The Avalanche have a lot going for them as the true NHL off-season nears. They've got young, cheap talent up front and in goal, they've got a well-developing blueliner that scores and a returning captain that refuses to age.
Sure, it finally occurred to them to actually start playing good hockey sometime around game 65 of the season, but they proved to themselves and their detractors that they could hang with the best. 15-2-2 over the last 19 games of the season. That's a little above mediocre.
So, with a crap-load of cap space and the will to improve, the Avalanche prepare to chase some hot free agent tail. Could a displaced Oiler return to the Northwest with a giant A on his chest? Could a couple of former Avalanche heroes make triumphant returns? Could a defensive whiz finally escape the swamps and make a run for the mountains?
To answer these questions, TSN.ca posted their "Off-Season Game Plan" for the Avalanche, and for the most part, it doesn't completely suck. But before I get to the insightful tidbits, I have to take issue with the following sentence:
The Avalanche could easily dip into their past as Chris Drury and Peter Forsberg are both unrestricted free agents that would be able to provide the kind of offensive boost that the Avs need.
The Avalanche don't need an offensive boost. Well sure, every team could use a boost in general, but the Avs don't need a boost. For some reason, nobody seemed to notice that Colorado scored 272 goals this past season, which was fifth overall in the league. They outscored 12 of the 16 playoff teams. So, the Avs could use one, but they don't need an offensive boost.
Now that that's out of the way, let's examine TSN's suggestions for potential forward signings. In addition to the former Avs Drury and Forsberg, Mike Comrie and Ryan Smyth are named as potential free agent pickups. Drury would be crazy expensive, Forsberg is half-dead and should be avoided like the plague and Smyth would probably hate playing against his precious Oilers eight times a season. Mike Comrie would likely fit in well, and he's young. And he might win a Cup this year. But he's not a big scorer (45 points in 65 games) whereas guys like Drury and Smyth can really light the lamp and pass the biscuit. If you're going to blow a huge wad of cash on a hot stud, at least get some bang for your buck.
TSN's defensive analysis of the Avalanche is about as obvious as it could be: the Avs need to get bigger and tougher on the blue line. Duh. They've got scoring (and a trendy hyphenate) in John-Michael Liles, they've got some versatility in Brett Clark and some future potential in healthy-as-a-horse-named-Barbaro Jordan Leopold. What they lack is grit and hitting. TSN's suggestions? Scott Hannan, Craig Rivet or Andy Sutton. I'm pro-Sutton, in that his huge, physical presence would really help add punch to the Avs' defensive team. As in punching dudes in the face.
Finally, while TSN doesn't come right out and say it, they suggest that Jose Theodore, the Most Expensive Backup Goalie Ever, would probably be better off somewhere other than Colorado. Or Colorado would be better off without him. Probably more the latter than the former. Anyway, they compliment Peter Budaj and consider him a true starting goalie. Like that wasn't obvious by now.
All-in-all, not a bad report card for the Avalanche. I'm glad I'm not the only one that sees a ton of potential success in their future.