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Off-Season Game Plan - Colorado Avalanche Written by habsfan93 - June 16th, 2009

Colorado had the dubious privilege of finishing last in the league this year, but they celebrated that feat by watching the future of the team, Quebec of the ICHF, win the ICHF Championship. Good things are coming in Colorado. Let's take a look at what's possible this offseason for Colorado.


Colorado has a number of veterans on long-term contracts who will be returning for next season. Marco Sturm had a great year and was a finalist for the Lady Byng Award. He'll continue to be counted on in a leadership capacity. Chris Gratton, Chris Neil and Darcy Tucker played to their abilities and should also return to provide veteran guidance for this young team. A number of youngsters are also under contract and will be returning including Tomas Plihal, Alex Burrows, Robert Nilsson, and Fedor Fedorov.

Although there weren't a lot of them, this season did have a few highlights for fans in Colorado. Andrew Ladd emerged as a leading power forward in the league, as he nearly doubled his best offensive season and put up 45 assists and 61 points to lead the Avalanche offence. Ladd is a Restricted Free Agent this summer, and Colorado's #1 priority has to be to lock him up on a long-term contract. Coming off a career year though, he is going to demand top dollar.

Alexei Ponikarovsky, who along with Ladd was also a member of last year's Cup winning Islanders team, is also an RFA this year. He put up a respectable 40-point season and should be priority #2 for the Avalanche at forward. If the Avalanche can pick up a top center to put between these two next season, Poni could be in for a career year.

Trent Whitfield, Chad Kilger and Jason Ward make up the remainder of the Season 5 squad, and all three are Unrestricted Free Agents this summer. Kilger has already announced that he plans to leave the game, which frees up almost 2 million in cap space for the Avalanche. Jason Ward is a serviceable 4th line forward, but a similar player could be brought in off the free agent market at a much lower price. Trent Whitfield had a dissapointing year and should not be resigned given the talent on the farm ready to go.

The Avalanche have several forwards that played on the ICHF Championship team that are ready to go in the CMHL. Among them, Brandon Dubinsky and James Sheppard at center as well as Mason Raymond at LW are itching for their shot, but none of them is #1 line material. Given that Dubinsky is comfortable at LW, it may make sense to move him there depending on who's available in the free agent market. However, all three of these players should see themselves on the Avalanche roster, or at the very least, that of another CMHL team.

Additional options for the team are that if they are willing to pay the money, Alex Burrows could definitely benefit from an NHL rerate. That would turn him from a 3rd/4th liner into a 2nd liner and greatly improve the offence of the team. The team is also heavy on wingers - if a #1 C can not be acquired via free agency, a trade should be engineered in which one or two wingers are moved out for a center.



Defense is probably the weak spot on this team. Colorado traded all their veteran dmen at the deadline and are now left with a small core of inexperienced guys. The Avalanche could use one if not two experienced, veteran dmen to guide the youngsters towards becoming better players. GM sentinel20 should be on the lookout for cheap veteran dmen looking for somewhere to finish off their careers.

Turning to who they do have, the core of the defense is youngsters Shaone Morrisson, Noah Welch, and Mark Fistric, who are all under contract for next season. A number of other players were given 15 game tryouts at the end of the season, to fill the gaps left at the deadline. Prospect Yann Sauve performed admirably but will need at least another season or two in the minors before being ready. Kevin Klein and Andy Greene showed that they were ready for full-time CMHL jobs and are both strong options. Greene is an RFA this summer and should definitely be resigned. Finally, Nolan Baumgartner is on his last legs and is a UFA this summer - he should not be resigned as there will almost certainly be better options available on the open market.

Robert Scuderi spent the year on the farm, and although saddled with a fairly large contract, is exactly the type of player who could come up and be a regular next year. This year should be his last as a minor league defenceman. Ville Koistinen had a terrific year in the minors and should battle Klein and Greene for a spot.



Jose Theodore had by far the worst year of his career as goalie of the Avalanche this season, but that was expected given the team in front of him. Theodore is a UFA this summer and he did himself no favours this season. That said, given that he could be willing to sign at a steep discount and that the FA market for goalies is going to be very dry this summer (Backstrom and Giguere are the only other impending UFAs and its widely expected that both will resign with their former clubs), it may be a very good move to sign Theodore on a 1 or 2 year contract to tide them over until something better comes up or Jacob Markstrom is ready to go.

Dany Sabourin did a respectable job as the backup this year to Theodore. Sabourin is an RFA and should definitely be resigned unless the Avalanche think they can do better on the open market.

The prospect pool is very shallow until you get to Jacob Markstrom. However, Markstrom is likely 3-4 years away at minimum given that goalies progress slowly - it could be a long haul for Colorado at this position unless they can find a way to improve quickly.


Although they finished last in the league, Colorado traded away their 2009 first round pick at the draft last summer in a series of trades which eventually led to them getting the first rounder they actually own, Dallas 1st pick - not such a great series of trades in retrospect. Nevertheless, Colorado will pick 16th this year, where they should have a pretty decent shot at getting a good prospect. Given the information above, I think that Colorado should take the best player available regardless of position. At this stage of the rebuilding process, depth everywhere is needed.

After the first round, Colorado holds a lot of later round picks including 2 2nds, 2 3rds, 5 4ths, 4 5ths, 4 6ths, and 5 7ths. Since the draft is basically a lottery after the 1st round anyways, every pick helps and sentinel20 has done a great job of adding depth in this manner.


Offseason Priorities

1) Get a #1 center

2) Resign Thedore or find another #1 goalie

3) Acquire a veteran defenceman or two


Projected Season 6 Lineup (based on current roster)

Sturm - Dubinsky - Ladd

Ponikarovsky - Gratton - Tucker

Raymond - Sheppard - Burrows

Nilsson/Fedorov - Plihal - Neil


Fistric - Morrisson

Welch - Scuderi





Submit A Comment -
Great work in disecting his needs, and suggestions for his future... I hope that you are able to write a simular article for everyone, or at the very least for the Wild. :D Marc Written By: Matsson (2009-06-21 13:34:36)

Hey great article Matty, this was a very good read especially since I a finally starting to plan for the upcoming year,starting with the draft.

Written By: Aaron (2009-06-23 21:45:22)

Thanks guys! I will try to do a few more for sure, but I definitely won't be able to do all the teams.

Written By: habsfan93 (2009-06-28 07:10:29)

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