The Competition: Colorado Avalanche
The post-draft, post-free-agent-frenzy lull has really set in. And since I am not in Calgary, and therefore am unable to attend prospect camp, I’ve decided to take a closer look at what’s happened in the Northwest Division this off-season … in other words, what the Flames will be up against in 2007-08.
A little early to do this? Maybe, but I get the feeling that Sheldon Souray signing in Edmonton was the last big Northwest move of the summer. And if anything does happen, well, nothing’s to stop me from writing a revision.
I’ll start with the team that looks clearly to have improved the most this off-season: the Colorado Avalanche. I’ll continue in what I see to be the NW order of finish this season … all chasing the Flames, who I (of course) am certain will finish first.
Potential 2007-08 Opening Day Roster
(Head coach: Joel Quenneville)
* Let me just say here, I am not an “expert” on any of these other teams, and have cobbled these rosters together from various lists, and the depth charts from my own observations. Experts, feel free to take me to town in the comments, and especially mention top prospects I’ve missed … I’ll write a recap post at the end of this thing to tie everything up. Anyway …
Joe Sakic, Ryan Smyth, Milan Hejduk, Paul Stastny, Wojtek Wolski, Andrew Brunette, Marek Svatos, Tyler Arnason, Ian Laperriere, Brad Richardson, Ben Guite, Scott Parker.
This is the strongest forward group in the conference, and Smyth is a obviously a great addition to the roster — in all likelihood playing on what could be called a “second” first line with Stastny and Hejduk. Brett McLean will be missed, and Scott Parker won’t play all 82 games, but I have plenty of respect for Laperriere, Richardson and Guite as energy players who can surprise and put the puck in the net now and again.
Marek Svatos had a horrible sophomore season. I covered Svatos as a hockey reporter when he was in junior, and I’ve always thought he was fantastic — he puts his head down and plays, has an eye for the net, never seems to let anything get to him. That seemed to disappear a little last year … but a team with leadership figures like Sakic and Smyth should be able to turn him back into the 40-goal scorer he was looking to become.
Scott Hannan, Jordan Leopold, John-Michael Liles, Brett Clark, Kurt Sauer, Karlis Skrastins, Jeff Finger.
Scott Hannan is a pretty similar player to Robyn Regehr — so Quenneville would be insane not to pair him with Jordan Leopold, as Regehr-Leopold was as solid a D-pair as you could find in the NHL for two years in Calgary. The quality and consistency on this group, though, gets a little iffy after that from what I can tell, and that’s not even taking Leopold’s frailty into consideration. Liles’s injury problems last year set him off track from becoming one of the game’s better young defencemen. Can he rebound? How good is Skrastins? Can Sauer play an effective 82 games in the NHL?
Peter Budaj, Jose Theodore.
This is the real question when it comes to the Avs. Like many, I think Theodore is done as an elite NHL goalie, so he’ll back up Budaj, who obviously made tremendous strides last season.
FLAMES BLOG SAYS
There wasn’t a Flames fan with a brain who wasn’t scared shitless by the Avs’ exceptional run at the end of last season, and Colorado’s done nothing but improve this off-season. I expect to see Paul Stastny and Wojtek Wolski only get better this year. In fact, this team has an embarrassment of riches, and almost no players I don’t like … Joe Sakic was a childhood hero, and there’s nothing not to like about Ryan Smyth. If it weren’t for those crappy colours, ugly logo and presence in this division, I’d love this team. That makes me angry.
Predicted finish: Second.
NEXT: Vancouver Canucks