Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Northwest Preview: The City-State

Colorado Avalanche
2005-06 record: 43-30-9 overall (7th in West)
16-12-4 vs Northwest (2nd in division)
4-3-1 vs Oilers

(These don’t reflect actual lines so much as who can expect to see the most time at each position.)

Andrew Brunette / Joe Sakic / Milan Hejduk
Anti Laaksonen / Tyler Arnason / Marek Svatos
Wojtek Wolski / Brett McLean / Ian Laperriere
Brad May / Brad Richardson / Mark Rycroft
Matt Murley, Cody McCormick, Pierre Turgeon (injured)

JM Liles / Ken Klee
Karlis Skratins / Patrice Brisebois
Ossi Vaananen / Brett Clark
Kurt Sauer, Jordan Leopold (injured)

Jose Theodore
Peter Budaj

Notable Additions: Jordan Leopold, Tyler Arnason, Wojtek Wolski (rookie), Ken Klee
Notable Subtractions: Rob Blake, Alex Tanguay

Outlook: I may not know what, exactly, “Colorado” is, but I do know that this doesn’t look like a good year for Mudville. If you thought the Avs were weak last year, look up and down this roster. Reminds me most of the Oilers in the late ’90s: one clearly good forward line (there's is better than ours was), a whole lot of bottom-of-the-roster pluggers and a second line by committee. Wolski (underneath Laaksonen only because of his rookie status) will be given a full shot, and if he can be as talented as his 6pts/9gms performance before being sent down last year, the Avs are considerably more dynamic, but the bottom two lines are still as weak as most any you’d care to point out (unless Arnason produces more than his career-average 40 points, and Turgeon has the same year he did, despite his injury, and Laperriere has the same year he did, despite that being double anything else he’s ever done in the NHL—ahem).

Their D, especially with Leopold (who will basically just take over Rob Blake’s role, though he'll probably score less), is eminently capable of moving the puck, but soft (Liles played less minutes per game than Patrice Brisebois, which gives you some indication of his defensive ineptitude), and though Klee will help Skratins with some tougher minutes, the guy is 35. Jose Theodor
e will cold have to be the all-star he was for one year, and if he isn’t, this doesn’t look like a team that will win a shooting war (they had league-average goaltending last year and were seventh, and they have less offence this year sans Tanguay). Even if Theodore regains form, I don’t know if this team has enough in front of him to stack up to the rest of the NW. Even with Jose at his best, they’re basically Vancouver with a worse goalie.

Against the Oil: If the Oilers can’t manhandle this team, who can we manhandle? It very much looks like that if you can even just match Sakic, Hejduk and Svatos, the obvious dominance by lines 2-4 will take care of the rest (Brunette gives them a little depth, but he’s shown to be about 10pts worse when he has to play against top-level defence). The Avs will probably be quite good on the powerplay, helped by the fact they have four D (Leopold, Liles, Brisebois and Clark) capable of good powerplay minutes (they sure don’t have enough forwards to spare one on the blueline for either of their units). They’ll probably be dangerous in the shootout, too, depending on Theodore. But play even half the game in their end, and barring Theodore competing for the Vezina this year, this team will get eaten alive. I would be thoroughly shocked to see them outplay us like they did early last year, and if there’s anyone in the division we have the potential to go undefeated against, it has to the Avs, who need much too much to go right to compete in our division. With a shaky Theodore, I don’t even think they’d be sitting all that pretty in the Central.

Prediction: Oil will go 5-1-2 against the Avs, but Colorado will be in the playoff hunt come March thanks to a bunch of extra points from the shootout. Fifth in the Northwest if Theodore sucks, third, tops, if he’s good again, unless absolutely everything goes right for this team.


Dan-O-Mite said...

Hmmm, Colorado looks surprisingly not "the suck" right now. Or maybe Dallas is just terrible. Two goals for Colorado in 46 seconds though.

And we all know that the first 15 minutes of the first game define the season.

mike w said...

Dallas is doing all of the sucking from the looks of it. Ah, it's good to be watching hockey again (even in ten minutes spurts away from doing school work)!

namflashback said...

oh, Colorado's exceptional rookie line of Svatos, Wolski, Stasny got nary a sniff of icetime as Dallas woke up in the third period.

The bad part -- is both goalies were pretty darn good.

As much as I hate Dallas, Colorado dropping a lead and a point is better for the Oil.

RiversQ said...

If that PP ends up being any good it has absolutely nothing to do with those four dmen mentioned. Between the four of them, I have PPP/hr rates for 11 seasons at the ready and only one of them was above 4.0. That was Clark's last year in just 200min of PP time and he has absolutely zero track record on the PP. A bunch of mediocre PP dmen are not going to help much.

(Aside: No surprise to me about Leopold because I've looked at his numbers before, but I was a little surprised by Liles. I guess he's from the MAB school - great at generating ES offense, but pretty average on the PP. Not what I would've expected.)

pete said...

Brunette gives them a little depth, but he’s shown to be about 10pts worse when he has to play against top-level defence

And this will be a factor when he's playing the Oilers how?

I mean, goilers.

Pleasure Motors said...

Fair enough, rivers, though I guess I was just assuming that it was beneficial to have four warm bodies who did some offence last year, because I don't think the Avs are going to want to go to battle with Ian Laperriere with their cannon from the right point.

Vic Ferrari said...

Nice review. They look to have some decent players on the defense and Theodore will probably bounce back at least somewhat. But this line of yours sums it up pretty well.

"It very much looks like that if you can even just match Sakic, Hejduk and Svatos, the obvious dominance by lines 2-4 will take care of the rest."

Last night it was Brunette up there with Sakic/Hejduk, and that's a helluva line. But really there is very little after that. Q ran them against Modano's line a lot last night, and pretty consistently the Av's rookie line the shift after Modo left the ice. I suspect he'll do that a lot this year, because I don't think there are any good alternatives.

From the Oilers POV, you expect the Sykora line to kick ass and take numbers playing against the Wolski and Svatos types. But I dunno, I guess the memory of the playoffs is keeping my optimism in check, seeing the Samsonov/Stoll/Hemmer line generate buggerall with the lion's share of shifts against Goc, game after game ... it's sobering.

Vic Ferrari said...
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