30 in 15: Colorado Avalanche Season Preview

Despite losing the face of their franchise and employing a career backup as their starter, the 2009-10 Colorado Avalanche were one of the hottest tickets around all season. Led by a cadre of relative unknown youngsters, the Avs clinched the 8th and final playoff spot late in the season, and nearly ousted the top-seeded San Jose Sharks in the first round. The sky is the limit for this talented group, and it should be fun to watch them develop into serious contenders.

*Offense:’ With centers Paul Stastny and Matt Duchene giving the Avs a solid attack up the middle, they got great contributions from a ton of youngsters, including leading goal scorer Chris Stewart. Wojtek Wolski, a talented shooter and scorer, simply didn’t fit the style of hockey played in Colorado anymore, so he was dealt to Phoenix for Peter Mueller, who could be a major piece of this offense in 2010-11. Milan Hejduk surely has a few goals left in him, and with a string of 20-25 year olds filling up the lines, this will be a fast, talented team on a nightly basis. The offense was pretty well-balanced, but they’ll need to get a bit more top-line production from guys like Duchene and Stewart to be truly competitive. As they develop, though, there’s no reason they shouldn’t put up those numbers.Grade: BPaul StastnyDefense:While Craig Anderson got the headlines with his play, the Avs’ blueline played pretty solid in front of him. A nice mix of veterans and young talent, the Avs don’t give up much in their own zone. Captain Adam Foote> is likely in his last season at 39, and given the physical career he’s played, that in and of itself is impressive. John-Michael Liles and Scott Hannan have been staples of the club’s defense for years now, and will help youngsters Kyle Quincey, Kyle Cumiskey and Ryan Wilson develop at their own pace. The PK will have to be a touch better than the 80% success rate posted last year, as well.Grade: B’'’Goaltending:’’’ This is likely where the fate of the Avs is decided. If Craig Anderson can repeat his performance from last season, the Avalanche will be right in the mix. If Anderson reverts back to the form he held for most of his career as a backup, Peter Budaj doesn’t exactly evoke thoughts of shutouts and highlight reel saves. There’s no reason to believe Anderson’s performance last season was a fluke, but there’s also no reason to believe it wasn’t.Grade: B’'’Key Additions:’’’ None*Key Losses:’ Darcy Tucker, Brett Clark, Marek Svatos, Ruslan Salei

Len robinson
Sports Pundit member

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