The Colorado Avalanche are amassing a cold army for the winter ahead. GM Vince Gibbons breaks it down after a successful Dispersal Draft.
The Colorado Avalanche have been quiet for a few days after the frenzy that was the BEARD Hockey Dispersal Draft. With kids neglected and wives frustrated, a few days of recovery and family time were need for the Colorado brain trust to get things moving forward (my wife and I got drunk in mountains).
And the world rotates one more day.
Honestly it was a busy couple of weeks and hats off to everyone who pushed that draft along. It was some sort of battle. Trying to find a gem in the 42nd round was a challenge, but also made it fun. What we have now will more or less what we carry into the inaugural season, so let’s dig in.
Experienced coach Claude Julien will be tasked with bringing out the best in a pretty well-balanced roster. Dave “the rascal” Hakstol will be down on the farm and has spent weeks with Julien working towards playing the same systems, style, and creating a good development environment.
The team will have a pretty active defensive group that should enable a lot of rush chances. They also look like a solid puck possession team and absent any real superstars, the team will have balanced scoring all the way through the lineup.
Let’s have a look at how those lines may play out.
First Line: Keller - Backlund - Tkachuk
This line has a little bit of everything - speed and playmaking in Keller; grit, intangibles and goal scoring out of the league’s top pest in Tkachuk; and a reliable pivot in Backlund. This line will be hard to play against and should create match-up nightmares for opponents further down the line up. The "B-T-K line" as they are being called around here is at least mildly concerning, since that moniker is for a former serial killer who ran around the mid-west for decades. 5-on-5, this should generate plenty of opportunities with their intelligent play, Flames connection, and overall skill set.
Second Line: Tatar - Suzuki - Gourde
With a young up and coming dynamic offensive player in the middle in Suzuki, playing between two very well established pro’s, we have the "GST" line. For Canadians, it will remind them of a cringe worthy tax that came into effect 30 years ago that has never left. These guys will be counted on to put the puck in the net with speed and elite skill at all three forward positions. There is a real belief that these three could outscore the top line at 5-on-5; however, it will take some work for them to handle the big match ups. Gourde is perfectly suited for mentoring the youngest member of the line and Tatar should have no problem filling the net this year.
Third Line: Foligno - Eakin - Perry
When the games start to become a mid-season grind, a line like this is the grind within the grind. Every minute on the ice will be hard minute against them. All three pride themselves on the physicality, relentless pressure, and general assholery that will make them a nightmare to play against. Foligno and Perry have already put a few guys into the boards at practice, including a Zamboni driver that shouldn’t have been there...and a 12-year-old stick boy collecting pucks behind the net. This line keeps the entire roster honest about effort on a nightly basis and will chip in some big goals as the season moves along.
4th Line: Girgensons - Thompson - Kunin
This line provides two of the team’s top penalty killers and also provides a nice stable place for youngster Luke Kunin to cut his teeth. Avs management is a big fan of the kid and he will start with a couple of hard working veterans. Thompson is one of the top faceoff men in the league and will be out for every important defensive draw he can be.
First D-Pairing: Provorov & Keith
The king and the heir apparent it would seem. Ivan Provorov has outstanding offensive skill and is fully capable in his own zone. Matching him up with an established all-star is an ideal set up for the next couple of seasons. Sure, Duncan Keith can’t handle the minutes he once did, but his role is more complimentary in this pairing and his smart play should make this one of the top pairings in the league.
2nd D-Pairing: Girard & Sanheim
Two up-and-coming players with a lot of offensive potential in their game. Travis Sanheim has the size and Samuel Girard has the wheels. The pair will be constantly pushing the puck forward and supporting the offensive side of the game. There is a bit of a concern that this group might be vulnerable defensively, but Colorado has plenty of options should they need them.
3rd D-Pairing: Weegar, DeKeyser, and Holl
All three of these players have a well established their pro careers and will be looking to help the team win. Mack Weegar and Justin Holl should see time on the penalty kill and could get mixed and matched as the season moves along with Danny DeKeyser. All three are stable reliable defenders - something that is important to a well-balanced roster as the kids progress into elite defenders.
The Crease: Koskinen and McElhinney
Haunting Gibbons’ dreams is the crease of his franchise. What could be the Achilles heel of his well-constructed team, Gibbons may be in the thick of it with Mikko “hit me with a beach ball” Koskinen penciled in as the number one. It must be unnerving to know that the NHL Oiler is now part of what boyhood Flames fan Gibbons is trying to build now. But we will see how it goes. Curtis "Mac" McElhinney is a fine backup and should help encourage the current starter, even if he can’t really push him for starting time.