Starting the Season off Right

So many of you may have noticed that the blog has been a bit slow lately. Well part of that was that it was the dog days of summer (August, yuck) and part of that was it has been a busy summer for me, but a large part of that has just been a lack of commitment to writing. Well With the Avs season nearly underway it’s time to change that and start writing again. And why not, this could be one of the most interesting season’s in Avalanche history (probably not the best, but quite possibly the most interesting.)

So get ready for the Jibblescribbits media blitz! Ok, I’m going to write more, and appear on Adrian Dater’s pilot podcast episode of Talkin’ Hockey (or whatever he’s calling it. He said it, but I honestly don’t remember) which will be posted any moment over at All Things Avs. It’s kind of like I’m appearing on Conan O’Brien, except it’s a podcast for a local paper instead of basic cable. And I’m an anonymous engineer from Denver instead of a well-known movie star. But it does star a freakishly tall redhead so I’m going to run with the comparison anyways. 

Anyways, so we’ll start with a notes/random thoughts column on some stuff leading up to the Season Opener on Saturday against the Wings.

–Speaking of Dater - he’s reporting that Chuck Kobasew is likely a top-6 Left Winger. I am a bit underwhelmed. His number in Minnesota the last two seasons have been unimpressive to say the least. He has 30 points over his last 105 games as a member of the Wild. Remember 35 points in one season is the low point for a top-6 forward. He has 30 in two (and 31 in three!). He’s been injury prone too - 112 games over 3 seasons, or 37 games per season. Now I think injuries are mostly random chance and that a bad couple seasons are not indicative of how the next season will go (See, Jones, David) but  there’s always cause for concern.

But more than that his other numbers are quite a mixed bag. He had a pretty bad Corsi, but he also started in his own defensive zone a ton (37% OZone start) so that’s not too bad. What concerns me more is that his coach in Minnesota last season rarely played him with quality teammates or against quality competition (QUALCOMP {-.085}, QUALTEAM {-.077}). He just wasn’t a guy the coaches in Minnesota felt comfortable playing against tougher players. His numbers seem to indicate that 3rd and 4th liners are just about all he can handle, and the Avs feel he’s a top-6? I am extremely nervous.

– I was going to write more on the LW here, but That’s such a disaster right now that it deserves an entire blog post, and not just a note. More this week on the Avs LWs.

– Final cut tomorrow, and the Avs have 1 guy going down. I said on the podcast that I think it will be Elliot, and I’ll stick with it, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it were any one of a number of forwards: Lindstrom, Porter, or McLeod. Maybe even an outside chance of Ryan Wilson getting the boot to make room for Elliot. I hadn’t seen a lot of preseason though so this is all uniformed educated guessing.

I’ve waffled on this a little, but I think I’d like them to keep Elliot up, though. Wilson and O’Brien kind of bring the same thing to the table, and having a young guy on the 2nd PP QB might not be the worst thing in the world. Avs Defensemen that can play some Powerplay right now are Johnson, Quincey and Hunwick. Elliott wouldn’t be a bad 4th. I think he’ll get sent down, but I’m warm to the idea of letting him get a chance to show what he’s got.

 – I keep seeing previews about the Avs being terrible next season. BoDog has them as 29th for their over/under on points. And there’s a consensus outside Denver that the Avs will be bottom-5 bad. Like god awful bad. I don’t think the Avs will be cup contenders, but geez. The Avs had one of the worst collapses in modern day NHL history. I mean their run from Mid-January to the end of the season was just so abnormally terrible that people can’t really expect that team to return right? And yet…

– You know whose going to suck this year: The Wild. They had 5 players (>30GP) finish with OZone start %’s above 50%. For comparison, Edmonton had 13, Colorado had 8. The Bottom 30 in Ozone% has a lot of Wild in it (7). Not one player had a positive raw Corsi on the season. That’s truly awful. That’s indicative of a team taking a lot of face-offs in their own end, or in other words losing the possession battles, and losing them badly. The Wild didn’t get much better either. Sure they got Setoguchi and Heatley, but lost Burns and Havlat in the process. Setoguchi was pretty well protected (55% OZone) and still ended up with a - Relative Corsi. Heatley held his own ok, but his days as a dominant offensive force appear over. Burns and Havlat, however, were pretty valuable to the Wild last season. Both with relatively high Corsi considering the team they played on. Sure they have Backstrom but he and Koivu are going to be carrying that team.

In fact, I think the Wild will be the worst team in the Western Conference this season. I really think they were incredibly lucky to finish with 86 points last season. They were not a good hockey club and I think they got worse.

Keep an eye out for more, as I’ll be writing more frequently from here on out.