In less than a week, the Colorado Avalanche will be back on the ice in their first game after the Olympic break. While some of their key players have played for their countries during the break, the bulk of the Avs roster has had the break to themselves until they were able to return to practice today.
Entering the break, the Avalanche were sitting in 5th place in the Western Conference with 79 points, with games in hand against most teams they are currently behind with the exception of the St. Louis Blues. They also possess a 10 point lead over Minnesota, who has the 6th most points in the Western Conference, and is in 4th place in the Central Division.
The Avalanche will return from the break to a three game home-stand, during which they will welcome the Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes and Tampa Bay Lightning into the Pepsi Center. All three of those opponents are playoff caliber teams, with Los Angeles clinging to 7th place in the West, Phoenix tied for the 8th spot, and Tampa Bay currently sitting in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference.
After that home-stand, the Avs will take to the road for another couple of tough games, one in Chicago against the Blackhawks, then into Joe Louis Arena to take on the Detroit Red Wings.
Over the course of that road trip, the NHL trade deadline (March 5th) will pass. What the Avs decide to do at the deadline could be key to how the rest of their season turns out. An idea that is common to most people familiar with the Avs is that they are likely to use some of their depth at forward to attract a big name defenseman to help the team out down the stretch.
One of those names that has the potential of being shopped is Paul Stastny. Stastny is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this
season, and will be one of the most sought-after free agent center icemen in the free agent class. It will require a hefty paycheck in order to keep him in an Avs sweater past the end of this season. The Avs already have depth at the center ice position, and it is young depth with players like Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly and Nathan MacKinnon. Stastny, then, is a luxury, and the Avs may look to utilize that to fill other voids on the roster, such as defenseman.
The key to the end of the season for the Avalanche begins with a fast start. In order for this to happen, they will have to come out swinging against some playoff caliber teams in the first couple weeks after play resumes. Also, they will have to rely on their front office to weigh the pros and cons of making some potential roster moves to bring in other key players to help down the stretch of this season. I find it hard to believe that the Avs will stand pat at the deadline, as they have such depth at forward and a clear need at defense. Patrick Roy has had this team going at top speed all season long to this point, it’s time to see how much gas is left in the tank for the final stretch of the season.