30 Teams in 30 Days: Colorado Avalanche

Jamie Bell, Staff

9/15/2010 12:19:37 PM

Join TSN in a 30 teams in 30 days tour of the NHL in preparation for the upcoming season. Teams will be unveiled in reverse order of the pre-season Power Rankings, and the Colorado Avalanche is up next. Get the lowdown on their off-season and the issues they face this season. Use the Your Call feature to give us your take on the Avs!

Colorado Avalanche
2009-10: 43-30-9 (8th in West, Eliminated in Conference QF by Sharks)
General Manager: Greg Sherman (2nd Season)
Head Coach: Joe Sacco (2nd Season)

What they did in the off-season:

Sadly for Avs fans it was not an off-season to remember. Considering how badly the team faded in the second half of the season after a hot start, acquiring Daniel Winnik and signing backup netminders John Grahame and Jason Bacashihua is not going to cut it. Veterans Stephane Yelle, Brian Willsie, Ruslan Salei, Brett Clark, Darcy Tucker and Marek Svatos were all jettisoned with no immediate replacement on the horizon. While re-signing franchise cornerstones Chris Stewart and Peter Mueller is a step in the right direction, the Avs seem destined to take a step backwards this season.

Biggest issue facing the team:

While many pundits predicted that the Avs would circle the drain last season, the team was a very pleasant surprise in the early going and hovered near the top of the NHL standings over the first two months. A great deal of credit went to free agent signing Craig Anderson who looked like the second coming of Jacques Plante during the first half of the season, giving confidence to a very young and talented group of players getting their first sniff of life in the big leagues. By March he appeared to have hit a wall after appearing in twice as many games as he had in any other season. The Avs will have to do a better job this season managing his minutes or else they could well be on the outside looking in come playoff time.

In addition the team has to hope that last year's "super rookies" (Matt Duchene, T.J. Galliardi, Ryan O'Reilly, Ryan Wilson and Brandon Yip) can build on their phenomenal freshmen campaigns. Should this group suffer the dreaded sophomore slump, then the Avs could be dead in the water.

Player to watch:

After leading all NHL rookies with 24 goals and 55 points, it will be interesting to see what Matt Duchene can do for an encore. Most pre-season predictions expected John Tavares to run away with the Calder Trophy; however it was Duchene who proved to be the top offensive freshman in the league last season, although he ended up finishing third in rookie of the year balloting behind Sabres' blueliner Tyler Myers and Red Wings' keeper Jimmy Howard. Duchene is an offensive stud in the making, and he is fortunate enough that most teams will focus on attempting to stop Paul Stastny first, allowing him more freedom on the ice. Winning appears to be in Duchene's blood, and the Avs will be relying on him heavily this season. Bet on him taking the next step in his career and entering the conversation as one of the truly elite players in the league.

For additional analysis, be sure to read Scott Cullen's fantasy take.