The Colorado Avalanche start their preseason at home against Central Division rivals, the Dallas Stars. They’ve got a lot of kinks to work out before the season begins.
The Colorado Avalanche preseason is going to mirror the regular season this year in that both times the team is debuting against the same team — the Dallas Stars. Tonight Colorado does Dallas at Pepsi Center, then they do Dallas again to start the regular season on October 15.
Naturally, it’s still early days for both teams. Neither the Avalanche nor the Stars have their roster close to set — at the time of writing both teams still had over 50 players each.
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The purpose of these preseason games is three-fold. Let’s look at those three, well, folds.
Fold 1: Young Talent Showcase
All the teams in the NHL have paid try-out contracts and prospects. Most of these players will not make the team. However, this is their chance to shine.
For the Colorado Avalanche, their most promising PTOs are the Bourques, Rene and Gabriel, both forwards. Funnily enough there’s another Bourke — different spelling, but Troy Bourke — who’s a prospect. Wouldn’t it be a kick if all three made the opening night roster?
Anyway, Jack Skille from last season notwithstanding, PTOs usually don’t work out. Judging from the preseason thus far, I give Rene Bourque the best shot of at least getting offered a one-year contract.
For prospects, I think everyone — the man himself included — acknowledges that it’s do or die time for Duncan Siemans. He had a good training camp two seasons ago but looked lethargic last year. This year he’s got some pep in his step, but… The 11th-overall pick is scouted as being more of a stay-at-home, hard-hitting defenseman. There was room for such players in the previous system, but little in the puck-moving emphasis of the current regime.
For forwards, with Mikko Rantanen out with in ankle injury, I think the most promising prospect is AJ Greer. He came to training camp and the preseason not only looking to impress, but with the tools to do so.
JT Compher, whom the Avalanche acquired in the Ryan O’Reilly trade, is another prospect possibility. He’s looking forward to showcasing his skill, according to the Colorado website:
“I want to show the all-around game I can play. I want to be hard to play against, physical, a chance to play offense, make some smart plays and get some scoring chances.
For an inconsistent team like the Colorado Avalanche, it’s never too early to start setting the tone for the regular season. Not only are the Avs facing Dallas in the home opener, but they’ll see their Central Division rivals a total of five times during the season.
The Stars have the kind of high-octane offense the Avalanche have been striving toward for the last few years. Judging by the Rookie Showcase, the young guns look ready to skate hard in that kind of rush game.
Judging by the Burgundy and White game, though, the new Colorado focus seems to be on defense-first. That has been working for the Denver Broncos. It makes for some snooze-worthy wins, though.
Fold 3: Testing Systems
Now is the time, when games don’t count, for the coaching staff to test line and defensive combinations. While the opening night roster is sure to look very different from tonight’s game, the coaches can also look to see which players are getting the new systems.
As of right now, Colorado appears to be going in the direction of defense first and statistics. Those are both my least favorite aspects of hockey. I know they’re both important — I just don’t enjoy watching them.
The focus is also on moving the puck out of the defensive zone. I’m not sure yet what the tactic for shot suppression is going to be.
Side Note: This is Jared Bednar’s debut to the NHL in the Pepsi Center. Prior to this, he was the head coach for the AHL Lake Erie Monsters. Though just a preseason game, this will be a test of his NHL-legs, so to speak.
I hope he also has the good sense to look up at the #33 retired in the rafters and pay his respects.