|Jarome Iginla -RW||Paul Stastny – C|
|Danny Briere – C/RW||P.A Parenteau – RW|
|Brad Stuart – D||Andre Benoit – D|
|Jesse Winchester – C||Matt Hunwick – D|
|Zach Redmond – D|
|Ben Street – C|
The Colorado Avalanche had a season to remember in 2013-14. After finishing with the league’s second worst record in the lockout shortened season, they played to a 52 win season which won the Central Division and placed them third overall in the NHL. Moving up 26 spots is impressive, but expectations heading into 2014-15 are at an all-time high.
They lost Paul Stastny in Free Agency to St. Louis, but they have their top-4 scorers (Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly and Nathan MacKinnon) from last season all returning. The most impressive thing about those four, is they are all 23-years-old or younger with an average age of 21.25. With Stastny departing, they lose 60 points (25G / 35A) in 71 games. How do you replace that production? Simple. You bring in Jarome Iginla. Iggy scored 30 goals last season, that is only the 12th time he has scored at least 30… No big deal. The Avs also dealt P.A Parenteau to Montreal for veteran forward and big-game star Daniel Briere. Parenteau’s relationship with head coach Patrick Roy never got off of the ground, so they bring in a low-maintainace forward who brings with him a wealth of experience and leadership–exactly what a young squad needs.
I mean, you have to love what the Avalanche are doing here. They have an awesome year, they realize they have an abundance of young talent and how do you keep those guys on track? Veteran leadership. Sure Iginla is 37-years-old, but he is still an elite goal scorer and you can not state how valuable it is to have a player like that in your locker room. They will also enjoy the return of 34-year-old Alex Tanguay, who missed 66 games last year with a knee injury, that later developed into a hip ailment.
The Avalanche were a terrible possession team last year (47.4 CF% – 25th) and with the group of D-men they have you would think that would have been a problem. On paper their blueline looks mediocre, but they defied the odds last season. Former first overall pick Erik Johnson finally put together a good season. This guys had disappointed through five seasons, but last year posted career-highs in assists (30), points (39), plus/minus (plus-5), shooting percentage (5.7%) and was sixth on the team in hits (136) and second in blocked shots (130). As their top blueliner they need more of that from the 26-year-old in 2014-15. Jan Hejda, 36, will likely line up with Johnson again, but won’t be a huge fantasy contributor. They brought in veteran Brad Stuart from San Jose, but his offensive game is gone at this point in his career, but Tyson Barrie’s is just getting underway. Barrie, 23, missed 18 games, but still posted 13 goals and 25 assists (38 points), which was one behind Johnson and tied him with Mike Green for 28th in the NHL among D-men. Heading into his third full season, Barrie should be the Avalanche’s points leader on the back-end.
I said that their blueline defied the odds last season, but was it the D-men or Semyon Varlamov’s great season that covered up for the team’s consistent lack of possession? He posted the league’s third best SV% (.927) and led the NHL in wins (41). On average he was being drafted in the 15th round last season, making him one of fantasy hockey’s biggest steals. This season, he will rank in the top-10 among goalies and get drafted in the 3rd and 4th round (12 team league). His back-up is 27 year-old Reto Berra who posted a 3.07 GAA and .893 SV% in his first NHL season between Calgary and Colorado and will not challenge Varly for starts unless he implodes or runs into more trouble with the law.
Look to the Draft (Ranking Avalanche Fantasy Players)
- Matt Duchene – C
- Nathan MacKinnon – C/RW
- Semyon Varlamov – G
- Gabriel Landeskog – LW
- Jarome Iginla – RW
- Ryan O’Reilly – RW
- Tyson Barrie – D
- Erik Johnson – D
- Alex Tanguay – LW
- Jamie McGinn – LW
- Nick Holden – D
- Danny Briere – RW
Click HERE for the Avs’ potential line combinations heading into the 2014-15 season.
Season prediction: Despite improving as a team, the Avs find themselves in the NHL’s hardest division and finish 4th in the Central and 6th overall in the Western Conference.