The Colorado Avalanche enters the 2012-2013 campaign as the youngest team in the NHL, with the average age on the roster being 25.6 years old. Only five of the team’s 22 players are 30 or older. In fact, not only are the Avalanche the youngest team in the league but they’re also the most inexperienced. The current roster has the lowest combined total of regular season games in the league and rank 24th overall in playoff games with only 413 between the group and 112 of those games come from Milan Hedjuk. Some fans believe this will mean a down year for the team. And while a bit more experience certainly couldn’t hurt, there are still plenty of reasons for those who bleed burgundy and blue to be optimistic this season.
Avalanche fans have many reasons for optimism this season. First of all, the Avalanche are absolutely oozing with talent and depth up the middle. With a roster of Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny, Ryan O’Reilly and Jay Mcclement, the Avs are one of the deepest teams at center in the entire NHL, and they add an extremely dangerous lineup of wingers to compliment the centers. The always reliable Milan Hedjuk opens up his second season as captain hoping to raise his goal totals from last year. David Jones is always a consistent 20-goal scorer and last year’s Calder trophy winner Gabriel Landeskog is back with a year of experience under his belt and looking to again lead the team in goals. And the Avs added both skill and grit by adding Steve Downie and Jamie Mcginn who both produced very well after coming to the Avs at the trading deadline.
The Avalanche has a young but skilled defense core. What they lack in experience they should make up for in size and speed. Five of the seven blue-liners are over six feet tall and only one is less than two hundred pounds. Last season Erik Johnson led all Avalanche defensemen in points, assists, shots on goal, and ice time. The Avs both rewarded and invested in Erik Johnson by signing him to a four-year, 15 million dollar contract. Right now Johnson is a very good defenseman. For the Avs to play into May and June this year he needs to be become the great defenseman that the St. Louis Blues believed him to be when they invested a 1rst overall pick in him in 2006. After being named an alternate captain last season Johnson is ready to take the next step being both a leader and an elite NHL defenseman.
If the burgundy and blue can get consistent goaltending this season they will be a player in the western conference come playoff time. At age 24, Semyon Varlamov has an enormous upside. If he can continually make solid and steady starts, the Avs will finally have their true number one net-minder that they’ve searched for since Patrick Roy retired in 2003. With Jean-Sébastien Giguère providing quality backup play between the pipes and mentoring Varlamov, the Avalanche hope that that will prove to be a winning goaltending tandem. The pressure of his first season as a starting goaltender is passed and he should be able to cement his role as the team’s number one goaltender.
Last season the Avalanche actually improved despite finishing 11th in the conference. They jumped up three spots in the standings and went from 68 to 88 points, just seven points out of a playoff spot. With so few off-season changes, the current roster has now had a year to come together and develop chemistry. The Colorado faithful hope that combination of progress and a good team dynamic will translate to a playoff berth in the ultra competitive western conference. With young, strong legs upfront, a talented and bruising blue line, and a solid goaltending combination, the Avalanche look to be a factor in the western conference playoff picture.