Time for the third of my annual Scouting the Central series, a look at the Central Division team-by-team, what they have done (or not done) to improve themselves (or not) in the offseason starting at the bottom of the division, we’ve done the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks, time for a rapidly developing rival for Pred Nation… the Colorado Avalanche
– 38-30-14 – 90 points, good for 5th in the Central Division and 8th in the Western Conference, capturing the second Wild Card spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs where they took down the top Western seed before falling to the San Jose Sharks in the second round.
Key stat from last season
– 261 – That’s the number of points posted by one of the best lines in the league, Nathan MacKinnon (41g, 58a) Mikko Rantanen (31g, 56a) and Gabriel Landeskog (34g, 41a). There was not a more potent offensive force in the league.
- D Tyson Barrie, F Alexander Kefoot, D Carl Soderberg, F Gabriel Bourque, F Sven Adrighetto
- F Nazem Kadri, F Joonas Donskoi, F Andre Burakovsky, D P.E. Bellemare, F Valeri Nichushkin, D Kevin Cannauton.
The BIG Question
- How does this team transition from contender to favorite? This team now knows how to get to the playoffs consistently and after losing in the first round two season’s ago, then last year’s first round win over Calgary... they took the next step in learning how to win in the playoffs. But, like many small, fast teams in the NHL, they are looking to add size to get to the next level… that is a delicate balancing act.
- Colorado is finding its way as a perennial playoff team. They added a lot of new pieces to what was a solid core group… but, like Nashville… were the pieces given up worth what was acquired? The Av’s seem to want to add a little snarl, a little bite to their speed game and adding a Nazem Kadri and an Andre Burakovsky will do that. The offseason moves they made seem a little like a roll of the dice and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Av’s take a small step back this season as they find a chemistry with the new additions to this team. That phenomenal top line will continue to fill the net, extending Sam Girard was a good move and will look like a steal in a few season (think Roman Josi’s deal) but their defense may be a little weaker unless a prospect can really step up to help with the loss of Tyson Barrie.
Best Case/Worst Case
- The best case scenario is that these Av’s make the next step and seriously contend for a division title… worst case for this team is that they take a small step back in regular season performance and recover just in time to speak into the playoffs.
- After so many years of mediocrity, Colorado seems to be on the doorstep of getting back to being a Western Conference power. They paid a very high price for Nazem Kadri, the question with Kadri is how he will perform… sometimes I think that he is a bit overrated just because he played in Toronto for so long. The biggest thing that Colorado needs to figure out is secondary scoring to augment that lethal top line. Unfortunately, they traded Barrie who was a main offensive contributor from the blueline. The other issue in Colorado is in net, Philipp Grubauer is the man between the pipes in the Mile High City, but behind his is a long string of questions marks… don’t be surprised if Colorado signs an additional netminder with NHL experience… they need it.
This will be a critical year in the development of this version of the Colorado Avalanche… and it could go either way.
Next up, the Dallas Stars
Random Notes – Presented by Cool Springs Wines and Spirits
- The rookie tournament is in full swing at Ford Ice Center and there have been some very good hockey games over the weekend. The tournament concludes with two games tomorrow.
- Saturday’s game one for the Baby Preds had Eeli Tolvanen get the game winner (you will see a theme develop here) as Nashville took down Tampa Bay 4-1. Other goal scorers for Nashville were Anthony Richard, Adam Smith and Rem Pitlick.
- Sunday saw the Preds taking on the Washington Capital who had taken down Carolina on Saturday… a very close, up-and-down affair got a little bit chippy as there were quite a few scrums throughout the game, Nashville came back from deficits of 1-0, and 2-1 to push the game to overtime. In the extra session it was … you guessed it… Eeli Tolvanen scoring the game winner two minutes in.
- Eeli Tolvanen had a lot of folks talking as his all around game has shown dramatic improvement. He was throwing the body a bit, showing a bit of vinegar in his game and really seemed to be at right place at the right time. If he can show that in training camp, he will definitely push for a spot on opening night.
- Other players who impressed over the first two games were Rem Pitlick, who showed great wheels, great finish and a chemistry with Tolvanan that needs to be watched. Jeremy Davies, a defensive prospect has broken out in this camp… plenty of folks talking about his game. He could be a diamond in the rough discovery for the Preds blueline pipeline.
- While there were plenty of other players to discuss, one that stuck out to me was goaltender Connor Ingram. He started the game against Tampa and completely stymied the Lightning… I could understand his motivation as Tampa gave up on him as a prospect… but the play continued against Washington. More than a few observers said that they see Ingram pushing for a starter’s role in Milwaukee… and perhaps more.
- The Preds take on the Carolina Hurricanes prospects tomorrow at Ford Ice Center, puck drop at 1pm. The Lightning and Capitals will play at 10am.
SlapShot Radio will be back for our 12th season as Zack, Brent and I will be moving the show to Monday night’s this year. The best hour of hockey talk on the longest running hockey show in the southeast will begin the season at 8pm and will settle into our normal 7pm slot after Thanksgiving… Monday’s on 102.5 the Game.
Our sponsor list continues to grow. Not only are we welcoming back Drs. Jane Bacon and Aileen Kruger at Hermitage Family and Cosmetic Dentistry
… make your appointment at (615) 872-7762 and Patrick J. Brown’s Farmer Insurance Agency in Mt. Juliet… I switched to them a few years back and their service has been incredible! Give Pat and his team a call at 615-288-2086. And of course… don’t forget our good friend Carter Church! Your Mufreesboro real estate expert with Weichert – The Andrews Group. And our newest sponsor… Cool Springs Wines and Spirits
! The largest spirit store in all of middle Tennessee! And now we also add the good folks at La-Z-Boy! Locally owned and operated, check out La-Z-Boy!
The new season promises to be the best yet and we get going on September 23rd.
KINDLE USERS: Please subscribe to Predators Buzz, a one-stop feed for all things Predators-related on HockeyBuzz. Your subscription includes a free 14-day trial and is just 99 cents per month thereafter. For more information, click here