The Avalanche surprised a lot of people by squeaking into the playoffs in a tough Western conference this past season. While much of the credit went to goaltender Craig Anderson, the offence more than held it’s own, lightning the lamp 244 times, good for 4th in the conference.
Paul Stastny was the catalyst, leading the team with 79 points, and if he stays healthy is a legitimate option as a #1 fantasy centre. Top draft choice Matt Duchene had a solid if unspectacular rookie campaign (55 points) and should fight for a permanent spot on fantasy rosters next season.
The big surprise, however, was right winger Chris Stewart. He notched only one goal in his first 20 games, but finished the year with a team leading 28 markers. He also threw in 73 PIMS for a very solid fantasy performance. I wouldn’t expect a big improvement next year, but 70 points isn’t impossible.
The only other forward with significant fantasy value is Peter Mueller, who notched 20 points in 15 games after a change of scenery trade from the Coyotes. Don’t expect him to keep up that pace, but he should be a valuable commodity thanks to his dual position eligibility.
Others like TJ Galiardi, Brandon Yip, Ryan O’Reilly and even the old man Milan Hejduk added secondary scoring and even saw time on the top line with Stastny. The younger kids likely will hit slumps but there is a plethora of talent just waiting to hit its potential.
Unlike up front, there isn’t much to get excited about on the Avs back end, at least when it comes to fantasy.
John-Michael Liles is a solid option after posting 31 points (20 PPP) in only 59 games to go along with a -2 rating. This should only go up as the young Avs continue to improve.
At the other end of the spectrum is a guy to stay away from – Kyle Quincey. He was a hot pick up last season when he recorded 15 points in hist first 28 games. After that, he only showed up on the scoresheet 14 times in his final 51 games, making him a borderline useless fantasy option.
Since I don’t have any more players to talk about, I will simply advise that if you are playing in a league where you are only allowed to choose players born in Indiana, Liles should be penciled in as your top pick.
Both players found the doghouse numerous times throughout the season as the Avs had more reliable defensemen in their lineup. Towards the end of the year, Kyle Cumiskey seemed to shoulder some of the offensive load and could be a potential steal following his 20 points in only 61 games.
After posting solid numbers as Vokoun’s back-up in Florida for 3 years, Craig Anderson was snatched up by Colorado and given the number one job. He responded with a stellar fantasy season, posting 7 shutouts and .917 SV%. However, he did struggle down the stretch, going 9-13-2 following the Olympic Break. I think we can give him a pass considering his previous career-high was 27 starts; expect his conditioning to be much better next season.
On the Bench:
Sacco knew what type of players he liked to coach and made no problem using a very young lineup. The former coach of the Erie Lake Monsters played ten of his former players and did it with excellent results. In his two years coaching in the AHL he never even made the playoffs, so leading one of the league’s youngest teams to the show should definitely be a plus.
He likes to mix his players in with Stastny which is good and bad to fantasy owners. The one constant was gluing Stewart to the top right wing position– which paid dividends.
The Bottom Line:
Personally, I was very surprised at how well the Avalanche performed this season, thanks largely in part to the contributions of Duchene and Stewart. I can’t think of any reason why this won’t happen again next season.
The Avs scorers should have every opportunity to rack up the stats against their divisional opponents from Alberta. However, some outside reinforcements would have been nice to shore up both the forward and defensive depth.
The Avalanche have plenty of cap space to play with so some in-season moves could be made depending on where the team finds itself in the standings.