Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pool Outlook for Colorado

I don't think there was a club in the NHL that was any unluckier than the Colorado Avalanche in 2009. The team was constantly hit with injuries to their top players, which not only affected the team in the NHL standings, it would have affected the poolies that entrusted their pool teams with players like Joe Sakic and Paul Statsny. Well, looking ahead, the team has the #3 pick in the entry draft and they have plenty of gaps to fill. Let's see how bad it was and is.

Two players topped the list for the Avalanche in 2009... at 59 points. Milan Hejduk and Ryan Smyth, both had sub-par years, bouncing back from injury-plagued years of their own. With no one to really help out these wingers, they couldn't manage to create a lot of their own offense to make up for the losses of their key centres. This downturn in production was a big contributor to the Avs poor result in the standings, without a doubt.

Other key forwards taking a dive this season were Wojtek Wolski, Marek Svatos and Darcy Tucker. You would normally look at Colorado and think that you could get some solid points from them, but it just wasn't going to be that season at all. All three of those key forwards dropped in the pool rankings and have really lost some respect going forward for next season's draft. There isn't many sufficient answers to questions like, "will they rebound in 2010?"

On defense, John-Michael Liles led the team in scoring, (39 points in 75 GP), which ranked him 226th in the league for pool points, which ranked him 29th among defenders. That certainly isn't anything to sneeze at when drafting your blueliners. Liles should rank a little better, but injuries have been a problem for him over the past couple years, so that may downgrade his overall value. Ruslan Salei and Brett Clark had some off-seasons as well offensively, but they remain to have reasonable point potential heading into next season. If you pick them at last season's value, you may get yourself a bargain.

In goal, it was a tough season. Between Peter Budaj and Andrew Raycroft, the goaltending only had 32 wins between them and when you split that up, it doesn't do any pool team good. Neither goaltender is signed on for next season, which you'll see in the outlook below, so there will be a lot of questions with the Avalanche going forward.

2010 Season Outlook
As you may care to notice already, the Avalanche have so many questions to answer and holes to fill. If injuries are not a problem with the team next season, the youthful core of the team should be able to rebound from a horrible year and hope can be renewed. There is also another question as to whether or not Joe Sakic will make a triumphant return to the team, a mild return or a return at all.

Milan HejdukJohn-Michael Liles
Ryan SmythRuslan Salei
Wojtek WolskiBrett Clark
Paul StatsnyScott Hannan
Marek SvatosAdam Foote
T.J. Hensick
Chris Stewart
Darcy Tucker

As you can see above, the Avalanche have 8 forwards and 5 defenders ready to go for next season, which looks okay. They have a current cap hit of $43.6 million, which should leave them open to picking up a brand new number one goalie and a number of depth players, leaving just enough room for the possible return of Sakic. The team should know relatively soon, whether or not Sakic will come back, so they will know how much they have to spend in the off-season.

Leading the list of RFA's for the Avalanche this summer is Peter Budaj, Cody McLeod, David Jones and Cody McCormick, most of whom will likely be welcomed back right away into the fold. Budaj may be fortunate to return, but I have a feeling that the team will be looking to outsource their goaltending needs to a new, fresh face.

The team also has a pile of UFA's to sort through, deciding on whether or not they'll get an offer before July 1st. Andrew Raycroft, Tyler Arnason, Ben Guite and Daniel Tjarnqvist are just a few of the names that need answers soon.

The Avalanche are quite high on forward T.J. Galiardi, who did finish the season with the big club, playing in 11 games and scoring 3 goals. It shouldn't come as a surprise if you see him in uniform come October. He may even make a good push for a sleeper pick in some drafts, if you are looking for one. Two NCAA players, Kevin Shattenkirk and Ryan Stoa, will get the call to camp, but Stoa is the only one signed, so far, to start playing. Both players have high expectations offensively, but will likely get some seasoning in the AHL before making the big jump.

As a fantasy player, you cannot really predict injuries, which was the biggest hurdle any fantasy team had to jump with staying with the Avalanche in 2009. The number of Avs taken next year will likely be really low thanks to the poor season. Worthy players to take a risk on, however, will remain the same in Paul Statsny, Milan Hejduk and John-Michael Liles. Those three players can be taken higher than they were ranked or you can hope they are still available come their value from last season, if not longer. Otherwise, I wouldn't suggest getting to crazy with picking Avalanche players right now, unless they can make some significant moves in the off-season to really dress up their team.

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