Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Avalanche Re-sign Rycroft; Add Jillson, Purinton

The Avalanche continued filling up roster spots for their new AHL affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters, with the re-signing of Mark Rycroft and the additions of Jeff Jillson and Dale Purinton. Jillson and Purinton are both big d-men (6'3", 220+) who will likely make their way to the Monsters. Rycroft has a shot at sticking on the 4th line as an energy player since Parker is not likely to suit up for every game. However there's certainly no guarantee after some of the reports from the development camp.

NOTE: I unwittingley pilfered that headline from the Avalanche's announcement on their site. I'm not sure if there's a more succinct way to put that headline though so I ran with it. Crazy minds think alike.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Avalanche Re-sign Svatos

The Colorado Avalanche announced the re-signing of Marek Svatos to a one-year, $1.2M deal. That is a slight raise from what he received last year ($1.05M if I recall correctly) and some may say it's unjustified. After packing away 32 goals in his rookie season, tying Joe Sakic for team lead and placing him 3rd behind fellow rookies Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, he managed just 15 goals in a career-high 66 games.

So why the raise? Well it's hard to believe that a 32-goal-scoring rookie is destined for failure in the league. Locking him up for another season gives him a chance to show which year was the fluke - the 32 goals or the 15 goals. If it's the latter, then you can consider the investment unwise and get out. If it's the former, you've built a relationship with him and shown that you have confidence in him. It could very well be that this sign of confidence propels him out of the gate this coming season.

Which can't come soon enough if you ask me.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Numbers Game on Smyth and Hannan

Scott Cullen from TSN analyzed the recent signings of Ryan Smyth and Scott Hannan in one of his Numbers Games columns. If people haven't read Scott's columns before, he does an excellent job taking a fair and analytical approach to his articles. He's been in the business long enough that he likely doesn't even have a favorite team anymore. Which I'm sure is very useful to the business side of watching hockey but I wonder if he still gets real excited during games? I would miss that.

So on to business. With the Smyth signing, he's got nothing but praise. The only caveat, as is a caveat when signing any player long-term, is that his production may drop in the later years, sticking the Avalanche with a hefty contract. Not that they have any experience with that. Since the 2000-01 season his numbers have stayed pretty steady including having his second best season in both goals and points in 06-07. So I'm not concerned about his production at this point.

If he finds himself on the wing with Sakic and Brunette, he could certainly surpass those totals this coming season. I still personally think he'll be best on the wing with Stastny and Hejduk but time will tell. If you want to play him with Sakic, then put them on the PP unit together. Smyth can park himself in front of the goaltender and Joe can pick off the empty parts of the net while the goaltender becomes acquainted with Ryan's better side. The Avalanche already had the 4th-ranked PP in the league with a 21% conversion rate in 06-07. With Smyth, that number could approach 25%. Hey I can shoot for the moon, right?

Hannan, as we all know, is a shutdown defender and should relish that role in Colorado. He immediately becomes the #1 shutdown defender since there are no others on the team. With his PK experience, the Avalanche should improve on their 24th-ranked 80% PK rate. And if he pairs with Liles, it would be a great combo as they should compliment each other well. Of course, player combos are all conjecture until we see them in action but on paper it sounds (looks?) great.

So after reading and analyzing his analysis, one big thing these two signings accomplish is a large improvement on both special teams. So we've got PK and PP improvements, extra scoring punch, extra grit (I can't help using that word), and two of the finest mullets in the game. What more could we have asked for?

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Avalanche Sign Ryan Smyth

Ryan Smyth signed with the Colorado Avalanche today to a 5-year, 31.25 million dollar contract. This is obviously a huge signing for the Avalanche as I think everyone can agree that Ryan Smyth is one of the grittiest players in the league. Although I've had issues with his style of play in the past, his hard work far outweighs the few brain cramps he has had. It will also fill out one of the revolving door LW spots on the 1st or 2nd lines for the Avalanche.

Last season, Wolski tended to be on LW most of the time with Sakic and Brunette while the LW spot on the Stastny-Hejduk line was filled by Brett McLean towards the end of the season and many others throughout the first 2/3 of the season. I can see Wolski picking up his play and sticking on the 1st line. And it appears that is what Q desires as he was fairly lenient with leaving Wolski on that line. Which would leave Smyth playing with Stastny and Hejduk on the "2nd" line. Would that not be be one of the most potent combos of offensive and defensive ability on any line in the NHL? And I answer myself...yes. Hell yes.

The other reason this is huge is that he is a possible guy to take over if Joe Sakic ever does the unthinkable (you know, that thing which shall not be spoken of). He has shown the ability to lead a team in the past both with Team Canada and Edmonton. Let's be honest, he was the true leader of the Oilers over the last couple years. If someone can name me a game where they recall saying "Boy, what is wrong with Smyth? He's just not trying tonight.", then I'll give you a cookie. With chocolate chips and peanuts. And raisins if you desire.

EDIT: In another tidbit to add to this, Smyth signed for less money to play in Colorado than he was offered by the Isles and Habs. Both teams were in the 6.5 per year range. Going to the US over Canada will likely save him more than enough in taxes to make up for it though (as Mr. McGuire noted as he got the inevitable last word in)

Avalanche Sign Scott Hannan

The Colorado Avalanche have signed Scott Hannan to a 4-year, 18 million dollar deal. This signing comes with a bit less shock as he has been heavily rumoured to head this way for the past week. Most of that rumouring came from Mr. Eklund who was batting well above .500 today on his e4 rumours. He was batting so well that I had a few posts ready to go based on his rumours.

With Scott Hannan they have added some excellent grit to the line up. Grit is my word for the day and the Avalanche are in sore need of it. I gave a fair bit of analysis on Hannan yesterday so I don't know if I can add much more than speculating on what his role will be with the Avalanche. And it shouldn't be too hard. Or will it? He is definitely going to be a shut-down defender and I could easily see him lining up with Liles or Leopold on the top line. But let's see if we can nail down all the pairings.

Clark and Skrastins will likely stay together again which leaves Liles, Leopold, Hannan and Sauer up for pairing. Or possibly Jeff Finger in place of Sauer. Now you wouldn't likely put Liles and Leopold, two offensively minded d-men, together except possibly on the powerplay. And you wouldn't pair Hannan with your 3rd line guy (Sauer or Finger). Since in my, and many others, opinion Leopold is more responsible than Liles you would want to put Hannan with Liles to form a good compliment.

But then that leaves Leopold pairing with Sauer or Finger on the third line. And I think now we can see where the dilemma lies. You've got 5 guys capable of playing in the top-4, but no clear cut 1-2 pairing. So one of those 5 top-4 players could see themselves getting limited ice-time. Or one of them could see themselves on the way out the door for a 3rd line D plus a pick.

So this signing could very well open up more wheeling and dealing from Mr. Giguere. And from what we've seen so far, he should be able to handle it well.

Brett McLean signs with Florida

Brett McLean has signed with the Florida Panthers on a 3-year, 1.7m per year deal. I enjoyed Brett being on the team but unfortunately there wasn't a spot for him on the roster anymore. He fit in well with Stastny and Hejduk but the Avalanche decided not to tender him a contract to keep their options open for the free agent famine today (thanks to Jay Onrait for renaming the frenzy). And for 1.7m, I'm very ok with seeing him go elsewhere.

Stay tuned for more updates as they come in.