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Monday, September 7, 2009

OGA SPR: The Colorado Avalanche - by Big Tex

This Labor Day, On Goal Analysis brings to you the 2009-10 Season Preview Report (SPR) on the Colorado Avalanche, a team which will really have to labor in order to climb back into the playoffs.

Last Season versus the Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC): Finished at 3.45 vs. the PQC. The 2008-09 Colorado Avalanche prolonged the agony until 27 January, when they finally reached Tee Time. Colorado played at or below the Playoff Qualifying Curve for the entire season except Games 21-30, as their 6-3-1 record during that furlong was .5 over the PQC. The Avs stayed close to the Curve until the New Year, when their 3-7-0 swan dive in Games 41-50 removed all doubt as to their playoff prospects. While it’s fairly common for teams to ‘loosen up’ and play better hockey once they’ve been eliminated from playoff contention, the Avalanche slid right off the mountain after Game 50, going 9-19-4 to close out their worst season since moving to Denver in the summer of 1995.

Post Lockout Average versus the PQC: After finishing at 4.75 vs. the PQC in each of the first three post-Lockout campaigns, the bottom fell out in Colorado last season – the Avs’ 3.45 put them dead last in the Western Conference and 28th in the NHL (only Tampa Bay and the Islanders were worse). 08-09 marked just the second non-playoff season since the Avalanche moved to Denver from Quebec prior to the 1995-96 campaign. Colorado struggles in February – they’ve finished below the PQC in the Games 51-60 furlong each of the last three seasons. On the flip side, the Avs have finished above the PQC for Games 11-20 in three of the last four seasons.

How does Colorado look heading into the 2009-10 season?

Team Play: ISSUE – Passing the torch. Over the summer, Avs’ team captain and icon Joe Sakic retired. Plagued by injuries, Sakic played in just 59 games over the last two seasons. Hoping to fill the (enormous) void, Colorado took center Matt Duchene with the third overall pick in the 2009 Entry Draft. While it’s patently unfair to compare the 18-year-old to the future Hall-of-Famer, Duchene will simply have to deal with it. Much will be expected of the youngster this season, as the Avalanche begin the climb back towards the playoffs and respectability. To that end, the Avs have made some sound offseason moves. First and foremost, they improved in the crease by signing free agent goalie Craig Anderson from Florida. Next, Colorado shored up a rather forlorn defensive corps by trading co-leading scorer Ryan Smyth to Los Angeles for d-men Kyle Quincey and Tom Preissing and a 5th-round pick in 2010. These are significant steps in the right direction, but team health will play an equal role in the Avs’ improvement this season. Here’s hoping the injury bug doesn’t bite Colorado in 2009-10 like it did last season, in which the Avalanche used 13 defensemen and Milan Hejduk was the only skater to dress for all 82 games. Here’s hoping Joe Sakic passes the torch to Matt Duchene, rather than the snowblower.

Fantasy Value: Ummm…Well…The Avs are full of fantasy ‘traps’.
Trap No.1: Milan Hejduk. Many fantasy GMs draft Hejduk based on his 2002-03 stats (82GP, 50-48-98, +52) and are shocked to get the 2008-09 model, instead (82GP, 27-32-59, -19). Hejduk doesn’t have Burnaby Joe feeding him pucks anymore. Caveat emptor, baby.
Trap No.2: Matt Duchene. Yes, he’s a highly-touted rookie. Unfortunately, his last name isn’t Ovechkin, Crosby or Malkin, so don’t expect numbers anywhere near those cats.
Trap No.3: Paul Stastny. Stastny is quite talented, and will be expected to be the full-time top line center now. Unfortunately, he’s missed 53 games over the last two seasons. If he can stay healthy, Stastny will reward fantasy GMs willing to gamble.
On a positive note, Fantasy GMs in deep leagues might want to consider any of the Avs’ top three blueliners (Liles, Preissing and Quincey) in late draft rounds, and netminder Craig Anderson should be a solid 3rd or 4th goalie. This team is just too young and talent-poor in 09-10 to provide a decent return on a heavy investment, though.

Schedule Analysis: ISSUE – Colorado plays 11 of their first 15 games on the road, including a 7-game trip in Games 3-9.

Tuesday, OGA breaks down the Columbus Blue Jackets…

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.

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