Short introduction is do here, my name is Evan Hicks, I currently live in Kansas City, Missouri.  I grew up in St Louis, die hard hockey fan and baseball.  As the Quebec Nordiques moved to Denver, i started paying attention.  At the time I was young and watching the NHL expand at the time.  I started noticing guys like Peter Forsberg, Joe Sakic, and Adam Foote.  Then came the trade that officially made the Avalanche one of my favorite teams.  With Patrick Roy coming from Montreal.  I immediately fell in love with this team because of their skill, class, and tenacity.  As the years roll by and every player off of the original team finally retired, I see this team needs some work, luck, and leadership.

courtesy Elsa/getty images

The keys to this season is the acquisitions made this year and last trade deadline.  Obviously my teams I love and root for were both involved in one major trade, the ramifications of which will be felt for years to come.  

  • The Avalanche traded bored and sputtering Chris Stewart, super frosh Kevin Shattenkirk, and a conditional 2nd rd pick for hopefully their franchise defenseman Erik Johnson, penalty killing Jay McClement, and a conditional 1st rd pick.
  • In the offseason they made another big trade for injury prone Semyon Varlamov and gave the Washington Capitals a 1st rd pick for his services
  • They also went after reclamation project Jiggy Giguere.

The biggest issue last season was there just awful goaltending.  Between Peter Budaj, Brian Elliot, Craig Anderson and so on.  The Avs were just atrocious last year.  Over the offseason they definitely upgraded their situation with Varly and signing Giguere.  The Defense did not exactly help the situation.  The big trade made with the St Louis Blues has not really panned out quite yet.  Erik Johnson still continued to struggle to find his game.  Jay McClement was not the same player he was with the Blues.  On the other side of the trade, Chris Stewart seemed reinvigorated by a change of scenery, and Kevin Shattenkirk was still playing at a high level.

So far this season I would give this team a C+, by looking at the box scores until my NHL center ice package kicks in.  The first game seemed a bit rough.  The arch rival Detroit Red Wings out shot (39-29, out scored (3-0), and shut out the Avs.  Just by the box score we can break down that the Defense did not have a good game.  Almost 40 shots were allowed to get to Varlamov.  The other deduction we can make is that Varlamov stood on his head allowing only 2 goals.  Franzen’s goal was something that I don’t think any goalie would save it was just a bullet to the only spot Varly could not get to.  Zetterberg’s one timer was a result of a defensive breakdown.

The second game of the season went a little bit better as the Avs shutout the reigning champ Boston Bruins 1-0.  Old reliable Milan Hejduk scored the only goal of the game as the Avs outscored the B’s 36-30.  What comes out of this game is the fact that the D got a little bit better.  Varly still stood on his head yet again.  Varly as the season goes on will be the lynch pin that either makes the team improved, playoff worthy, or a disaster once again.

Other keys to a successful season will be leadership.  The Avs elected to not name a captain for this season which I felt was interesting.  Instead they went three deep with three Alternate Captains.  Those with A’s are Hejduk, Statsny, and Johnson.  Without naming a captain it makes me wonder what is going on in the locker room.  It could mean that there is a split in the room or it could mean that management wants to wait to see how this season plays out.  Statsny last year had some trade fodder so it is understandable that he still gets an A but does not get the C.  This club is very thorough on who they want to wear the C.  With the likes of Sakic, Foote, and Peter Statsny most notably, they do not want to just hand it out.  Another thing that makes me wonder why they would not give it to their newly acquired Erik Johnson, is maybe they want to evaluate how he does this year wearing the A.  Reasons why I think Hejduk does not get the C is I feel they do not want a repeat of Adam Foote, only wearing the C for a limited time.  I also feel like Hejduk does not shot enough emotion on the ice and I am not in the locker room to make the other determination.

The way these three players handle their business on and off the ice is going to be crucial as to whether or not this team can make it.  Hejduk and Statsny I believe are the heart and sole of this team right now.  I still think Johnson still needs to mature a bit.  Johnson needs to prove he can handle the pressure of truly playing in a hockey town.  Granted the Denver media is not as intense as our Canadian counterparts but as the Avs history was and will once again be, the fans, media (local and worldwide) will have a watchful eye over the leadership, players and management.

Be sure to follow the @thehockeyhouse on twitter and any questions get at me as well @evanhickskc

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