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2014-2015 NHL preview: Colorado Avalanche

Semyon Varlamov won't be as good as last season, but how good will he be?
Semyon Varlamov won't be as good as last season, but how good will he be?
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Colorado Avalanche began the year and ended the year in very different places. When things started, they had just gotten the first overall pick, where they selected Nathan MacKinnon, and they had hired Joe Sakic for their front office and Patrick Roy as their head coach. In Roy's first game he went nuts in classic Roy fashion. It seemed like things would be interesting, if not good. Well, then they ended the year atop the Central Division and in the playoffs.

Of course, the underlying numbers weren't quite that good. Their puck possession and shooting numbers were not in their favor, and their goal differential was plus-30, which was only sixth best in the West. Still, it was a surprise when they got eliminated by the Minnesota Wild in the first round, even if it wasn't as surprising as it may have been had it been, say, Chicago, who to be fair also got challenged by the Wild.

This leaves the Avalanche in an interesting place. MacKinnon scored 23 goals and 63 points as an 18-year-old rookie. Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene are very good players who can get better still. Ryan O'Reilly is good too. This team has some real impressive young talent.

On the other hand, Paul Stastny has gone to St. Louis. P.A. Parenteau is gone and has been replaced by Daniel Briere, in a sense. Jarome Iginla and Brad Stuart bring veteran presence, but they are both getting up there in years. This defense isn't great, mostly in terms of depth, and I wonder how Tyson Barrie will do coming off injury, and Erik Johnson always feels like a question mark.

Then, there's Semyon Varlamov. He was outstanding last year with his .927 save percentage, which was nice to see for a guy like me who supported that trade for Colorado back in the day. However, that's not going to be repeated. Varlamov's numbers will drop. It's just a matter of how much. Nevertheless, with any drop, if the Avalanche don't improve their puck possession and shot differential, is going to be concerning.

In essence, I think the Avalanche will be as talented as last season, but they aren't likely to be as lucky. That means their performance is going to drop. Now, I don't think they will suddenly miss the playoffs, and I don't really seem them finishing worse than third in their division. However, that's doesn't behoove them when the playoffs roll around. Then again, they could be the team pulling the upset this year. Colorado has promise for the future, but let us not overstate that promise in the present.

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