Today, the Avaanche were the featured team on NHL.com, for the “30 in 30″ preview the league does leading up to every season. (Which is really cruel, when you think about it. If the season actually starts on time, Harry Potter worked his best magic yet. So really, they’re just getting us all pumped up for nothing.)
Anyways, these features come with about four articles:
Here is a potential line-up projection: http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=639827
(While I believe the forwards look pretty accurate, I think they screwed up 3/4 defensive pairings. First off, Jan Hejda and Ryan O’Byrne are D partners. Clearly, NHL.com does not remember the -16 start Hejda and Johnson got off to when they were paired together. Erik Johnson seems to work best with Shane O’Brien, a player who might not score a lot of points but still presses offensively. With O’Brien, EJ is thrust into more offensive situations. They do need to work on their giveaway totals, but overall, this is the strongest pairing Johnson was in all season. Ryan Wilson and Stefan Elliott just work together. They played together for the first 5-10 games of Elliott’s career, and those were the games in which Elliott looked the most relaxed and produced the most points.)
Next up, a list of the top 10 Avalanche prospects: http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=639854
(I agree with this list. I would probably change the order a little bit, putting Barrie first, but at the end of the day, all 10 of these players show a lot of promise. I can’t wait to see them in the Burgundy and Blue.)
Our next story is about Duchene needing to rebound: http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=639831
(Gee, you think, NHL.com? I thought we wanted our third overall pick in 2009 to earn 28 points and only play in 58 games…oh wait how about he plays in about 80 and scores about 70-80 points? That sounds better, doesn’t it?)
The final article discusses the top six questions the Avalanche face this season:
For the record, here are my six questions:
1) Can Milan Hejduk regain his scoring form? Or will the captain once again find himself relegated to the fourth line? (Especially if he ends up playing on his off-wing?)
2) Will P.A. Parenteau prove that he can truly be a successful player-that he is more than a couple of strong seasons?
3) How will the penalty kill fare? (Also, will the Avalanche find themselves with such a severe deficit between time shorthanded and time with the man-advantage?)
4) Can Erik Johnson push himself past 30 points?
5) Will Ryan Wilson return to the form he showed before he sustained his concussion last year? Or will his physical style of play be limited like it was in the second half of the season?
6) What kind of sustained success will Jamie McGinn and Steve Downie have when they play in Colorado for a full season?
EJ Hradek predicted that the Avalanche will make the playoffs this season. The Hockey News predicted that the Avalanche will finish 14th in the Western Conference. While I myself have concerns, at the end of the day, I fall back on positive thinking.