Monday, November 12, 2012

Claude Lemieux Reflects on Sakic's Career

On the day that Super Joe is to be inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame, Claude Lemieux sat down with Jeff Marek and Greg Wyshynski to reflect on Sakic's career. It's a great interview and worthy of your time.

Take a listen. - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Captain Landeskog

I no longer have to wait to get my Ryan O'Reilly jersey. I can now confidently say that it won't have the captain's "C," at least not during any part of the foreseeable future. This is because the Avalanche has named its 19-year-old sophomore, Gabriel Landeskog, the franchise's fourth ever captain.
According to available research, at 19 years, 286 days, Landeskog is the youngest captain in NHL history. He is 11 days younger than Sidney Crosby, who was 19 years, 297 days when he was named captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins on May 31, 2007. 
Landeskog becomes just the fourth captain in Colorado Avalanche history, joining Joe Sakic, Adam Foote and Hejduk. The Stockholm, Sweden native is the 11th captain in the history of the Avalanche/Nordiques franchise and only the third European-born, following Hejduk and Peter Stastny.
There has been unending talk since Landeskog entered the league that he had the leadership ability to be an NHL captain one day soon. Still, many Avalanche fans (including myself) thought that O'Reilly might be given the job due to his noted work ethic on and off the ice.

But Landeskog is a much flashier choice, and I won't pretend to know what goes on behind closed doors. But according to the Avalanche's release, Landeskog was appointed to the role by Coach Sacco after Milan Hejduk voluntarily stepped down.

O'Reilly has yet to sign a contract with the Avalanche for next season, and I have to wonder if this decision has anything to do with those negotiations.

Hopefully Landeskog can step up to the plate when (or if) hockey ever gets going again.

Go Avs. - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

One More Celebration For Sakic

Hall of Fame baby. - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Thoughts on Duchene's Two-Year Contract

I've posted my thoughts on Duchene's two-year contract on The Hockey Writers.

After Duchene's rookie season, I wouldn't have taken a bet that he'd only be signing a two-year deal at this point in his career.

Though Duchene hasn't been a bust (or anything close), his injury troubles last year and his overall game have left much to be desired.

We've all heard the criticisms. He hasn't gelled well with line mates. He holds on to the puck for too long in the offensive zone. He gets off to ridiculously slow starts. He seems to have a knack for hitting the post - Gordon Bombay would be proud.

Still, his potential to be a #1 center who puts up 80-90 points is still there. If the Avalanche are going to be successful, he's going to need to reach that one day soon. - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Saturday, June 2, 2012

[Video]: Stunned Devils Fan

Anyone catch this kid behind the bench after Jeff Carter's OT goal? Classic.

Crazy good seats, though. Hope he didn't have them for Game 1, too. - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Hejduk Given One Last Chance

The Avalanche could have very easily said "See Ya" to Milan Hejduk. The captain's play took a clear step back last season, as he failed to score at least 20 goals for the first time in twelve seasons. Though the Duke was durable (81 games played), he was a defensive liability (at times) for the first time in a long time and toward the end of year, his minutes were slashed and he spent many shifts on Joe Sacco's fourth line.

The Avs, starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel of their rebuilding phase, could have let the 36-year-old Hejduk retire or offer his services elsewhere.

Instead, they gave him a one-year deal to remain a member of the Avalanche.

As Dater mentions, Hejduk is certainly capable of returning to his 20-goal form again. If nothing else, the signing is a show of good faith to a player that has spent his entire career with Colorado. When Milan Hejduk retires, his will be the last number retired by the Avalanche for a good long while. The man has made his life in Colorado, and he deserves to retire an Av.

The Avalanche have somewhat of a reputation for parting ways with players who force the team to undergo arbitration. (See: Alex Tanguay.) Might this practice scare players away from signing in Colorado?

It shouldn't, because as evidenced by the Hejduk signing, the Avs take care of their own. They remain a classy organization to the end.

Here's hoping to a great last run for Milan Hejduk.

5 months to hockey.

4AHQM2RFNXSY - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Friday, April 27, 2012

Second Round Predictions: Two Hours Late

These are verifiable with several online bracket competitions. We're two periods into the Predators-Coyotes series, so not much has been compromised.

Nashville in 6
St. Louis in 5

New York in 6
New Jersey in 6 - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Friday, April 13, 2012

Avalanche Fan's Survival Guide to the Playoffs

My latest Hockey Writers piece focuses on what we (and other) fans should do who find themselves without a specific team to root for in the playoffs. Check it out here! - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

2012 First Round Predictions

The Stanley Cup Playoffs begin tonight and that means every blogger, mainstream media member, and fan will be scurrying to make their playoff picks and enter their playoff pools. This blog will be no different.

As an added bonus, I've also added the predictions of my "Hopeless Hockey Fan In Training," Adina, whose hockey knowledge is limited to the names of goaltenders on seven teams and Zdeno Chara's playoff beard. 

Without further ado: 

(1) Vancouver versus (8) Los Angeles 

Winner: Vancouver in 6

The Kings scored the second fewest goals in the NHL this season while the Canucks gave up the fourth fewest. Jon Quick has the ability to steal a few games for Los Angeles (and Roberto Luongo certainly has the ability to lose a couple for Vancouver) but the Canucks should be able to pull this one out. 

Hopeless Fan Pick: Vancouver in 4

(2) St. Louis versus (7) San Jose 

Winner: St. Louis in 6

The Blues are a ridiculous 30-6-5 at home this season, and the Sharks play just .500 hockey on the road. St. Louis also boasts 2012's best goaltending tandem in Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot(!) while San Jose boasts Antii Niemi. This season was a huge disappointment for San Jose, and it won't end here. 

Hopeless Fan Pick: St. Louis in 6

(3) Phoenix versus (6) Chicago 

Winner: Chicago in 7

Chicago enters the postseason having gone 6-3-1 in their final ten games. Phoenix was similarly hot, going 7-1-2 down the stretch, en route to their franchise's first ever division title. Interestingly, the Winnipeg Jets missed the playoffs this season in the East. Curious. I expect this one to be a dog fight, and Mike Smith is certainly the x factor, but Chelsea Dagger will pull the Hawks through. 

Hopeless Fan Pick: Chicago in 5

(4) Nashville versus (5) Detroit 

Winner: Nashville in 5

Nashville is my pick to come out of the West this year, and even though I have them winning in a smooth five games, I don't think it will be easy. The Wings, possibly on their last legs to win a Cup with this core group, always perform well in the postseason and won't be an easy out. But the Preds finally have experience winning a series and they have all the tools to make a deep run. If anyone can shut down Pavel Datsyuk, it's Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. And if they fail, look no further than Pekka Rinne. 

Hopeless Fan Pick: Detroit in 7

(1) NY Rangers versus (8) Ottawa 

Winner: New York in 5

I've heard a lot of worries from Rangers fans, and while the upset is possible, it's not going to happen. The Rangers sputtered down the stretch, but they also had the East locked up and nothing to really play for. John Tortorella is a proven playoff coach, Brad Richards is a proven playoff performer, and Henrik Lundqvist should be your Vezina winner in June. 

Hopeless Fan Pick: New York in 4

(2) Boston versus (7) Washington

Winner: Boston in 7

If I had more guts, I'd pick the upset. In the last ten years, defending champs have only gotten past the first round three times. Luckily for the Bruins, the Caps have no goalie. 

Hopeless Fan Pick: Bostonnnnnn in 6

(3) Florida versus (6) New Jersey 

Winner: New Jersey in 7

Most people are picking this as the easy "upset" of the first round. The only reason I think it goes seven is because of the likelihood that a bunch of these games will go to overtime. Together, these teams combined for 42 overtime games this season. That is, to put it simply, absurd. 

Hopeless Fan Pick: Florida in 5

(4) Pittsburgh versus (5) Philadelphia 

Winner: Pittsburgh in 6

The main event, if you will. Philly's goaltending enigma and Pittsburgh's top end talent will push the Pens over the top in what should be a nice, old-fashioned, brutal and bloody series. What wouldn't you do to get this on 24/7? 

Hopeless Fan Pick: Pittsburgh in 4
_ _ _ 

The 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs kick off tonight with the Penguins and Flyers at 7:30 on the NBC Sports Network. 

Happy Watching! - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Monday, April 9, 2012

Year End Avalanche Thoughts

It didn't end like we wanted it to. An 11th place finish, seven points out of 8th, and no first round pick in the 2012 draft. Yet, in the midst of this somewhat disappointing end (in which the Avalanche finished 3-5-2 and likely would have made the playoffs if they hadn't thrown up in the big games) there remain an extraordinary number of positives that exist for next year.

My year-end thoughts:

-The best part about this season was Gabriel Landeskog. As the likely Calder winner, Landeskog led all rookies in points and was a dynamic, physical force on the Avalanche's top line for most of the season. He also led the team in shots and hits, and it appears that the Avs hit a home run with their #2 pick.

-Ryan O'Reilly is probably my favorite story of the season. He started the year as the third line center and gradually climbed the depth chart (with Landeskog) to become the Avalanche's top line guy. His emergence allowed for Matt Duchene's shift to wing (more on that later), and even though he sputtered down the stretch, I don't think that this is the ceiling for the likely future captain.

-It has been reported that Joe Sacco will be returning next season. I'm actually fine with this. A lot of people will point to the fact that the Avs have missed the playoffs for two consecutive years (for the first time ever) and that in every year of Sacco's tenure, they have been awful in the last month of the season. But here's the other truth. In every offseason thus far, Sacco has been given a ton of new players to work with. He's had to figure out endless line combinations and manage a ridiculous amount of injuries. Now, Greg Sherman appears to have finalized his core group. Let's give Sacco a chance to work with a stable group that he really should know by now.

-Will Matt Duchene play wing next season? I think that's where he's going to start. His chemistry with Stastny wasn't brilliant this year, but let's face it, neither of them were, in general. On the whole, Duchene took a step back in his play in 2012. A lot of that was due to injury. But he needs to start figuring out his game next year. He still plays with the puck too much and often doesn't make the simple play when its needed.

-Bravo to Greg Sherman. His moves to acquire Varlamov, McGinn, and Downie were all wins. I'm ready to give him the benefit of the doubt on his moves in the future. In Sherman We Trust.

-For the first time in over a decade, Captain Milan Hejduk didn't reach 20 goals. Is this the end for the Duke? Looks like it. One of my favorite Avs ever, and there's no doubt that his number will hang in the  Pepsi Center one day. After Hejduk and Foote, expect the jersey retirements to be over for a long time.

-A ton of decisions to make on defense in the offseason. Johnson, Hejda, and O'Byrne are my only sure-things as to who will be back on the blueline. I have to believe Hunwick (despite a really nice final couple months) will be gone, and sadly, it might be time to part with one of Wilson and O'Brien. Room needs to be made for Barrie, Elliott, and eventually Siemens and Gaunce.

-Even though this blog wasn't as active, I was still showing my hockey fandom on Twitter, as well as The Hockey Writers. Give both a click and a follow.

-Thanks for reading, and be sure to follow for playoff predictions and free agent/draft coverage.

Until October... - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Friday, March 30, 2012

NHL's New "Because It's The Cup" Commercials Stink

While you're mourning the fact that the Avalanche likely won't be in the postseason in 2012, take a look at my newest article for The Hockey Writers by clicking HERE. Sorry, folks. But by the looks of those commercials, I'm almost happy that the Avs don't have to make that part of their legacy. - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Saturday, March 17, 2012

I Am In New York

The Avs are taking on the Eastern Conference leading New York Rangers today, and I am in town to finally see my first game of the year. (Spring break came at an opportune time!)

To get into the playoffs, the Avs need to keep winning, as every bubble team in the West has apparently become unbeatable.

With Phoenix having the night off, a win in tonight's game will allow Colorado to move up to the seventh spot in the West.

Go Avs! - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Monday, February 27, 2012

Daniel Winnik and T.J. Galiardi to San Jose for Jamie McGinn and Prospects

This post, written by yours truly, also appears at The Hockey Writers

The 2012 trade deadline was more a trade dudline (how many times have you heard that one) but the Avalanche managed to be involved in one of the bigger transactions of the day.

Colorado shipped forward Daniel Winnik and T.J. Galiardi, along with a 7th round pick in the 2012 draft to San Jose for forward Jamie McGinn, and prospects Michael Sgarbossa and Mike Connolly.

Though it may feel like a hard hit (Winnik was a fan favorite and Galiardi's twitter account had many of us in stitches), GM Greg Sherman did make the Avalanche a better team through this deal.

Dater does a nice job breaking it down, but let's take one more quick look at the deal:

McGinn is having a breakout year of sorts and should fit in nicely to the third line. I'll let the fans at "Fear the Fin" do the talking on the pickup:

Hits really f(******) hard, and has good offensive skills. Can produce on power play as well as 5 on 5. He’s not very good defensively but he may improve. He’s been the bright spot on our trash third line this season…his behindthenet stats aren’t that impressive but I honestly think that’s more of a reflection of how bad Handzus and Mitchell are. RFA at the end of the season but he shouldn’t cost you guys that much going forward. [FtF]

Sad to see McGinn go. It seemed he had his nose in the game nearly every shift. His passing was much improved lately and he really had his head in the game and seeing the ice. I don’t think this one is going to go over too well in the locker room. [FtF]

I feel like Ginner was one of our core guys… not in the traditional sense of top 6, but moreso in what he brought to the ice and the consistent effort he put out every night to get the other guys back into the game. For a team whose chemistry already looks to be struggling, I wonder if this will be good in the end. We shall see. [FtF]
So it appears as though the Avs got a guy who is great in the locker room, brings a consistently physical game to the rink every night, and can score a few goals (12 this season) every now and then, or at least as many as many as Galiardi (8) and Winnik (5). He sounds like a classic Avalanche player (except for the physical part, perhaps?) and, along with Steve Downie, automatically will make the Avs tougher to play against.

As for the prospects, it seems that the Avalanche did well in that regard, too.

Mike Connolly has spent the 2011-12 season in the American Hockey League. He spent the previous three seasons as one of the top players in the WCHA as a member of University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. He helped lead the team to an NCAA Championship in 2011. Hockey's Future has him pegged as a one-day borderline second-line forward in the NHL.

The more intriguing piece is Michael Sgarbossa, a 19-year-old left winger currently playing in the Ontario Hockey League. And when I say playing, I mean playing. He's tearing up the OHL, having scored 41 goals and 39 assists in in 54 games for the Sudbury Wolves this season. Hockey's Future has him rated slightly lower than Connolly, but he seems to be an exciting player that definitely has a chance at making an impact with the Avalanche one day.

Overall, a lot of credit needs to go to Greg Sherman in shaping this team. Yeah, I was pretty pissed about Downie, but in the short term, at least, he's been nothing but a positive. Sherman has managed to stop the team with some legitimate top-6 players (Duchene, Stastny, O'Reilly, Landeskog, Mueller, Hejduk, Downie), a gritty (and potentially very effective) third line (Olver, McGinn, Jones) and a serviceable fourth line (McClement, Kobasew, McLeod/Porter).

The Avalanche sit two points back of the 8th spot. With 19 games to go, a consistent month of hockey will be enough for the Avs to make the playoffs and gain some valuable experience for the future.

Today will help realize that goal.

Go Avs. - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Avs Trade Quincey for Steve Downie

Welcome your newest Av, he of 53 career goals (252 games) and 638 career penalty minutes. He comes at the expense of one of Colorado's most reliable defensemen, Kyle Quincey, who has been having a solid bounce back campaign in 2011-12.

For a team that is in DIRE need of top six forwards (specifically, a winger that can put the puck into the net), Colorado didn't exactly fill the need with Steve Downie. Downie, 24, has 12 goals and 16 assists in 55 games this season, along with 121 penalty minutes.

His best season came in 2009-10, when he scored 22 goals and was a +14 for the Lightning.

It's a puzzling move for the Avalanche. Rumors have been swirling about Philadelphia's James Van Riemsdyk and Columbus' Jeff Carter, both of whom would have given the Avs the goal scorer they so desperately desire.

Downie, on the other hand, is really nothing more than another second or third liner to throw into the system. Listed as a center, Downie has spent a lot of time playing on the wing, and on the plus side, isn't afraid to get dirty and throw his body around.

But it's still mystifying that the Avalanche used Quincey, one of the most valuable trade commodities on the team, to land a player that will likely not make any more of an impact than 10-15 goals a season.

Downie, like Quincey, will be a restricted free agent after this season.

Well this changes things. Sort of.

We all know that the Avs lack a first round pick this year. We all know that first round picks can be quite valuable.

Apparently, Kyle Quincey = a first round pick. But the Avalanche only were able to come up with Kyle Quincey = Steve Downie. Steve Downie < first round pick.

The Avs got crappy value from this deal, a trend in the Sherman era of GMing.

More later. - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Jones Should Stay

This article, written by yours truly, originally appeared on The Hockey Writers.

With the NHL trade deadline just two weeks away, it's time for teams to decide whether they will be "buyers" or "sellers" on February 27th. For some teams - Columbus, Carolina, Edmonton - no pending free agent or grizzled veteran is safe. These players could be attractive options for the buyers - think New York, Boston, Detroit, Vancouver - who may believe that they are just one piece away from hoisting Lord Stanley this June.

Other teams, however, are in a state of limbo. This is where the Avalanche fit in. Currently one point out of the eight spot in the West, the Avalanche is in a dog fight with at least four other teams for the final spot. If Greg Sherman and crew believes that this team has what it takes to secure that spot and possibly even make a deep playoff run, then we should see the Avs holding on to their assets and perhaps even going out and landing a top 9 forward. If, on the other hand, the team does not believe this group is going anywhere, certain players become available

Enter: Adrian Dater.

Last Monday, the Avalanche beat writer penned a blog post in which he speculated that David Jones, Shane O'Brien, and Kyle Quincey could all be on their way out of Colorado by the deadline. Puck Daddy also got in on the fun last week, naming Quincey as one of the seven most intriguing defensemen to look at on trade day.

Listen, folks. Getting rid of any of these guys is a bad idea - unless there is player of equal value coming back. However, as much as Avalanche fans enjoy Shane O'Brien's toughness and leadership and Kyle Quincey's guts and potential, the Avs have a ton of defenseman on the verge of making the team next season (Barrie, Gaunce, Siemens), so getting rid of a veteran defenseman or two to make room certainly makes sense.

David Jones, on the other hand? I'm not so sure. Let's take a closer look:

Dater makes a lot of good and completely valid points about David Jones. He's had a sub par season, not to mention the fact that he's an unrestricted free agent this summer. As Dater notes,
The Avs need to get something for him if they don’t plan to re-sign him. It’ll be just bad management if they don’t.
I'm not sure if Jones reads his press, but in the two games since these rumors began, Jones has two goals and three assists in two Avalanche victories. There's no doubt that he's been ineffective this season - terrible at times, even. But Jones is still just 27, and his twelve goals are still good enough to tie him for fifth on the team.

It's not as though his supporting cast is doing any better, either. Very few goal scorers are remarkable by themselves. Jones has played much of the year with Paul Stastny (on his way to a second straight disappointing season) and Jay McClement (not exactly an offensive juggernaut). Yes, Jones must be held accountable for his play, but fans tend to blame lackluster results on the player rather than looking at the broader situation. No one is arguing that Jones is an elite NHL goal scorer. But he's certainly a serviceable one. (Check out his snipe from Tuesday's game against the Blackhawks, below).

Furthermore, the bigger issue that the Avs are facing is depth. It's no secret that the Avalanche hasn't been strong on the wings in a long while. Currently, the top four consists of three mainstays: the soon-to-be-gone Milan Hejduk, oft-injured, but effective Peter Mueller, and the promising Gabriel Landeskog. The fourth winger? A mix of Jones, TJ Galiardi, and Chuck Kobasew. Not exactly an All Star ensemble.

Sure, this problem may be addressed when Matt Duchene, who transformed from center to winger earlier this season, returns, but does that mean Duchene's days as an NHL center are already over?

Finally, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that in two weeks, the Avalanche's playoff hopes will still be alive. Given that the team has no first round pick this season, it's playoffs or nothing for the fans. If the Washington Capitals go up to the draft podium with a top ten pick, I don't think it's outside the realm of possibility that Greg Sherman's days in Colorado could be numbered. That said, given that the team is within striking distance, I don't see how Avalanche management could justify shipping one of its leading, albeit most inconsistent, goal scorers away, especially when he finally appears to be heating up.

Jones is still young and is still capable of providing important secondary scoring for the Avalanche. If he is to be traded, a similar player needs to be headed to Colorado. Otherwise, this season may be going to the dumps. - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

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