Well, its August and that means there's not a whole much of anything going on. That said, I'm gonna try and nail out 30 team evaluations before the preseason is underway.
Now, the Colorado Avalanche
Team M.O.: I don't think they know anymore and that's the problem. After spending the 90's and the better part of the decade as a well-balanced team, they've run out of gas in their current form and need to restructure themselves. They've got some good building blocks that can have them become a finesse team, but they're going to need a couple of players in just about each category to help restore the roar.
Last Season: Dead last in the Conference and third from the bottom overall. It was probably the worst finish they've had since they moved to Colorado and are probably looking to move things in the other direction. Injuries had a lot to do with it though, so it may not be necessary to entirely blow up the team as much as it is to get the guys in that will help them out overall.
Offense: Milan Hejduk was tied with Ryan Smyth (who's now LA bound) as the leading scorer last season; yet that really isn't much a season considering that he did so with 59 points. Paul Stasny showed a lot of potential last season, but missed half of the season with two different injuries. Marek Svatos and Wojtek Wolski have the potential to be solid offensive performers but they are having problems duplicating their career seasons in 2006 and 2007 respectively. After that, the amount of proven forwards for the top-six position gets a bit thin and could use a reinforcement in the mold of Alex Tanguay or Petr Sykora.
As far as the checking and energy units go, Darcy Tucker and Cody McLeod do well in that role while TJ Hensick and Chris Stewart appear to have a shot at getting legitimate NHL jobs at the start of training camp. David Koci will provide the toughness but still needs to demonstrate the skils to get into at least 50 games a season. All things considered, they should look to go after an established veteran checking-line forward, much like Mike Peca or Manny Malhotra, to help solidify the bottom pairings.
Defense: Health was an issue for the blueline but their defense wasn't entirely impressive last season. Scott Hannan was the only defender who got in to almost all of the games and while he kept the penalties to a minimum, his plus/minus didn't bode so well because he was a defensive defensman on a losing team. Adam Foote fit the same role but dealt with a myriad of issues which limited his effectiveness. Ruslan Salei and Brett Clark put up average, if unremarkable, campaigns for the team while John-Michael Liles, despite being a prolific scorer, proved to be an offensive-only option on the blueline. They addressed a need for having an offensive defender in trading for Kyle Quincey and should figure to have their depth defenders fight for the seventh spot.
Goaltending: Peter Budaj seems to be hit or miss and while he has the tools to be a starter in the NHL, he just needs to put it together. He also needs a goaltender to work with in a solid platoon. Two seasons ago it was Jose Theodore who lacked consistency himself. Then came Andrew Raycroft who was unable to keep it together even as a backup. With Craig Anderson joining the team, they're getting a goaltender who's demonstrated the skill to be a legitimate backup while having the hunger and desire to get into as many games as possible. If they can do well, they'll be a bright spot on the team. The goaltending depth is fine beyond them and I wouldn't look to add anyone at this point.
Expectations: There's a lot of what-ifs on this team and because of that I'm not having a whole lot of confidence that they're gonna have a successful season. At best, they'll be healthy and make a good push for the playoffs. However, if they can't get a few key forwards or maybe even a depth defender, or if their goaltending tandem isn't up to task, then expect another early season and another early draft pick.