There's been quite a bit of negative commentary directed towards the Avs for their recent front office and coaching moves. Frankly, it's well deserved. The Avs continue to practice organization incest like they're located in West Virginia, and the "bad genes" are starting to show. Let me add to the chorus in saying it's time for some fresh blood in the front office, especially at the very top. Pierre Lacroix despotic rule was great when it worked, but this style isn't working anymore.
I am not one of the guys that thinks the Avs will be even worse next year. Though I'm at risk of sounding like a Broncos Mile High Report kool-aid drinker, I'm actually thinking things are still looking up for the Avs. In fact, I'm almost sort of excited about this offseason and the next season itself. Why? I'm glad you asked...
Reason #1: This man is gone. I never had too much rancor for Tony Granato, and was probably one of the last fans around these parts to call for his firing, but I never wavered on this one. Jacques Cloutier's defensive schemes have crippled this team in the defensive end for years now. While it's great that the Avs block shots and don't take many penalties, the Avs have been easy to play against with the complete absence of hitting and aggression in the defensive end.
We know that Foote, Salei, and even Clark are capable of playing at quite high levels, much higher than they played last year. With Cloutier gone and Sylvain "Sly" Lefebvre in charge of defense (whose products played great defensively in their callups, in my humble opinion), I think we could see a dramatic improvement defensively.
Reason #2: There's really no way things could be worse talent-wise or coaching wise. Andrew Raycroft is gone. Tyler Arnason is gone. If we're lucky, Marek Svatos will be traded. I can't imagine the injury bug being as bad as last year. Even if Sakic retires and Duchene doesn't play with the Avs this year, this team is going to be more talented than last years via sheer addition by subtraction with those two and the coaching staff's love affair with them.
And the schemes, well, there's no illusion that we can play some super up-tempo game without defense anymore, is there? I expect to see Joe Sacco and the Lake Erie Monster's tough, attacking forechecking system put in place that places better balance on aggression and defensive responsibility. And I expect the players to listen a hell of a lot better than they were to Granato!
Reason #3: The cavalry is on the way. Duchene (or maybe even Hedman or Tavares) is coming, and all seem as solid of blue-chippers as there could be. Jonas Gustavsson, the elite Swedish goalie prospect, has the Avs on on his short list of 3 teams after 24 contacted him with offers.
Even if we lose out on that, there's a plethora of young goaltending talent available in trade and very solid options available in unrestricted free agency too -- and each of those options shouldn't be too expensive due to the same large supply of goalies.
And our young talent will have another year to grow, this time without the burden of expectations. Stewart, Jones, Hensick, Galiardi, Stastny, Wolski, Cumiskey and maybe even Vernace will all get their shot. Obviously they won't all be great players, but I'm excited to see if any will surprise us this year.
So for now, I'm going to be cautiously optimistic. Even if the offseason wasn't handled that well, there's really nowhere to go but up from here.
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