Colorado Avalanche: 5 Storylines to Watch During Camp
The countdown to the start of the NHL regular season really begins to pick up now that teams are reporting back to duty for training camp.
Excitement has begun to pick up for each team for the 2011-2012 NHL regular season, and the Colorado Avalanche are no different.
The Avalanche are a team that have made a lot of changes over the summer in an attempt to make a jump in the standings.
Every team has some storylines to follow as camp gets started, but the Colorado Avalanche seem to have a few more very compelling storylines than some of the other teams.
Here is a look at the top things for Avalanche fans to watch as camp gets underway tomorrow.
Who Will Be the New Avalanche Captain?
With the retirement of Adam Foote, the Avalanche are once again without a captain.
There have been a lot of stories talking about the captain situation for the Colorado Avalanche, which has led to an interesting debate.
There are a lot of players that are worthy of wearing the C in Colorado. Long-time Avalanche Milan Hejduk comes up a lot in conversations, as does face of the franchise Matt Duchene.
Paul Stastny has the lineage and has performed well in his time with the Colorado Avalanche, emerging as a locker room leader as well.
Even with all of the great captain potential that exists on the Colorado Avalanche, it seems to many people, including myself, that Erik Johnson may be the best choice.
The Avalanche may not choose a captain by the time camp ends, but this storyline is definitely one that many Avalanche fans will be following.
Down the Center
Having a quick look at the Avalanche roster, there are currently 16 centers coming into camp to compete for a roster spot.
Some spots are already filled to the likes of Paul Stastny, Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly. Jay McClement is another who also seems very likely to retain his spot, but there are several players who are hoping to make a push to make the roster.
Kevin Porter, Greg Mauldin, Joey Hishon and Marc Olver, just to name a few.
Kevin Porter and Greg Mauldin have already played for the Avalanche as wingers and wouldn't have too difficult of a time making a strong push for a roster spot on the wing, but Joey Hishon and Marc Olver are another story.
Seeing exactly how the Avalanche use some of their younger players from Lake Erie will be interesting as they attempt to round out their bottom six forwards as effectively as possible.
Between the Pipes
One of the biggest changes that the Avalanche made happened in net when the Avalanche acquired Semyon Varlamov via trade and Jean-Sebastian Giguere through free agency.
The Avalanche also got Cedric Desjardins through free agency as well, who most recently played for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Each of the goalies picked up by the Avalanche this offseason have had a few run-ins with injuries with their last teams. Still, there is a lot of promise.
When he is healthy and on his game, Semyon Varlamov is easily one of the best goalies in the NHL.
Jean-Sebastian Giguere has a great history of winning as he has a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe.
Desjardins is a young player that has had shoulder issues and has limited professional experience but has impressed nonetheless.
He could be a great contingency plan should there be any injury issues with their top players.
At the moment, it seems as if the Avalanche are primed to go with Semyon Varlamov as their number one, and it will be interesting to see how Varlamov does as the big dog in Colorado.
On the Blue Line
The Avalanche made a lot of moves on the defensive side of the puck over the summer and now have quite a complicated situation on the blue line.
Much like the center position, the Avalanche have a ton of players on defense that have played in the NHL in the last two seasons and the defensive pairings seem very up in the air.
After trading John-Michael Liles to the Toronto Maple Leafs just before the draft, the Avalanche then went on a regular binge, signing a plethora of defenders.
Jan Hejda, Matt Hunwick, Shane O'Brien and Kyle Cumiskey have all found themselves with new contracts, and Kyle Quincey's return from injury has now made the Avalanche blue line a very crowded location.
Plus, the Avalanche have a lot of prospects on defense that are hoping to find a spot on the roster for opening night. Tyson Barrie, Stefan Elliott and Duncan Siemens all have great potential but will have to surprise a lot of people in order to make the opening night roster.
My thoughts on who the Avalanche will have as pairings run like this.
Johnson will pair with Jan Hejda, Kyle Quincey will pair with Ryan O'Byrne, Shane O'Brien will pair with Ryan Wilson.
Matt Hunwick will more than likely end up as the seventh man out that fills in only from time to time, so long as Joe Sacco stays away from his inexplicable crush that he had on Hunwick last year.
I can also see the Avalanche bringing Cameron Gaunce and Stefan Elliott up from time to time to start getting them acclimated to the NHL level.
Kyle Cumiskey should hopefully end up back in Lake Erie or traded for whatever the Avalanche can get for him.
The highest draft pick that the Colorado Avalanche have ever had since they became the Colorado Avalanche is Gabriel Landeskog, selected second overall in the first round.
With the success of the Avalanche's previous highest draft pick, Matt Duchene, Landeskog will be under a lot of pressure from early on to succeed.
I believe that Landeskog will make the squad right out of camp and most likely play on the same line as Matt Duchene.
I'm very excited to see how Landeskog handles the pressure of his first professional camp as there is a great deal of hype surrounding him. His performance during camp is going to be of great interest to a lot of Avalanche fans.