2007-’08 Record: 44-31-7 = 95 pts (2nd in Northwest Division, 6th in Western Conference)
Playoffs: Beat Minnesota in 1st round and lost to Detroit in 2nd round.
In: Darcy Tucker, Andrew Raycroft
Out: Andrew Brunette, Jose Theodore, Jeff “Leaf Fans Will Soon be Giving Me The” Finger
Say it Ain’t So, Burnaby Joe
The big issue this off-season was whether the seemingly ageless Joe Sakic, the face of the franchise, would return for a 20th regular season campaign. The question lingered until the last week of August, when Sakic announced that he would be rejoining the club (thus relegating Aaron Rodgers to the back-up center position.) Sakic managed nearly a point per game when healthy last year (40 in 44) and there’s no reason to expect a drop-off assuming he hasn’t lost his quick wrist-shot release.
The Avs didn’t have a pick in this year’s draft until the second round, where they used the 50th pick to select defenseman Cameron Guance (Mississauga OHL). Don’t expect any ’08 selections to make an impact this season. Similarly, the net effect of the team’s additions and subtractions via free agency should not be overly significant.Which is not to say that this club should not be able to improve on last year’s performance, which was significantly affected by injuries to key players.
The Avs, throughout their history, have never lacked offensive firepower, and this year’s club is no exception. The re-signing of Wojtek Wolski and Marek Svatos, both to two-year deals, along with the pick-up of Tucker, ensures that the Avs shouldn’t have trouble scoring goals.
Last season, the team was slowed down for much of the regular season by injuries to Sakic, sophomore superstar Paul Stastny, Ryan Smyth, and Svatos, all of whom missed significant time. A new bill of health will do wonders for the team’s offensive output, and the loss of Andrew Brunette should weigh heavily as his skills have tapered off over the past couple seasons.
And of course, an Avs preview wouldn’t be an Avs preview without at least a passing reference to the status of one P. Forsberg. So here it is: He’s hurt, he can’t seem to get better, and he probably isn’t coming back. The end.
Little has changed on the back-end. John-Michael Liles and Ruslan Salei should provide some capable offensive punch on the power-play, while Scott Hannan, Jordan Leopold, and Brett Clark will be needed to be at their defensive bests to help out a less-than stellar goaltender.
With the departure of Alvin and Simon’s friend Jose Theodore, the starter’s job is Peter Budaj’s to lose. And he’ll have to be pretty bad if he’s going to lose it, since Andrew Raycroft has not, since his rookie season, showed that he’s fully qualified to be an everyday netminder (then again, anyone playing in front of the Leafs’ shoddy D would have trouble)
Ceiling: 7th in West
Floor 13th in West.
The goaltending situation is a major concern, but I still think they can make a push for the playoffs….but only a push.