2009 NHL Preview: Colorado Avalanche

We’ve partnered with On Goal Analysis to bring you a team-by-team preview of the upcoming NHL season. (Just scroll down on the OGA website and hit the calendar.) Here is the preview for the Colorado Avalanche…

Team Play: ISSUE – Passing the torch. Over the summer, Avs’ team captain and icon Joe Sakic retired. Plagued by injuries, Sakic played in just 59 games over the last two seasons. Hoping to fill the (enormous) void, Colorado took center Matt Duchene with the third overall pick in the 2009 Entry Draft. While it’s patently unfair to compare the 18-year-old to the future Hall-of-Famer, Duchene will simply have to deal with it. Much will be expected of the youngster this season, as the Avalanche begin the climb back towards the playoffs and respectability. To that end, the Avs have made some sound offseason moves. First and foremost, they improved in the crease by signing free agent goalie Craig Anderson from Florida. Next, Colorado shored up a rather forlorn defensive corps by trading co-leading scorer Ryan Smyth to Los Angeles for d-men Kyle Quincey and Tom Preissing and a 5th-round pick in 2010. These are significant steps in the right direction, but team health will play an equal role in the Avs’ improvement this season. Here’s hoping the injury bug doesn’t bite Colorado in 2009-10 like it did last season, in which the Avalanche used 13 defensemen and Milan Hejduk was the only skater to dress for all 82 games. Here’s hoping Joe Sakic passes the torch to Matt Duchene, rather than the snowblower.

Click here to read the rest of the preview (which includes the site’s unique Playoff Qualifying Curve and fantasy information) at the On Goal Analysis site.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Calgary Flames burn out phone lines at NHL trade deadline

This was a strange NHL trading deadline. I was a little disappointed in the lack of big name players changing uniforms. In total, 22 trades (involving 47 players) were completed. And the biggest name that was traded (Olli Jokinen) has never played in a playoff game in his 10-year career.

The Calgary Flames became a legitimate contender in the Western Conference after acquiring D Jordan Leopold from the Colorado Avalanche and Jokinen from the Phoenix Coyotes in separate deadline deals. Leopold is a great fit that could make their backline the most imposing in the league. Jokinen played his best hockey under current Flames coach Mike Keenan during their time together in Florida. He is a great scorer but not a great on-ice leader, though Calgary offers him a fresh start. It’s a veteran squad that will not ask Jokinen to provide leadership in the locker room, just puckss in the net.

A nice day’s work for Coyote GM Don Maloney, as his agenda yesterday was to cut payroll…

Read the rest after the jump...

NHL Trade Deadline: Deal or no deal?

With hours remaining before the NHL’s trading deadline at 3 PM (ET) today, hockey fans want to know…

Who’s buying?

Who’s selling?

Who’s going to be traded?

Rumors are running rampant, and it’s very hard to distinguish fact from fiction. 25 of 30 teams in the league have a realistic shot of making the playoffs, and nine of them are legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. You can expect a number of trades today, as a combined 50 deals were executed at the trade deadline in the past two years.

Here are six likely candidates:

Chris Pronger – D, Anaheim Ducks
His immediate impact as an offensive defenseman could be very beneficial to any team that would acquire him. The Ducks are looking to make a major roster overhaul this off-season, and cannot afford to keep Pronger’s large contract ($6.25 million) on the cap next season. He is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) after the 2009-10 season.

Read the rest after the jump...

Couch Potato Alert: 12/26

All times ET…

College Football

Sat, 1 PM: West Virginia vs. North Carolina – Meineke Car Care Bowl, ESPN
Sat, 4:30 PM: Wisconsin vs. Florida State – Champs Sports Bowl, ESPN
Sat, 8 PM: Miami (FL) vs. California – Emerald Bowl, ESPN

College Basketball

Sat, 4 PM: West Virginia vs. No. 13 Ohio State, CBS
Sat, 4 PM: UAB vs. No. 19 Louisville, ESPN2


Fri, 8 PM: Chicago Bulls vs. Miami Heat, ESPN
Sat, 8:30 PM: Utah Jazz vs. Houston Rockets, NBA TV


Sun, 1 PM: New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills, CBS
Sun, 4:15 PM: Miami Dolphins vs. New York Jets, CBS
Sun, 4:15 PM: Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles, Fox
Sun, 8:15 PM: Denver Broncos vs. San Diego Chargers, NBC


Fri, 7 PM: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New Jersey Devils
Sat, 9 PM: Detroit Red Wings vs. Colorado Avalanche

The re-emergence of fighting could save the NHL

Hockey is a great spectator sport when it is played at a frenetic pace and teams play aggressively on the ice. The players of today have a lot of respect for one another and will police themselves when play gets out of control. Fighting has re-established itself as an important aspect of hockey, and the sport is better for it.

No other professional sports league allows competitors to fight within the rules of a game in exchange for a small stint in the penalty box. Simply stated – players can settle their differences with their fists.

Fighting in the NHL has always been popular because it looks great on television and provides an adrenaline rush for everyone in the arena. Fans will stand and cheer in unison, while the players on the bench will bang their sticks on the sideboards to show their appreciation for the fight. A good hockey brawl will have fans talking about the fight weeks later. A series of good fights also develops a bitter rivalry between two teams (i.e. Colorado Avalanche-Detroit Red Wings in the nineties) that generates interest for their next scheduled encounter.

Detractors of hockey say that fighting keeps the sport away from a broader fan base and continues to leave the sport in relative obscurity. In the past, efforts to curtail fighting have set hockey back on several occasions. I’m not talking about taking the sport back to the reckless style of the 1970’s, but critics have to recognize the unbreakable link between fighting and the popularity of hockey with its fans.

Those who defend fighting in hockey will say it helps to deter star players from being targeted with physical play. The game is governed by a complex system of unwritten rules that players and coaches refer to as “the code.”

Teams will open a roster spot for an enforcer, whose main responsibility is to protect the star player’s health on the ice. If the play becomes too chippy, a coach will send their enforcer on the ice to deliver a message via verbal or physical nature. There is a high degree of respect among the league’s top enforcers – in a game; both enforcers must agree to fight before the gloves come off.

Fighting does not guarantee success for a team, nor does it preclude a team from being successful. However, it does help the league, and for that reason it needs to stay.

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