Thursday, July 17, 2008

2008/2009 NHL Schedule!

The entire schedule for the upcoming 08/09 NHL season was released early this morning. The format for the schedule has been changed a bit this year, compared to how it has been since the lockout. Since the lockout, each team has played the other teams in their division EIGHT times each, the non-divisional teams in their conference four times each, one eastern division at home, and one eastern division on the road, leaving an entire division in the Eastern conference unplayed each season. This year, however, they have cut the divisional games down to six per team, while keeping the non-divisional conference games at four games per team. Regarding the Eastern conference, the Avs will get the chance to play against each of the 15 teams at least once this year (nine at home, nine on the road), and will play three of the Eastern teams twice (Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Tampa Bay). I love this change to the schedule and I am glad that I'll be able to see my team play at least once against all 29 other teams.

For the Avs, the season opener is miraculously not against the Stars this year. It's actually against an Eastern team, the Boston Bruins, which should be exciting for the fans since the Bruins haven't played at The Can since December 2005, and seem to be putting together a good team back in my other favorite sports city in the country.

As an Avs fan living in LA, I get to see them twice a year against the Kings, and twice a year against the Ducks. For some reason, both of last season's games against the Kings fell in December, meaning I didn't get to see the team after that and I wasn't happy. The NHL must really have something against me, because this year, the Avs are in LA in October and November, leaving five months of the season after that with no games out here for me. Granted, the November game is a day before my birthday, so a win would mean a whole hell of a lot, but I'm still not pleased with the schedule again. You can't win them all, I'm afraid.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

McCormick Signs!!!!!

And with the signing of Cody McCormick (Cody1), we have our McCody's back in place and I, for one, am extremely excited. Though, I have a feeling that only McLeod will make the team at the start of the season. I've always been a fan of Cody1 since he's been with the organization as I get to see him every pre-season at Frozen Fury, but it seems that McLeod fell more into the liking of the coaches last season. McLeod wasn't scratched from a game since being recalled in December, while McCormick was a healthy scratch a number of times. They both have the same offensive 'capabilities' with McLeod maybe getting the slight edge for his stick-handling, but McLeod also became a lot more solid in the defensive zone as the season went on, even being used in PK situations.

In other Avs signing news, the Avs have brought back Brian Willsie. This is our first off-season signing that I am completely baffled by. Nothing against Willsie, but if he steals a roster spot from one of our 3rd/4th liners or one of the up-and-coming guys like Hensick or Jones, I will not be a happy Adam. Keep him in Lake Erie, please. Thanks.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

McLeod Signs!

That's right folks, our favorite redhead will be back in burgundy and blue next season. Today, Cody Mcleod, or Cody2 as I like to call him since McCormick (Cody1) was around first, re-signed with our wonderful club for one year, at a price of $522,500. For those of you readers who actually know me, you already know of my total man-crush for Cody2. I love everything this man brings to the ice each and every night. I was at the first game that he suited up for warm-ups for our team back in December at Staples Center, though he didn't actually crack the until the following game. Once seeing his style of play, I immediately fell in love. Yes, he does take stupid penalties at times, but the rest of his excellent play allows me to see right past that. He is one of those guys that gives 110% every single shift, no matter what the score. He even became a decent penalty killer by the end of the year, and was used in key defensive-shutdown situations late in games. I can't wait to see the McLeod-Guite-Lappy line back in full force this season.

In other signing news, the Avs signed six other predictably AHL caliber players today, forwards Philippe Dupuis and Nathan Smith, defensemen Darcy Campbell and Aaron MacKenzie, and goaltenders Jason Bacashihua and Tyler Weiman. I don't really expect any of these players, except for possibly Weiman, to crack the Avs lineup this season, but these all seem to be solid additions/re-signings for our AHL affiliate in Cleveland. Dupuis and Campbell came over from Columbus in the Rycroft trade last season. Nathan Smith put up pretty good numbers for the Penguins AHL club, but didn't do much when brought up to Pittsburgh for 13 games. I've never heard of Aaron MacKenzie before today, but he's a DU boy so I like him already. Most of you should know Weiman and Bacashihua by now as Weiman has been with the club for a few years now, and Bacashihua spent most of last season with the Monsters as well, though neither really put up spectacular numbers. I like Weiman though, on a personal level. The last two years at Frozen Fury in Vegas, he's hung around the fans after leaving the ice, talking to whoever had interest in him and giving away his sticks to some lucky fans. I hope for nothing but success for the guy in the future, and hopefully it will be with our team!

This past weekend, the Avs held their annual Development camp in Centennial, with a record 29 players in attendance. I obviously wasn't there, but spectators have been commenting on how great David Jones has looked out there. Other players receiving a bit of fan-recognition have been T.J. Hensick, Nigel Williams, Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk. Jones and Hensick seem to be locks to make the team this year, while I expect Williams and Shattenkirk to still need a year or two of grooming in the minors. Stewart seems to be a bubble player right now. Some people have been commenting on how great he looks out there, while others seem to feel the exact opposite. He's got size and talent, we know that, he's just got to learn to put them together properly for the NHL's style of play. I also have a special bond with him because we are friends on facebook, aka BFF!

No news on Sakic yet, Forsberg apparently won't be ready 'til Christmas, if he'll ever be ready at all, and the coaching staff is now complete with former NHL-er Dave Barr filling TG's assistant coaching vacancy behind the bench.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Svatos Arbitration

Marek Svatos has filed for arbitration, which, if i'm correct, means that he isn't happy with the contract that FG has offered him. I'm guessing this is around $2M a year, when he feels like he's worth closer to $3M. Personally, I wouldn't be opposed to a $3M salary for Svatty as I feel he's a huge part of this team's offense when he stays healthy. Hopefully this situation is resolved quickly and he can have his first injury-free year as an Av and we can get a 35+ goal season out of him!

Friday, July 4, 2008

2008 Free Agency, Day Three

Today, was a quiet day for the Avs with only one seemingly-minor signing. The Avs picked up defenseman Daniel Tjarnqvist, who played last year in Sweden, to a one-year deal. It seems to be just a depth signing, perhaps because the coaches feel Cumiskey could benefit from one more year with the Monsters. I haven't seen the money spent on this contract yet, but I assume it's not much above the league minimum, so I am okay with this signing for now. He doesn't seem to be the best defenseman in the world as he wasn't even signed to an NHL organization last year, but hopefully he will surprise us with a few good games once the injury-bug hits again, because you know it's coming! I would say that I should bite my tongue, but unfortunately, that won't keep it from getting us :(.

Edit: The contract is 1yr/$750k.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

2008 Free Agency, Day Two

No outside signings to report as of yet, but the Avalanche have just announced the re-signing of Wojtek Wolski to a two-year contract for an as-of-yet undisclosed amount of money, though I assume it will fall in the $2.5M-3.5M per year range. I am very excited to have him back, and I feel that this year will finally be the breakout year that us Avs fans have been longing for after hearing of his 128 points in 57 games season for the Brampton Battalion in '05-'06. Coach Q seemed to have it out for him, but I feel that Granato's style of play will allow him to fully come into his own in the NHL and take the league by surprise. I wouldn't be surprised to see a 75pt season from him this year.

Edit: The contract is 2yr/$5.6M, so at $2.8M per year, my estimate was pretty dead-on.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

2008 Free Agency, Day One

The big day has come and gone. So far, the Avs have signed three new players, and have lost four. I will start with the new guys:

Per Ledin
-1yr/undisclosed amount
-Played nearly his whole career in his native Sweden, most recently for HV71 (yes, that is a team name), a team I am somewhat familiar with from hockey video games.
-It doesn't seem that much is known about him, much like the Hlinka signing last year, but based on his stats and the minimal amount of information I could dig up on him, I think a decent comparison to an NHL player would be Darcy Tucker, a comparison I made to my father earlier this morning. His job is to piss people off as the 'agitator', but he also has a nice scoring touch it seems.
-I assume the contract will not be worth much, so this is a small risk/big reward possibility that I fully support.

Andrew Raycroft
-Has had a very up and down career.
-Won rookie of the year in 03-04 with the Bruins.
-Great year in Toronto in 06-07. Horrible year in Toronto in 07-08 (in a backup role).
-Like the Ledin signing, it's a small contract so there's not too much risk involved. I think this is a good signing because it will bring some competition into training camp for the goalie position which will hopefully cause Budaj to step up his game a bit. In a perfect world, Raycroft will develop into a solid backup goalie and a nice compliment to Budaj on his nights off.

Darcy Tucker
-Our biggest/most well-known signing of the day.
-The type of player that you love to play with, but hate to play against.
-Similar style of play to Lappy, except he possesses more of a scoring touch.
-Per Ledin = Darcy Tucker Jr. You heard it here first, folks!
-I love this signing. He's the kind of guy that you love to have on your team because he gives his all on every single shift. We will be a better team this season because of his presence.

Here are the guys we lost to free-agency today:

As many have speculated recently, Andrew Brunette has returned to the Wild, with a contract of 3yr/$7M. I cannot even begin to express my disgust with the fact that we let him walk and sign with a division rival for such a small amount. Bruno has been our most consistent player over the last three years on our roster and is criminally under-rated by nearly the entire league. I would've been more than content to keep him at $4M a season, so seeing him sign elsewhere (especially with rival Minnesota) for less than $2.5M per year broke my heart. I will never understand FG's reasoning behind this and may not ever forgive him for this. In my eyes, this is the worst decision that the franchise has ever made.
Thanks for the memories Bruno. You will be missed more than you know.
It is hard for me to pick a favorite Brunette moment from the last three years. His series clinching goal against the Stars in the first round of the playoffs three years ago would probably be my favorite, but close behind is complete undressing of Luongo on a goal this past season (you all know which one I'm talking about).

It seems I am one of the few Kurt Sauer fans out there these days, so I am sad to see him go. However, I am more than satisfied with him going to Phoenix because I somewhat follow the Coyotes and don't completely despise them, as I do with Bruno's new/old team. Sauer got a contract of 4yr/$7M, and I couldn't be happier for the guy. Do I think he's worth that much? Not really, but I really hope he gets the ice-time he deserves down in the desert and I will be cheering for him to succeed on each and every shift. He is one of the nicest guys I've ever met in the hockey world and he will be missed in Denver. Not that he will ever read this, but thank you Kurt for telling me when practice was at Frozen Fury last year!
My favorite Sauer moment other than getting the chance to talk to him a bit this past fall at Frozen Fury would have to be his tip-in goal from Sakic in game one of the playoffs this year against the Wild. He was the last person on our roster that I would expect that from, but he came through when it counted.

In one of the more ludicrous contracts signed today, Jeff Finger has signed with Toronto for 4yr/$14M. It seemed like he was very well-loved in the Avalanche community, and as much as I love the guy, I cannot justify a team spending that much money on him and I'm sure most of you are in the same boat as I am on this one. He played very well for us last year, a lot better than most of us could've expected. Our most physical d-man and also our defensive leader in goals last year was sure to demand more than his $475k salary of last year on the open market, but I never thought it would end up being that much. The organization was in a tough spot with him. FG seemed to genuinely be interested in bringing him back, but he would've been the 7th d-man on our roster and would see significantly less ice-time than if he were to sign as a top-six guy somewhere else. I'm glad to see him go somewhere where he'll get the playing time he deserves. Although they overpaid for him, they will get a solid game on both ends of the ice each and every night from Jeff and a lot of Avs fans will be bittersweet about the fact that he's no longer ours.
Besides all the big hits Jeff threw for us the last couple years, my favorite moment of his came at Frozen Fury a number of years ago when he fought Sean Avery and killed him, for lack of a better term. From that day forward, I was always rooting for him to make the roster and I'm glad I got to see him play for us, even though it didn't last very long

The Avs community will be torn on this one as Jose Theodore has signed with the Capitals for 2yr/$9M. As an Avs fan, you either loved or hated Theo. To be honest, I absolutely HATED the trade originally as I loved Abby and Theo seemed to have lost his trophy-winning form by that point. But somehow, this season he started to regain his previous form as the season went on, and I was soon cheering for him every night. Theo haters, let's face it.. he was the reason we won that series against Minnesota back in April. Yes, SuperJoe was Mr. Clutch as usual, yes Bruno had some key goals, yes Footer and Sauer shut down Gaborik, but the backbone to our wins was Mr. Jose Theodore. That said, he completely fell apart once again in the Detroit series and we once again couldn't win a second-round game with him in net. I would've been fine with him coming back for around $3M/yr, but I would've been very disappointed in FG if he gave him the $4.5M/yr that Washington did. Good luck in Washington Theo. Thanks for one round of good games!
As far a favorite Theo moment, just look at how he shut down the Wild in the first round of the playoffs this year. He seemed to be back in Vezina form and the Avs nation was rallying around him like never before, only to see him revert to the Theo we expected in the next round.

Final Day One Thoughts:
There were seven Avs-related moves today, involving Ledin, Raycroft, Tucker, Brunette, Sauer, Finger, and Theodore. Based on contracts and the like, I will give FG a plus/minus for each player gained or lost:


While I would've loved having Sauer and Finger back in the mix, FG did the right thing by letting them go somewhere where they would earn more money and be able to play more so I respect his decision on those two. Overall, FG earned a +5 on day one of 2008 free agency. Looks like maybe we should be adding FG to the roster with that plus/minus rating from just one game (day), eh?

Also, I'd like to give a shout-out to ex-Av Ossi Vaananen as he is back in the NHL playing for the Flyers. Hopefully he gets some solid ice-time there and can stay in our league for many years to come.

Here is a picture of me and Vaany at Frozen Fury '06:

Good luck, Ossi!