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...

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