In looking at last nights game, and then thinking back to last season, I never would have figured I would be writing this blog.
Last year we complained about not having any depth at center. Truth be told we really didn't have the depth we needed at forward and defense. Last season we also had Ryan Smyth which gave us some added scoring and a legitimate first line for the opposition to key in on.
This Avalanche team is running into some of the things that the Pens ran into about three seasons ago. First and foremost they were young. Malkin and Staal were in their first season. Crosby was great, but was still learning the game at an NHL level. However, what could not be argued was their depth down the middle.
Disclaimer: I am in no way saying our unproven centers are as good as the Pens. The Avs have a long way to go before they even get there and will need time to get there. This is simply to note some similarities both teams have.
That season the Pens suffered an embarrassing loss to the Senators in the first round of the playoffs. The next season they made sure the Senators remembered that beating and handily gave them the first round exit. The trades that made a difference were Hal Gil and of course, Hossa. However, they lost in the Finals due to lack of finishing power.
The next year they got Guerin and Kunitz. Both of these guys made a difference and all the pieces clicked. MAF helped the team grow in confidence as he performed and they had the right pieces to put together the Championship team they needed.
The Avs have Stastny(point per game player), O'Reilly(young but understands the game and is getting a few points), and Duchene(2 points last night working with Hejduk. The problem is the enigmatic wingers. Hejduk is the most consistend of all of them. David Jones works hard every night, and is good for goals and driving the net hard, but is not an elite winger.
To fix our problems in the forward zone we need and elite winger. I would love a player cut from the same cloth as Kris Kunitz. Hard nosed, not afraid to do the dirty work, or to throw the gloves. Great for playing against guys like Dion Phaneuf.
My preferred method of acquiring this winger would be through the draft, but that will be hard to do without a top 5 pick.
Our other issue is going to be at defense. Foote isn't going to last much longer. Hannan has one more year on his contract. Salei isn't in much better shape physically. Wilson will be a good point man but has some growing to do.
The problem will be time and contracts. Stastny is signed long term, O'Reilly will get a big raise in 3 seasons, as well as Duchene(HE IS NOT A BUST!). Shattenkirk won't be an issue for his entry contract, but the issue will be when he is successful and needs a raise and the other contracts are at their peak.
Example, Galiardi, won't make big bucks will likely deserve a raise in 11/12. Kyle Quincey is an RFA this summer and we WANT to keep him. Preissing will be off our books in 11/12, so there goes 2.75 million. Jones will also need a raise come 11/12. I think it is time we let Svatos go, sorry dude. Wolski is also an RFA after this season, and could want a raise, or years gauranteed.
All that said, if want to open up a Stanley Cup window our General Manager will have to manage this cap very well. Hopefully the economy works in our favor and gives a boost to the NHL advertising revenue. A contract with ESPN would help too.
Who would you like to see us pick up as a winger to work with our centers? Do we draft him or work towards a trade?