After missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season, the Colorado Avalanche perhaps surprisingly kept their roster mostly intact this past summer; though they did make one big change which is expected to impact their on-ice fortunes. Jared Bednar replaces Patrick Roy behind the bench and is being counted on to implement a system better-suited for the talent on hand and one that can compete in the tough Central Division. But as Terry Frei of The Denver Post argues, by sticking with this core group of players, making the playoffs isn’t going to be good enough for the Avalanche.
By virtue of the expensive long-term contracts doled out over the last couple of seasons to Semyon Varlamov, Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie and Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado has demonstrated an immense amount of faith that this group can guide the franchise to Stanley Cup contention, opines Frei. Those six players account for nearly half of Colorado’s cap commitments in the 2016-17 campaign and perhaps more importantly, all remain under contract to the Avalanche for at least the next three seasons. If this group underachieves yet again, it could make it that much tougher for GM Joe Sakic to receive fair value for these players in potential trade talks. Consequently, since his ability to spend on free agents will be restricted as well, it might be difficult moving forward to drastically change or augment the Avalanche roster.
More from the Central Division:
- The Blues are 3 – 0 following their 3 – 2 win over the New York Rangers Saturday night but the victory could prove costly. Centers Kyle Brodziak, Jori Lehtera along with defenseman Carl Gunnarsson all left last night’s tilt with injuries and did not return, notes Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The exact nature and severity of the injuries are not known at this point and as Rutherford points out, with a day off today more information may not be available until Monday. Playing with 10 forwards and five defenseman for the entire third frame last night, the Blues hung on despite being outshot by the Rangers 15 – 0 in the period. With Petteri Lindbohm available in the minors, St. Louis is likely better-equipped to cover for the loss of Gunnarsson than they would be if both Lehtera and Brodziak were to miss extensive time.
- Another Central Division team that’s had to deal with injuries in the early going is Dallas. Veteran forward Ales Hemsky has battled a groin issue and won’t be available for the first week or so of the season. Center Cody Eakin is expected to be out into November with a knee problem while Mattias Janmark’s season could be in jeopardy following knee surgery. With that much forward talent on the sideline, it would have been understandable if GM Jim Nill reacted by acquiring a veteran player or two, whether via trade or waivers, to buoy the team’s depth. But as Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News writes, Nill prepared his roster this summer by inking the likes of Adam Cracknell, Jiri Hudler and later, Lauri Korpikoski. Cracknell was expected to provide insurance at the AHL level but has been pressed into service early and has responded with a goal and an assist through two games. Korpiksoki had the final year of his deal bought out by Edmonton and failed to convert a training camp PTO into a roster spot with Calgary. The Stars inked Korpikoski, who has been criticized for his poor performance in the puck possession department, to a one-year deal which has already paid off for Dallas. The Finnish forward has already tallied a goal and is a plus-two so far this season. It appears as if Nill’s savvy, low-risk moves have a good chance of keeping the Stars ship afloat until reinforcements arrive in the form of Hemsky and Eakin.