NHL season previews often sell you an impressive bill of goods before you realize, at the end of the season, you're holding an empty box. Which makes using advertisements and infomercials the appropriate template for Puck Daddy's 2009-10 NHL Season Previews, presented each day throughout September.
Last Season's Ad Copy: Fifteenth in the Western Conference and fifth in the Northwest Division (32-45-5, 69 pts.). Good enough to get their name pulled for the third overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft. It was a disaster of a season that concluded with an off-season of much change that signaled a new beginning.
An entire new regime is in the front office, led by Greg Sherman, an inexperienced general manager who hired inexperienced head coach Joe Sacco to run the show. Couple that with the retirement of the team's heart and soul, Joe Sakic(notes), after two decades with the franchise and the trade of co-leading scorer Ryan Smyth(notes) to the Los Angeles Kings, and you've got yourself a team entering a new era.
There is hope in Colorado though, however little it might be at the moment. First-round draft pick Matt Duchene(notes) brings the promise that a Duchene-Paul Stastny(notes) combo as the team's top two centermen will at least hover near (not match or exceed) the production levels Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg(notes) provided years ago.
As the Avalanche transition into a new era, there's further remodeling to be done with eight players entering the final year of their contracts, including leading scorer Milan Hejduk(notes) and youngster Marek Svatos(notes). Could this season's trade deadline be Sherman's opportunity to unload veterans and re-stock the cupboard?
Latest Gadgets (Offseason Additions): The biggest addition was the signing of goaltender Craig Anderson(notes) to a two-year deal to attempt to solve the team's goaltending issues that have been significant since Patrick Roy left. On the blue line, the Avalanche acquired both Kyle Quincey(notes) and Tom Preissing(notes) in the Ryan Smyth deal which should provide added depth to the defense corps.
To The Recycle Bin (Offseason Subtractions): The biggest blow will be the loss of Joe Sakic, but with him only playing 15 games last season, the players may already be used to his absence and therefore not feel like a huge hole in the lineup. Ryan Smyth and his bloated contract were dealt to Los Angeles which will affect the NHL's 25th ranked power-play. Fan favorite Ian Laperriere(notes) was not re-signed by the organization and left for Philadelphia. Finally, it may take a long time for the Avs to recover from the losses of Tyler Arnason(notes) and Andrew Raycroft(notes) (/snark).
The Pitchman (Top Offensive Player): Coming off a nightmare season that saw him play in only 45 games, Paul Stastny is hoping to rebound from a year in which he suffered a broken forearm and later a broken foot that kept him out for most of the season. Almost a year after signing a 5-year, $33 million contract, the 23-year old will be looked upon to become the team's new offensive leader with Joe Sakic and Ryan Smyth gone and Milan Hedjuk not getting any younger. Hedjuk, who was the Avs' leading scorer last season, is entering the last year of his deal and at 33-years old, could set himself up with a nice final contract in the NHL if he can keep producing for Colorado...or at least until they trade him at the deadline.
Introducing .... (Potential Breakout Player): The beacon of hope in Colorado currently rests on the shoulders of 18-year old, 3rd overall pick Matt Duchene. It's unknown at the moment if the young pivot will make the team or spend a year seasoning in with his OHL club in Brampton, but if Duchene should find himself on the roster, his speed could cause fits for opposing defensemen and playing against NHL caliber opposition would held his development along, no matter how poorly the team will do this season. Duchene also proved in his time with the Battalion that he's defensively responsible with a plus-34 increase from '07-08 to '08-09.
Operators Are Standing By (The Defensemen): It's a veteran group in Colorado led by Adam Foote(notes) and John-Michael Liles(notes), who will be joined by newbie's Kyle Quincey and Tom Preissing who were acquired in the Smyth deal. Quincey was a pleasant surprise for Los Angeles coming out of the Detroit system and should please the fans with his play. The blue line is rounded out by Scott Hannan(notes), Brett Clark(notes), and Ruslan Salei(notes) (minus-41 combined) who adds to a nice unit, but need to give Anderson better support in front of the net.
The Spokesmodel (The Goalies): Craig Anderson finally has his chance to prove he's a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL. Filling in for Tomas Vokoun(notes) in Florida last season, Anderson went 15-7-5 in 27 starts for the Panthers. He goes from the NHL's 10th best defense (2.72 GAA) to it's 5th worst (3.08 GAA). Backing up Anderson will be Peter Budaj(notes) who's yet to command the reigns as a starting goaltender in his four years in the NHL.
The Inventor (The Coach): A former coach in the Colorado system, Joe Sacco (not Sakic!) gets the job of turning around things around on a team in transition (Good luck). Considering Avs President Pierre Lacroix's first choice for head coach was Patrick Roy, how long of a leash does Sacco get if the greatest goaltender in franchise history should decide he's had enough of the junior game at any point in the new coach's tenure despite turning down an offer in May?
2009-10 Preseason Report Card:
Goaltending: C (Anderson an upgrade, but how will he do on full-time basis?)
Special Teams: D (Dreadful PP loses Smyth who contributed 10 goals with extra man)
Geoff from The Avslova Factor says ...
"After Joe Sakic Night, the ‘09-10 season will be about developing Matt Duchene, finding a place for Wojtek Wolski(notes), and discovering whether or not Joe Sacco has a little bit of Bob Hartley in him. In other words, there won't be any playoffs for Colorado this season, but there will be plenty of young players trying to make a name for themselves as Avalanche fans already begin to look ahead to 2010-11."
Shane from Avs Talk says ...
"Not much. And I don't mean that in a pithy, 'this team sucks' way but in a 'don't get your hopes up, sit back and enjoy the ride' way. The rebuild is on!"
Jibblescribbits says ...
"This Avs season will be most like Madonna's 80's hit 'Like a Virgin'. Like the song, this season will feel like a virgin experience for every aspect of the Avs (even if it's not really our first time). Management has a double dose of n00bness with a rookie GM Bob Sherman and the prospect of a rebuild for the first time since the franchise spoke primarily English. Joe Sacco has never coached at the NHL level, but there's no need to worry because he has rookie assistant Sylvain Lefebvre behind the bench with him, and rookie part-time goaltending coach Jocelyn Thibault(notes). On the ice the Avs have at least four rookies scheduled to start (Ryan Stoa, Matt Duchene, Chris Stewart(notes) and T.J. Galiardi(notes)) and there's certainly the prospect of quite a few more if there are any injuries.
"What better way to teach the kids than with a brand new Captain (Foote swears he didn't go all the way to captain with the Blue Jackets, and that's good enough for me). Fans are in uncharted water because this is the first time we've ever gone in with little hope of making the playoffs, which is rough (How Islanders fans do it year after year is beyond me). Even the Avs marketing department will have to do work for the first time since their previous marketing strategy of "Throw 4-5 Hall of famers on the ice and watch the money roll in" campaign has hit a snag. But this is a good thing, because next May, coincidentally 9 months from now, the Avs will hopefully be a team reborn."
Tapeleg from Jerseys and Hockey Love says (in haiku form!) ...
"Sakic out, Smyth gone
Who will captain sunken ship?
Light on horizon."
Don Draper Says ...
"Rebuilding is a glittering lure dancing below the surface of a tranquil pond, distracting enough to make you ignore the hook. If your customers are asking 'how,' then they're not asking 'when'. And if they're not asking 'when,' then they're thinking about Darcy Tucker(notes). And you don't want them thinking about Darcy Tucker, gentlemen."
Results May Vary (Biggest Issues Facing the Team): Like our friend Jibblescribbits said, the '09-10 season will be the first that Avs fans will not be expecting hockey in late-April and beyond. How the team approaches the rebuild is important in setting up for the future. While there's plenty of players on the roster who are aging, Colorado's lineup will also feature a number of youngsters who will grow with the organization in this period. Sherman and Lacroix need to follow their organizational plan to a ‘T' if this franchise is to reclaim the glory it had for so many years.
Warranty Expires (Prediction): Bottom of the Western Conference yet again, but depending on the progress of top pick Matt Duchene and what GM Greg Sherman can turn some of his expiring contract into, the Avs could make significant steps in the right direction. No one is expecting the Stanley Cup to return to the Pepsi Center this spring, but the new regime in charge of the Avs will have their hands full trying to win over a dedicated fan base if they're to prove that a light sits on the horizon.