Shorter Season Benefits Youth, Avs
Youth is King
Well it is finally over, and hopefully the league doesn't suffer as a result. We should see hockey in the next couple of weeks with most training camps opening this weekend. Several Avalanche players have already taken planes to Denver where the youthful Avs team looks to begin its journey to becoming a playoff team. The shortened season looks to have a number of benefits depending on the way that it is looked at. For the Avs, their amount of young skilled players really allows them to play an up tempo game and run teams into the ground. This will especially work at home where altitude can play a part in running down the opposing teams. However, Some may say that because of the importance of evey single team veterans will be the key to success. It is only weeks away but there are many questions to be answered before then. Here are a few that the Avs will have to answer in order to make the playoffs.
When will O'Reilly Sign?
Before th lockout, O'reilly was the biggest concern of every single avalanche fan. The RFA is still without a contract, and will be looking for a substantial raise from his rookie contrat. The deal could be anywhere from 3-4.5 mill a year that O'Reilly and his agent are looking for. With the new CBA in place and a new salary cap the Avs are in much better shape then when the last CBA demolished an all-star lineup. Hopefully once the CBA is actually signed the Avs can get O'Reilly locked up before camp begins this weekend. The Avs should use Duchene's contract as leverage and see if O'Reilly's recent success can continue before throwing out a hefty long term deal.
How will Landeskog Respond?
Just before the lockout the Avs made the unprecedent move of naming 19 year old Gabriel Landeskog as captain. When the move was made it officially made Landeskog the youngest rookie in the history of the NHL, Now the question will be "was it the right move?" Landeskog had a tremendous rookie season that won him the calder trophy and the title of one of the hardest working up and comers in the game. Landeskog now has the task of leading this group of youngsters that is full of potential with a lineup that includes Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny, and Semyon Varlamov in nets. All three of these players have shown flashes of brillance in their careers with strectches of bad play as well. Can Landeskog help to motivate these guys to play as hard as he does every single night? That is reall all Landy can do if he wants to succeed as a leader.
Will Michael Sgarbossa Make the Team?
Sgarbossa has flown under the radar of many, but he may be a key factor to a successful season for the Avs. Sgarbossa was apart of the Jamie McGinn deal with San Jose. He led the OHL in scoring last year and has been playing with the Avs AHL affiliate Lake Erie. So far Michael has led Lake Erie in goals scored with 13 and overall points with 28 in a total of 34 games. His game could match up nicely on one of the top two scoring lines and his minutes would be enough to help in his development. It will be interesting to see if the Avs give him a chance once the season begins.
How long will it take to get up to Speed?
The biggest question for every single team will be how long it takes players to get into the swing of things. The Avs were lucky to have several players playing in Europe without any serious injuries causing concern. However, the other players who were not employed during the lockout will have very little time to be brought up to speed. The key to any team making a run at this season is which teams can start playing at a high level right away. There is no time to get used to teammates or the speed of the game, otherwise some teams may find themselves in a rather big hole quickly. Guys like Duchene(Switzerland), Landeskog(Sweden), Stastny(Germany), O'Reilly(KHL), and Varlamov(KHL) all come into the season already to go. These five will have to carry the team to start the season in order to put them in a position to make a run. All five have already been playing at a high level succeeding in the respective European leagues. THe only concern was a knee injury that kept Varlamov out for nearly a month. It will be exciting for hockey fans to see what training camps are like with such little amount of time.
These are three questions that face the Avs in the coming weeks and if they don't get answered quickly the team could be in a very bad whole to start the new season. The lockout does bring with it a level playing field knowing that any team can make a run if they can play hot enough. The Avs have the tools to get hot and stay hot for a shortened season and this one may bring with it the fastest way to success for a rebuilding team that is almost to the level of a powerhouse with a few more moves and developing players.