While it will be both very difficult and very expensive to land even one of these players, they have all cemented themselves as superstars in this league and could individually be a catalyst for the entire franchise—especially Suter.
Any of these players would be a great addition to almost any team, however, with the Avalanche, they would greatly help the young team’s confidence, development and depth.
The next order of business is to target a true veteran who may be past the prime of his career, but would be able to help lead this young team with their experience alongside Hejduk. A guy like Teemu Selanne, Jaromir Jagr, Petr Sykora or Jason Arnott would be perfect. They no longer need to be the focus of the offense, but could be terrific role players on the ice and invaluable leaders in the weight room and while practicing.
Lastly, there are a number of young guys who would be great pickup if one or all of these free-agent strategies fail.
Most notably, P.K. Subban—who is a young, aggressive and very offensively skilled defenseman out of Montreal—would give the Avalanche defense some more offensive firepower without relinquishing some of their size and defensive prowess. Mike Green is another young defender whose offensive capabilities could greatly add to a strong defensive group in Denver.
Such a young and promising team, with terrific goaltending in Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere, should routinely make the playoffs. Once in, as we all saw last year with Jon Quick and the young Kings squad, anything can happen.
It is time the Avalanche start making major offseason moves to once again climb the ranks of the NHL. They are no longer in the business of rebuilding, and instead need to start aggressively financing a Stanley Cup contender.
They have nothing to lose, as the foundation of this team is set with its very talented young players. Free-agent veterans can help develop this young talent more quickly, give the team more depth and experience and then retire.
They really have nothing to lose.