With apologies to the Phoenix Coyotes, the Colorado Avalanche were the most impressive story in the NHL last year. They were picked by many people—myself included—to finish dead last in the league. They had a dearth of talent, and that which they did have was young and completely unproven.
Behind the fantastic play of rookie centers Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly, the emergence of goalie Craig Anderson and an amazing coaching job by Joe Sacco, however, the team found its way into the playoffs.
Once the Avalanche made the playoffs, they won two of the first three rounds and gave the Sharks a real scare. It’s impossible to know in advance if a resurgence like that is lasting, or if it’s just a Cleveland Browns-esque flash in the pan, but this team seems to be moving in the right direction.
Colorado Avalanche Offseason Moves
The team pulled off the surprise last year despite losing Joe Sakic and getting much younger players. They liked how it turned out so much that they got even younger this year. Veterans like Darcy Tucker, Marek Svatos, Stephane Yelle and Ruslan Salei are gone, and are replaced by much younger players from within. There were no significant acquisitions, and the biggest move was tying up Paul Statsny with a fat long-term deal.
Colorado Avalanche Predictions: Outlook
The foundation is solid in Colorado, and this squad is definitely moving in the right direction. The question, though, is where they are at in the short term. Duchene and O’Reilly were fantastic, but they are now sophomores, and a slump in the second year isn’t uncommon. Chris Stewart came from nowhere to score 28 goals last year, but can the 22-year-old do that—or something close—again?
Can Craig Anderson have another career year or is one all he has in him? Can Peter Mueller recover his form he showed after coming over from Phoenix or is his second concussion in seven months going to have a lasting impact? Is Statsny ready to be the guy a franchise is built around? Does Adam Foote have anything left in the tank at 39?
That’s a lot of questions, and the answers aren’t very clear for most of them.
Colorado Avalanche NHL Lines
The Avs are 40/1 to win the Stanley Cup. They aren’t much more likely to win the West— they are at 20/1. They are the second choice in the Northwest Division at 4/1, but that puts them light years behind the Canucks, who are at 1/3. The season point total is set at 89.5.
Colorado Avalanche NHL Predictions
Colorado is the second best team in the division. Despite all of the questions they have and all of their youth, they have the right foundation—Anderson has the chops to be a top-level goalie, and Sacco is a very good coach, so they shouldn’t be one-hit wonders. I suspect it will be a slightly rocky road, but it was last year as well so the team is used to that.
The question, then, is what finishing second in the Northwest does for them. The answer, sadly, is not much. It’s a very weak division, so making a showing in it isn’t particularly meaningful. I think that they are a playoff team, but the seventh spot would be an achievement and the eighth spot is more likely.
When it comes to NHL handicapping, I don’t see any value at all in the futures odds— they are just too far behind Vancouver to consider an upset in the standings. There is some value in the point total on the "over," though. They had 95 points last year, and experience is on their side, so they could match or exceed that number this season.