NHL Team Preview 2015-16: Colorado Avalanche

The captain of the Colorado Avalanche gets his time in the spotlight and spends some time with a group of young hockey players. See how the 2011 2nd overall pick deals with going through the Sportsnet promo shoot.

After winning the Central Division and pushing the Minnesota Wild to seven games in the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Colorado Avalanche predictably regressed last season.

Even with the majority of the same roster, the team could not sustain their shooting percentage, and with injuries piling up, Colorado dropped to last place in the division.

The Avalanche lost one of their key players (Ryan O’Reilly) in the off-season, but believe they added enough depth to return to contention in 2015-16. They’re hoping last season was an anomaly.

Head coach: Patrick Roy
GM: Joe Sakic
Team payroll: $64 million against $71.4 million salary cap.

Last season record: 39-31-12
Goals for: 219
Goals against: 227
PP: 15.0 per cent (29th in the NHL)
PK: 84.6 per cent (5th in the NHL)
Corsi for per 60: 47.3 (via stats.hockeyanalysis.com)

Key acquisitions: Francois Beauchemin, Carl Soderberg, Blake Comeau, Mikhail Grigorenko, Nikita Zadorov, Brandon Gormley

Key departures: Ryan O’Reilly, Jan Hejda, Stefan Elliott, Daniel Briere

Rookies to Watch:
Mikko Rantanen: The Finnish winger is hoping to make an immediate jump to the NHL level. Since he’s already been playing at a professional level, the Avalanche have the option to send him to their minor-league affiliate in San Antonio, if they feel he needs more seasoning. Colorado selected the 6-foot-4 forward, ranked first among international skaters by the Central Scouting Bureau, with the 10th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.

Joey Hishon: NHL.com projects Hishon could become a regular Avalanche contributor by mid-season. The 23-year-old slick playmaker has brief NHL experience in spot duty.

Highlight of 2014-15

Alex Tanguay is getting up there in age, but he can still score a beauty goal now and again.

Pre-season positional letter grades

Not many teams have a core of talent up front that compares to Colorado. Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog are all outstanding young players who should improve this season. However, the rest of the top-six is a bit sketchy. Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay are both past their prime (although Iginla played pretty well last season) and it’s unclear how Carl Soderberg will perform in a new role. Blake Comeau was a nice depth addition. GRADE: B+

The unit is definitely improved. Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie got some help along the blueline with the addition of steady veteran Francois Beauchemin. As long as Colorado doesn’t ask too much out of the 35-year-old, he should help stabilize the group. Plus, adding Zadorov, an intriguing young talent acquired in the O’Reilly deal, was a logical move by GM Joe Sakic. Brandon Gormley was a surprising and welcome trade addition as well. GRADE: C+

This position has been one of the primary strengths of the Avalanche over the past two seasons. Semyon Varlamov will be the starter again after posting a strong 2014-15 campaign with a .921 save percentage and 2.56 goals-against average. There’s no reason to assume his play will drop-off. The backup options include Reto Berra and youngster Calvin Pickard. GRADE: B

The Avalanche will have a successful season if… they improve their puck possession, power play, and get more reliable play out of their defence corps. Nathan MacKinnon is poised for a monster campaign.

The Avalanche will have a disappointing season if… the team doesn’t adjust its style of play. Patrick Roy’s team has talent, but relying on unsustainable shooting percentages is no way to survive in the modern NHL.

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