Today we have BB regular Geoff Rosenthal in to talk fantasy puck, specfically about the Avalanche. This will be his third year predicitng the breakouts on the Avs for us... so he must have it down pat by now. He has been blogging about the Avs for four years and he's got a good little blog called The Avs Factor you should check out.
If you're interested in FHS' breakout picks and fantasy take on the Avs check out our draft kit which includes The Breakout Bible, the Fantasy Scouting Report (with SuperStats included) and our Fantasy Prospect Database.
BY GEOFF ROSENTHAL FROM THE AVS FACTOR
Q1) The Avalanche's Breakout of the Year?
Many consider him to already be Colorado's best player, but Matt Duchene is ready to become one of the league's superstars. Duchene's 27 goals and 40 assists in 2011 helped him improve on his rookie year numbers by 12 points. Keep in mind that he did this while playing with twelve different left wingers over the course of the season, the most notable being Tomas Fleischmann, whose season ended after he was diagnosed with a blood clot. (Thanks to Mile High Hockey for those numbers). In fact, Duchene's left side was cursed before the season even began. The plan going into 2010-11 was to have Peter Mueller playing alongside Duchene, but concussion problems kept Mueller from playing at all last season. In 2011-12, Duchene will be entering his third year (the third year, fantasy owners) and get the chance to play with either Mueller or possibly rookie stud, Gabriel Landeskog. Combine that with a sniper (Milan Hejduk, David Jones) on the right side, and Duchene is sure to produce big numbers this year.
Q2) Darkhorse Breakout on the Avalanche?
I picked him last year to be the Avalanche's breakout, but Ryan O`Reilly is going to get it right this time. In his first two NHL seasons, O'Reilly has notched 26 points each time. The difference? Instead of starting hot and then disappearing, O'Reilly's play got stronger as the 2011 campaign moved along. As the Avs were drowning, O'Reilly, known mostly for his defensive prowess, was at his best in the month of March, when he led the team with six goals. Hopefully, "The Factor's" success at the end the season will translate into a more confident and aggressive player in 2012.
Q4) Player likely to Breakdown on the Avalanche?
Listen, I can count the number of players who performed adequately for the Avalanche last season on one hand. In order to breakdown, you have to be at a certain level, no? With that in mind, it wouldn't be unfathomable for David Jones not to repeat his 27-goal season. Jones played 77 games last year, but in the two seasons prior, he logged only 23 and 40 games played. If he stays healthy, Jones is certainly a candidate for a 30-goal season. If he stays healthy...
Q5) Best Fantasy Prospect on Avalanche?
The second overall pick in the 2011 Entry Draft, Gabriel Landeskog was touted as the most NHL-ready prospect. Given the Avalanche's lack of depth on the left side, it's likely that the Swede will not only crack the opening night roster, but also see plenty of minutes alongside either Paul Stastny or Matt Duchene. A lot is expected from Landeskog, and he will certainly be a pre-season favorite to take home the Calder.
Q6) How do you see Colorado's Goalie Situation playing out this year?
You mean the single most controversial position on the Avalanche since a guy named Patrick Roy retired in 2003? The Avalanche net has seen David Aebischer, Tommy Salo, Philippe Sauve, Vitaly Kolesnik, Jose Theodore, Andrew Raycroft, Tyler Weinman Peter Budaj, Craig Anderson, and Brian Elliott between its pipes over the last seven seasons, and this year we will be able to add (at least) former Capitals starter Semyon Varlamov (for whom the Avs gave up a 1st AND 2nd round pick) and former Conn Smythe winner Jean-Sebastien Giguere to the list.
By all accounts, Varlamov is a superb talent. "Varly" has a career .917 SV% with a 2.39 GAA. The problem? The guy has never started more than 27 games in an NHL season. In fact, if you look back on his career in Russia, Varlamov's career high for games played is a paltry 44. If healthy, he'll be expected to carry the load for the Avalanche this year. GM Greg Sherman's job depends on it.
Giguere, who will start the season as the backup, was brought in to replace semi-fan favorite Peter Budaj. At 34, Giguere's NHL career may be winding down, but Avalanche fans are obviously hoping that he can re-discover the form that once made him one of the best goaltenders in the game.
Overall, I won't be taking an Avalanche goalie in my fantasy league, and you probably shouldn't either, unless you are hopeful (and Avalanche fans are) that Erik Johnson & Co. will be able to keep shots against to a minimum.
Q7) Everything went right for the Avs in 2009/10 and not so much in 2010/11. Will this year be more like last season or two years ago?
Colorado is a young team with legitimate star power. With Stastny, Duchene, and Johnson, the Avs have the makings to become a true contender in the next couple years. The team addressed a major concern on defense by going out and getting Columbus rearguard Jan Hejda during free agency, and many believe that Varlamov may finally be the answer in net.
If Colorado can stay healthy (the Avs are always close to the top of the "man games lost to injury" list), this year will be a lot more like the 2009-10 season. The biggest challenge will be putting together not just a consistent 60-minute game, but also a consistent 82-game season. Remember, the Avalanche were leading the Northwest Division last December. The talent to win is there. Is the drive?
Thanks to Geoff. Great job. If you have any Avs related questions hits us up with a comment. We (or possibly even Geoff) will do our best to answer them.