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Early, early questions, answers on Avalanche, 2018-19

Adrian Dater Avatar
August 30, 2018

Honestly, this summer seems like it’s been 98 months long. Summer has always been bittersweet for me; you’re happy to have some time away from a hockey rink, happy to sleep in a little bit later, happy to take a trip of leisure or two (just got back from New England yesterday from a 5-day mini getaway, which included a high school reunion of sorts and the Maine Invitational – a family croquet tournament in which I blew the golden lobster trophy pictured below because I mis-hit a ball through a wicket while being poison. The silver moose goes to the best under-35 player, in which case family friend Aviva Fidler walked away with it).

Anyway, summer is almost over, and so now I’m feeling a bit melancholy from that. As always, I can’t win.

With training camp about two weeks away, I thought I’d have a conversation with myself about the Avs and share it with you.

WHAT ARE YOUR GENERAL FEELINGS ON THE AVS’ CHANCES HEADING INTO CAMP?

Pretty good I think. My biggest reason for optimism is the defense, believe it or not. Erik Johnson is healthy again, Sam Girard is going to be very good I think, Tyson Barrie is a premier offensive D-man, Ian Cole will be a better addition than I think people realize and Nikita Zadorov could be ready for a big, breakout year.

I don’t see any glaring weak spot in this top-6 D anymore. Will there be nights any of the above have a bad night, along with Patrik Nemeth and/or Mark Barberio? Surely. But this looks to be a much more able group than years past.

WHAT MAKES YOU NERVOUS STILL ABOUT THE AVS? 

Well, in general, it’s still the second line. Assuming it’s a combination of Alexander Kerfoot, Tyson Jost, Sven Andrighetto and J.T. Compher, I worry that it still won’t quite be good enough to be called a true, reliable second line. There just was never a reliable second line that Jared Bednar could rely upon down the stretch and into the playoffs last year.

But they are all so young that one would assume they will all get a little better moving forward. Jost is the likely fulcrum point as to how this line ultimately is judged. If he stabilizes into a reliable second-line center, a lot of problems get solved, a lot of worry gets dissipated.

WHO IS THE BIGGEST POTENTIAL SURPRISE PLAYER THIS YEAR? 

I’m going to off the board a bit here and say third-line winger Matt Calvert. I see a 15-20 goal season from him, and strong work on the PK, with at least two short-handed goals. He’s small and been dinged up a few times, but I think he plays mostly a full season and becomes a fan favorite.

WHO WILL BE THE TOP GOALTENDER? 

It’s Semyon Varlamov’s job to lose, entering camp. Philipp Grubauer will probably play 30 games no matter what, and after that it’s the usual “whoever is playing the best will get the start” and “if someone gets hurt, the other becomes the de facto No. 1.” With goaltending, it’s the same prognosis every time, but Varly goes into camp the presumed No. 1.

IF THINGS GO BAD, WHO IS THE MOST LIKELY PLAYER TO BE TRADED BY MID-YEAR/DEADLINE? 

On paper, Tyson Barrie remains the most likely guy to get moved should the Avs become a seller. Cale Makar is his likely heir apparent, and he could be on the roster as soon as next spring. He has two years left on his contract, at a $5.5 million cap hit, and will be UFA when it expires. Sam Girard, although a lefty and yet to show reliable promise as a point producer, also makes Barrie potentially expendable, along with Conor Timmins.

IS ERIK KARLSSON A POTENTIAL TRADE TARGET FOR THE AVS? 

I haven’t heard anything credible that he has been or would be. The Avs aren’t going to trade a bunch of draft picks and/or top prospects for a guy with one year left on his contract, who is going to cost megabucks, who can be UFA after this season. Plus, having Makar on the way makes it less sensible to go after a guy like him, as talented as he is.

WHO IS THE FREE AGENT IN 2019 YOU THINK THE AVS MIGHT MAKE A RUN AT? 

A nice right wing scorer, such as an Artemi Panarin or Mark Stone, would sure be nice to have. Both could be UFA next summer.

OK, on to the rest of the remaining summer. See you soon.

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