Colorado Avalanche: 2014-2015 Risers and Fallers
Colorado Avalanche: 2014-2015 Risers and Fallers
Year after year, we see change happen before our eyes. Some of it is good, and some of it is bad. Whether good or bad, we must adapt to these changes in order to not just survive, but to thrive so we can live our lives to the fullest. How an individual deals with change varies, but mostly, we all rely on our what we know, our instincts. The more we know about something, the less risk there is, and the better we can make calculated decisions. And in this case, calculated predictions.
With that in mind, in the coming weeks I’ll be taking a look at each NHL team featuring 10 of its players. Are they destined to rise or destined to fall? Your questions will be answered below.
C Matt Duchene (rising): If there is any player that one would consider the face of the Colorado Avalanche franchise, it would be Matt Duchene. Matt Duchene, a Brampton, Ontario-native had a fantastic year in 2013-2014, posting 70 points (23 goals, 47 assists) to lead the Avalanche in team scoring. Duchene, 23, will enter the magical fourth year next season, a year historically many players have broken out and have reached new heights. He’s an offensive catalyst, and will undoubtedly attempt to give his all at leading the Avs to another go at the Stanley Cup. In 2014-2015, look for Duchene to break the 80-point plateau all as long as he can remain healthy.
C Ryan O’Reilly (neutral): When looking back in 2009 for the Avalanche, it’s not the people’s memories return to, it is the draft, when they selected Matt Duchene but even more, Ryan O’Reilly. The Clinton, Ontario-native has exceeded all expectations what to expect from a 2nd round pick. Few become NHL regular; let alone leading their team in goals (28). O’Reilly, 23, is expected to centre the Avs 2nd line, with Paul Stastny opting to sign with St. Louis. With Iginla in, I think he benefits O’Reilly more than Stastny did, as it means he’s guaranteed to skate with one of either Jarome Iginla, or Nathan MacKinnon. After posting career highs in goals, and points (64), it’d be nice to think he improves again but because of his all-round play he’s subject to penalty kill responsibilities (1:09 PK / game) and other defensive assignments, it’s something I think we will see more of next season with even more fire power added to the Avs arsenal in 2014-2015. Expect a similar output (60-65 points) from O’Reilly.
LW Gabriel Landeskog (neutral): The former 2013 2nd overall pick broke out in a big way, scoring 65 points (26 goals and 39 assists) over the course of the year – 14 points than he had in his rookie season. The Stockholm, Sweden-native is a big body with skill and has a knack for scoring and creating traffic in scoring areas – an essential for any top 6. Landeskog, 21, is in a good situation to succeed with pivots Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly feeding him pucks. He is one of the best young power forwards in the game and only getting better, but how high his offensive ceiling has always been of question. He’s certainly got the resources around him to improve, but before he does (if ever), expect another 60-65 point season from the Avalanche Captain.
LW Alex Tanguay (rising): Last season, was not one to remember for the Sainte-Justine, Quebec-native. On November 2nd, he injured his knee only playing 16 games scoring 11 points in the sample. On February 22nd, he decided to undergo knee surgery that put his campaign to a stop. Tanguay, 35, may be on the latter of his career, but like many old players in their mid-late thirties, the players still playing base their game on skill, so they down burn out as players who base it on physical attributes, like speed or strength. If Tanguay can make a healthy recovery, a 50-point season is reasonable on the Av’s 2nd line.
RW Jarome Iginla (neutral): Not re-signing with the Bruins might be thought as a bad thing for Iginla, but whether the signing is a downgrade for him or not is up in the air. Since 2000, Iginla has not scored less than 30 goals and 60 points. Iginla, 37, will have an opportunity to skate on a line featuring Matt Duchene, or Ryan O’Reilly – both great setup men to have pucks dished from. For the 2014-2015 season, look for a repeat season from the legendary winger.
RW Nathan MacKinnon (rising): The 2013 1st overall draft pick, tore up his first NHL season – scoring 63 points in 82 games – finishing with 29 points more than the next highest of his draft peers, Sean Monahan and Valeri Nichushkin. MacKinnon, 19, had a better season than expected, but showed he could not only handle it, but dominate, even against league veterans. A moment that often comes to mind was when he pushed Mikko Koivu off the puck then out-hustled him to score an empty netter when the Avalanche and the Wild met in the playoffs last year. MacKinnon started off the season slow, but turned in on the second half of the season, which leads me to believe he can beat out the infamous sophomore slump. In 2014-2015, look for MacKinnon to score 70-75 points.
RW Daniel Briere (falling): Briere is one heck of a hockey player, and the Avs obviously felt the same to trade, trading veteran P.A. Parenteau as well as relieving cap space down the road. Briere, 36, wasn’t acquired to score, but rather provide a veteran presence and chip in here and there. Last year, the Gatineau, Quebec-native, scored 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) over 69 games. In 2014-2015, Briere will look to centre the Avs 3rd line, and a good shot at seeing an uptick in production. A 35-40 season is not out of reach for the former all-star.
D Erik Johnson (neutral): The former 1st overall draft pick has hasn’t exactly lived up to his status, with the likes of Jonathan Toews and Phil Kessel to only be picked after him the same draft. But prior to last season, Sakic told Johnson not to worry about that, and to just focus on getting ready for the upcoming year. And guess what? It helped. The Bloomington, Minnesota-native tied his career high in points (39), 4 seasons after he set it in 2011. After a career-year, Johnson will be excited to have finally gotten his career back on track and continue his success but will be challenged by youngster Tyson Barrie for power play minutes. Working with one of the best offensive cores in the NHL, look for the two to share the lion’s share of production, and for Johnson to put together another 35-40 point season.
D Tyson Barrie (rising): In 2013-2014, Barrie finally found his way on to the big club, playing 64 games, and scoring 38 points. It has never been Barrie’s inability to contribute on the offense, but rather the defensive side. At 5 foot 10, he’s a little small for a NHL defenseman, but has grown a lot jumping up and down between the Avs and Lake Erie Monsters, the past couple seasons. By the end of last year, Barrie proved he was better in the lineup than not, to the coach, and the management who opted to not re-sign Andre Benoit; a move that says a lot of about Barrie’s growing presence. Barrie, 23, who was on pace for just under 50 points had he played a full season, may see his point per game take a bit of a tumble, but overall, the talented blue-liner’s stock is rising.
G Semyon Varlamov (falling): Not even marital problems could ruin his focus. After subpar performances in his first couple seasons with the Avs, Varlamov had a season to remember, leading all NHL goalies in wins with 41. To go along with he only had 14 losses, 6 over time losses, a 2.41 GAA, .927 SV% and 2 shutouts – an impressive record nonetheless. Coming off his best season by far, it’s natural to think he will slip a bit and that he shall, but it won’t be a big drop. Look for another great season from Varlamov, but not quite the one he had in 2013-2014.