Puck Daddy’s NHL 2014-15 Emoji Preview: Colorado Avalanche

(The 2014-15 NHL season is nearly upon us, and attempting to handicap the winners and losers can sometimes leave us speechless. So we decided to break down all 30 teams with the next best thing to words: Emojis!) 

Last Season In Emojis

Last Season, In Summary 

First in the Central, second in the West and 112 points? Oh, yeah, this is totally what everyone thought Patrick Roy would accomplish in his first NHL season as a head coach.

The Avalanche lost a heartbreaker in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, as a seven-game series with the Minnesota Wild saw its fourth overtime game in Game 7, with Colorado falling short on home ice.

It was a learning experience for a great young team that played above its head. The question is whether the advanced stats pundits are right, and the Avalanche are primed to crash back down to earth this season.

Last Season’s Definitive Highlight 

Patrick Roy makes a first impression.

Off-Season Transactions

The biggest change was the departure of career Avalanche center Paul Stastny to the St. Louis Blues for big free agent money; his desire to leave fueled by economics and concern for his role in the lineup with Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon also at center.

The signing of Jarome Iginla, after Iggy and the Boston Bruins couldn’t make the money work, was an impressively aggressive move. He brings toughness, leadership and experience at the forward spot. He also brings wheels with a lot of miles on them.

P.A. Parenteau was traded to the Canadiens for Danny Briere. They also brought in Brad Stuart from the Sharks, in an attempt to add another veteran to a green defense.

J.S. Giguere retired.

The Avs’ top six can match any in the NHL for firepower … provided Iginla can keep up with the kids.

Let’s assume he does. That would give the Avalanche a 30-goal scorer, who elevated the Bruins’ first line last season, on a line with Matt Duchene (70 points) and Ryan O’Reilly (64 points), who led the team with 28 goals and played some of the best two-way hockey in the NHL last season.

The other line? Gabe Landeskog (65 points) and Alex Tanguay (11 points in 16 games last season) flanking Nathan MacKinnon, the rookie of the year who should build greatly on his 63 points from last season.

Beyond them are a bottom six with some veterans, some punches and some question marks.

Jamie McGinn, John Mitchell and Max Talbot saw time together last season; the latter being a drag on possession with a minus-7.4 CorsiRel.

Marc-Andre Cliché (minus-11), Patrick Bordeleau (115 PIMs) and Cody McLeod (122 PIMs) skated as a fourth line last season. Winchester, however, could supplant Bordeleau with the enforcer out three months after back surgery.

Where does Briere fit in this group? Great question. We’ll assume the third line, probably in lieu of Max Talbot. Does Joey Hishon crack the lineup after a strong preseason?

Here’s a group that played above expectations last season.

Erik Johnson had his best season with the Avalanche, with 39 points in 80 games and 23 minutes of average ice time. Jan Hejda was a 22:20 TOI veteran workhorse, skating to a plus-8 in 78 games and giving Johnson a steady partner.

Tyson Barrie was a revelation, with 38 points in 64 games in 18:33 of ice time. He skated with Nate Guenin, who had nine points in 68 games, and Nick Holden, the 6-4 former Blue Jacket that had 25 points in 54 games in a strong rookie season. But one assumes he’ll see plenty of time with Stuart.

Stuart brings a needed veteran presence to the group, heading to Colorado after two years with the San Jose Sharks. Zach Redmond, Maxim Noreau and Ryan Wilson fill out the group, but eyes will be on Stefan Elliott to see if the former second-round pick can crack the lineup.

Varlamov had been good for the Avalanche in the two previous seasons, but found another level under coach Francois Allaire and with Roy’s guidance.

(He also found some controversy with domestic violence charges that were eventually dismissed.)

He was peppered with an NHL-high 2,013 shots on goal and emerged with a .927 save percentage and a 2.41 GAA. He had an NHL-high 41 wins in 63 games. The assumption is that Varlamov can’t replicated those numbers; the Avs will need him to come close.

Reto Berra is the backup. Pray Varlamov is healthy.

Probable Text Conversation Within Organization


Special Teams                                      

Colorado had the fifth best power play in the league with a 19.8 percent conversation rate, and yet had the fifth lowest number of chances at 252.

The Avalanche had the 24th best penalty kill at 80.7 percent, but only gave up 249 power play opportunities, seventh fewest in the NHL.

GM and Coach

Patrick Roy began the season shaking the glass and ended it having the last laugh. His team defied expectations and analytics, surging to a division championship before falling short in the opening round, good enough to earn him the Jack Adams.

But we’ve yet to see Roy under duress as Colorado coach … and we all really, really want to, don’t we?

Joe Sakic added general manager duties to the rest of his player personnel responsibilities, and made a bold move with the signing of Iginla. He inherited a strong foundation of young stars; has he augmented the group enough to push toward a Cup?

And Now, A Blooper 

We still can’t handle the intensity of #ImagineAvs.

The Potential Best Thing About This Team

MacKinnon. The sky’s the limit for this center, who made Paul Stastny expendable. His 10 points in seven playoff games showed he might be able to carry this club for stretches.

The Potential Worst Thing About This Team

The defense. It yielded 32.7 shots per game, and needed Varlamov’s tremendous season to cover up its flaws. The blue line doesn’t look great on paper, again; if any part of this team gets exposed this season, one assumes it’s the defense.

Single Emoji Prediction

The microscope.

No team is going to be scrutinized by the advanced stats community like the Avs. Critics claim they didn't possess the puck enough and that their PDO was unsustainable. The Avalanche downplay the numbers. Something's gotta give.

Colorado is a playoff team. Where the Avs end up in the West will be determined by Varlamov's play, because he's still going to see a ton of rubber in Roy's system.