Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Free Agency Final Thoughts

Well, I think that'll do it for the Avs today. They picked up Andrew Raycroft and Darcy Tucker, both cast-offs from Toronto, and officially announced the signing of Per Ledin. So now we have to wait for a decision from Joe Sakic and the RFAs to truly see where this team stands for next season.

At the moment, the team is a slight bit weaker in goal for a much lighter price tag and have improved the toughness on their forward lines. If you count the signings of Liles and Foote yesterday as part of this, then the defense is solid and I would say within the top-10 in the NHL. Possibly top-5 if Liles wakes up and Leopold stays healthy.

Overall, I'm ok with how things went down today as I actually didn't expect any signings other than a backup goaltender. But it could have been better.

Tucker Train
Tucker, as much as I hate the guy, has a ton of heart and has some skill to go along with it. He can light the lamp while playing on the 3rd and 4th lines and he won't back down from battles in the corner. I absolutely love that style of play and that mindset so I hope it rubs off on some other players on the team. The one thing I hope doesn't rub off is his douchey behaviour at times. Being in Canada I get to catch a lot of Leafs action on CBC and must say that not many games go by where I don't shake my head and say "That f'n Tucker".

Raycroft Razing
As for Raycroft, I'm not terribly happy about the signing. But if he's going to play just 15 games and Budaj takes a step forward in his development, then the Avalanche will have a pretty good price to performance ratio in goal. Stephane Valiquette is still available as I type and I'm going to bemoan not signing him for the entire season. You've been warned ;)

Cutting the losses
So that's what the team has gained. But what did they lose? Jeff Finger, Kurt Sauer, Jose Theodore and Andrew Brunette have all moved on as was expected. I'm ok with Sauer going. He had good moments but had some terrible moments as well. If you count either Foote or Salei as his replacement, it's an upgrade. Finger got paid way too much by Toronto so now I'm happy to see him go. Theodore got paid too much as well but then again, he was one of two goaltenders with some solid abilities on a thin market. And Bruno...oh Bruno. I will miss you. However I think letting him go was the right move for the team.

But what about X?
But what about Brian Rolston? Or Brian Campbell? Or Mats Sundin? Or Marian Hossa? All those big names are still in play so why aren't the Avalanche after them? The damn cap, that's why. And also, those players are going to be so overpaid it won't even be funny. Sundin has a 2-year, $20M offer from Vancouver while Rolston turned down a $4.5M per year offer from Tampa.

Cap snap
That leaves the Avalanche with a cap hit of $42.6M (thanks to nhlnumbers.com for the quick updates!) which leaves $14M to spend on Sakic, Wolski and Svatos. If you think that Sakic signs for $5.5M, Wolski gets $3.5M and Svatos gets $2M, that leaves just $2.5M left to finish off the other RFAs (Weiman, Wall, McCormick and McLeod). So money isn't free flowing for the team by any means. And if Peter Forsberg decides to come back, money will need to be freed up.

That's why Giguere let guys like Theodore, Finger and Sauer go and got a bottom-dollar backup option and a reasonably priced Tucker. It was some pretty solid moves for what the organization was looking for and what they had the flexibility to work with cap-wise.

To quickly sum it up:

Darcy Tucker (2 years, $2.25M per)
Andrew Raycroft (1 year, $800,000)
Per Ledin (1 year, unsure of number)

Jose Theodore (signed for 2 years, $4.5M per)
Andrew Brunette (signed for 3 years, $7M per)
Jeff Finger (signed for 4 years, $3.5M per)
Kurt Sauer (signed for 4 years, $1.75M per)

Cap Hit: $42M
Cap Space: $14M

Remaining U/RFAs: Joe Sakic, Wojtek Wolski, Marek Svatos, Cody McCormick, Cody McLeod, Tyler Weiman, Michael Wall.

EDIT: Angelique reports that Tyler Weiman was not extended a qualifying offer so he's an unrestricted free agent. That's too bad as I was pretty stoked to have a Saskatoon kid playing for the team.

Remaining Roster Slots: ~5 forwards, ~1 defencemen, 0 goaltenders.

So what are your thoughts? Are the Avs better, worse or did they just toe the line? Weigh in on the poll or via comments.

Finger Signs with the Leafs

Jeff Finger is off to Toronto on a 4-year, $14M deal. Congratulations to Jeff Finger as he is now a millionaire living in the big TO. But he still has to play for the Leafs.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Wild Down Avalanche in OT

It was a game that made you mad, then happy, then excited, then anxious, then nervous and ultimately...mildly disappointed. The Minnesota Wild took down the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 in overtime to stay on top of the Northwest division.

If all had gone well today, the Avalanche would have solidified a playoff berth and been in the hunt for the division title. The playoffs are still looking probable but the division title is less likely. The Wild would have to lose their next 2 in regulation while the Flames would need to grab no more than 5 of their possible 8 remaining points. Oh, and the Avalanche would have to win their remaining two games. So in the immortal words of Jack Sparrow...not probable.*

Theodore Struggling
Jose Theodore continued to struggle tonight as he has for his last 3 games now. He's fighting the puck off and giving up a lot of goals to his blocker side. The knock on Theodore used to be that his glove side was terrible. Well, he appears to have taken steps to remedy that but it's been to the detriment of his blocker side.

For those hoping for a Budaj start, don't get your hopes up. You should see Theodore start against Vancouver on Tuesday and given that it's a 5 day break until the Wild game, you'll probably see Theodore in goal next Sunday to close out the season. So for better or worse, it will be Theodore leading this team into the playoffs. Here's to hoping he steps his game up again.

Finger the new Liles?
Jeff Finger had a solid game tonight as he found his name on the scoreboard twice, once for scoring the Avalanche's first goal and again for assisting on Salei's tying goal. Unfortunately he also found himself victimized on the winning goal but that whole play boiled down to Hejduk trying to be too cute with the puck.

But what does this have to do with Liles? Well, Finger has found a way to pinch in at just the right time in much the same way as John-Michael Liles used to be able to do. Could the emergence of Finger and the addition of Salei make Liles expendable over the summer? My gut says yes.

Forsberg Injured
Well, it looks like I wasn't a chicken little when I claimed Forsberg played too much and was hurt. Some people toed the company line and believed the "He was out of gas" explanation but it just didn't smell right. If he was so gassed he couldn't sit on the bench for OT and the shootout, why was he fine talking to reporters after the game?

And sure enough Peter Forsberg sat out tonight with what was described as a "groin injury". I'd say "Psst...it's really his foot" but it doesn't really matter. If he continues to play 20+ minutes a game he...well he won't continue to play. I seriously want to beat my head against a wall over his playing time but don't worry, I won't.

I was busy reconstituting my place after getting new flooring installed so I didn't write down any notes. Hopefully I haven't ruined your day but if I have, feel free to send some hate mail my way. No letter bombs though.

*Can a movie only a couple years old have "immortal words" already?

Related Links
NHL.com Event Summary
ColoradoAvalanche.com Recap
Peter Forsberg - I give up

Friday, February 22, 2008

Semi-confirmed: Finger Out with Wrist Injury

A generally highly reliable source on the Avalanche message boards just posted that Jeff Finger has been sent back to Denver with a wrist injury.

If true, that is nothing short of terrible news. With Clark out the defense is missing their top shot blocker. With Finger out, they'd also be missing their top physical player.

Seriously, could the defense be any more soft without those two?

Update: It's all but confirmed. He's off the ice, the announcers have made a vague reference to Finger's absence and has started raining frogs. That's one of the signs of the apocalypse, right?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Gameday: Avalanche vs Predators

The Avalanche were shut out early in the year by the Nashville Predators but went on to record two straight wins in a home-and-home series mid-December. Will the injury-decimated Avalanche be able to keep up their winning ways tonight?

First...for a moment
With their win against the Blue Jackets on Sunday the Avalanche claimed first place in the tight Northwest division, if only for a moment. Last night the Wild beat the Canucks and leapfrogged over the Avalanche.

And with Minnesota facing Calgary tonight, the Avalanche could fall to 3rd place if the Flames get a point in their contest and the Avalanche come up empty handed.

Young Guns Creating Energy
The Avalanche were forced to recall quite a few players from Lake Erie this year thanks to injuries to key players. And thankfully the call ups have responded in spades with a gritty, energetic style of play while also contributing on the scoreboard.

Cody McLeod has notched 3 goals and 1 assist while also dropping the mitts 5 times. Sure, he doesn't have any overwhelming victories but I'm sure Lappy views him as a welcome relief in the exclusive Fight Club.

The latest call up, David Jones, grabbed an assist in his first game with the big club and put in a solid outing. I love seeing players finish their checks and Jones has no qualms about doing so.

Theodore Securing the Pipes
Jose Theodore gets his ninth straight start in goal tonight as he's put on the best run he's had since joining the Colorado Avalanche.

Theodore is 5-2-1 in his last 8 with a 1.59 GAA and .941 save percentage. Those are some solid numbers and it's nice to feel some security in goal - at least for the time being.

Defense Stepping Up
It would be remiss to say that Theodore has been the sole reason for the teams recent streak. The defense has also stepped up and put in solid efforts to help Theodore. Whether it's in not turning over the puck in the defensive zone, actually clearing the puck out of the defensive zone or just blocking the right shots, they've been there when necessary and again, it's nice to see.

Jeff Finger has been the most noticeable in terms of stepping up his play. Last game he scored the opening goal, put in 24:51 in ice time and ended the night at +2 leading him to be named the first star of the game.

The Opponent
The Predators are on a streak of their own as they have a 6-2-2 record in their last 10. They opened the season with a bang but trailed off quickly. They appear to have exploded again and are now just 3 points out of a playoff spot.

With the revitalized play of Chris Mason and a streaking offense, the Predators are still a threat on any given night. It's too bad that not enough people in Nashville really seem to care.

Game Time
The puck drops at 9:08 ET.

Related Links
ColoradoAvalanche.com Preview
TSN Gameday
Colorado Avalanche Farm Report
Jones Reflects on First NHL Point

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Avalanche Sting Blue Jackets

(Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
The Avalanche have claimed 1st place in the Northwest division after defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1 at the Pepsi Center.

It was a solid game from start to finish, even though the finish was quite boring. At about the 15 minute mark in the third, I started fast-forwarding towards the end as it seemed pre-destined to be a 3-1 contest.

Jose Theodore got his 8th straight start in goal and allowed just the one goal while posting 26 saves including a HUGE glove save on Rick Nash in the second period to maintain the two-goal lead

Theodore is now 4-0-1 in his last five games while allowing just 9 goals, including one shutout. Those are some respectable numbers and you can certainly see the difference in Theodore's game. He's less jittery when their is a lot of action around him and he appears much more calm, composed and confident in net.

Who knew that giving a goaltender a run in net and sticking with him, even if he gives up more than 2 goals in a game, would be a formula for success.

The Avalanche again had an early scrap in the game as Cody McLeod took on Ole-Kristian Tollefson. These early fights have been a recipe for success lately so there's no reason to stop now.

It's certainly not goonish play on the part of the Avalanche but it is their way of saying they won't be pushed around and it's always a good way to get the team adrenaline flowing.

The offense obviously came through this game and they used the gamut of styles to get it done.

The first goal was a big blast from the point by Jeff Finger which got a helpful redirect off of Mike Peca in front. It was good to see Finger get a goal like that as he put up one heck of a game tonight.

The second was the result of some hard work by recent call up David Jones and finished off by a fearless Ben Guite. Jones drove hard to the net, made a nice move to get some space for a shot and then Ben Guite directed the rebound underneath Pascal Leclaire who actually knocked the puck into the net with the knob of his stick.

And finally, the Wolski-Arnason-Svatos line came through with a nice passing play to top it off. John Liles led the breakout, fed Svatos on the right-wing who put it to Wolski as he cut to the middle. Wolski then fed Tyler Arnason who had nothing but net as Leclaire bit on Wolski's shot fake. Just a classic goal.

Jeff Finger led the team in ice-time with 24:51, scored a goal and was +2 on the night leading Terry Frei to name him as the first star of the night.

I loved Finger as soon as he was called up last year and he has rarely disappointed since. He's the most physical defenseman on the team and has really upped his defensive awareness and composure this year.

Scott Hannan was also a +2 as he has continued to play some solid defensive hockey. He's been silently rubbing people out on the wall as they try to set up in the zone and has been making better breakout decisions lately. The puck is no longer the ticking grenade he thought it was.

Johnny Boychuk was dressed as the 6th defenseman but but only saw 8:27 in ice-time. When the game first started I don't think I saw him for at least 5 minutes while noting that it appeared Jeff Finger had yet to leave the ice.


In a bid to appease DD from In the Cheap Seats, Q starts with Brunette on left wing on the 1st line. And then in what appears to be a shameless attempt to gain brownie points, he also keeps the two Cody's on the same line.

TJ Hensick found himself sandwiched between the Cody's as he obviously impressed Q with his speed last game. His speed was still there tonight but he seemed less of a threat.

Davey Jones found himself on a line with Ben Guite and Ian Laperriere and didn't look out of place at all. He laid out some solid hits, got himself an assist and ended up +1 with just under 10 minutes of ice time.

- Rick Nash was effectively neutralized most of the night
- Hlinka continues to perform well on 1st line duties\
- Ben Guite won 10 of his 12 faceoffs as he's doing a good job scrambling on the draw
- Q had a solid suit on tonight though I'm not a fan of that shade of grey
- who knew the Giants would beat the Packers!

Related Links
NHL.com Event Summary
ColoradoAvalanche.com Recap
In the Cheap Seats Game Notes