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2003-2004 NHL Season Preview: Colorado Avalanche

Soon to be shredding a defense near you.

By

30 Teams In 30 Days: NHL Preview Index

COLORADO AVALANCHE

Not that anyone is expecting much, but the Hockey News predicts Colorado “could have six of the NHL’s top ten scorers” and a power play that “might be the best of all-time on paper.”

All hyperbole aside, the anointed team in this summer’s Paul Kariya-Teemu Selanne fire sale – they will earn a combined $7-millon this season, less than Pierre Turgeon makes by himself – will be making goalies look bad even on many nights. The best guess is that the top line of Peter Forsberg, Milan Hejduk and Alex Tanguay will stay intact, with Joe Sakic centering Kariya and Selanne. Add Rob Blake, Adam Foote and Derek Morris on defense and all the coach has to do is open the gate.

If you’re counting, that’s nine elite players. But when the Avalanche turn to the third or fourth line, or send out the B-list defensemen, they are no better than average. And what’s that we heard about the goaltender retiring? David Aebischer, the presumed successor to Patrick Roy, has yet to show he is anything more than a back-up.

Colorado will score plenty and ice an enviable power play. But even if Aebischer flourishes, this looks like a Stanley Cup contender-in-progress, waiting on the early returns before cutting another deal or two.

Trouble: Morris is no all-star yet, and the number-four defenseman is likely either Martin Skoula or Karlis Skrastins. The penalty kill, with Roy in net, was 21st in the NHL last season.

On the Spot: Aebischer, obviously, but if he falters the team can trade for a goaltender. The stakes are higher for Kariya. After years of declining numbers, it's time to prove he’s still a star.

The Forecast: The Avs will bury most teams, but gaps in their game will emerge. The season turns on the goaltending decision. Do the Avalanche open the playoffs with Aebischer? If not him, who? And when?

The Call: Fourth in the Western Conference.

Who's in: Defenseman Karlis Skrastins (free agent from Nashville)
Defenseman Keith Ballard (free agent from Buffalo)
Left winger Paul Kariya (free agent from Anaheim)
Right winger Teemu Selanne (free agent from San Jose)
Left winger Peter Worrell (free agent from Florida)
Center Andrei Nikolishin (trade from Chicago)
Who’s Out: Goaltender Patrick Roy (retired)
Defenseman Greg de Vries (free agent to NY Rangers)
Defenseman Bryan Marchment (free agent to Toronto)
Defenseman Bryan Muir (free agent to Los Angeles)
Left winger Eric Messier (trade to Florida)
Center Vaclav Nedorost (trade to Florida)
Forward Mike Keane (contract buyout)
Center Steve Reinprecht (trade to Buffalo)
Left winger Scott Parker (trade to San Jose)
Center Jeff Shantz (free agent to Europe)

2002-03 Regular Season Numbers:

Payroll:
$60,070,926, 5th overall
(Hockey News, November 15/02. Bonuses not included.)

  • Record: 42-19-13-8 for 105 points.
  • At home: 21-9-8-3.
  • On the road: 21-10-5-5.
  • Finish: 6th overall, 3rd in the Western Conference, 1st Northwest Division.
  • Goals for: 251 (3.06 per game), 5th overall.
  • Goals against: 194 (2.37 per game), 7th overall.
  • Goal differential: Plus-57, 4th overall.
  • Power play: 18.7 percent, 6th overall.
  • Penalty kill: 82.5 percent, 21st overall.

Goaltending:

  • Patrick Roy, 63-35-15-13, 2.18 GAA, .920 SV PCT, 5 SO.
  • David Aebischer, 22-7-12-0, 2.43 GAA, .916 SV PCT, 1 SO.

Leaders:

  • Scoring: Center Peter Forsberg, 75-29-77-106.
  • Power play points: Right winger Milan Hejduk, 82-18-17-35.
  • Game-winning goals: Defenseman Derek Morris, 7.
  • Ice time: Defenseman Rob Blake, 26:21 per game.
  • Plus/minus: Peter Foresberg, plus-52.
    Milan Hejduk, plus-52.

2002-03 Playoff Numbers:

  • Round One: Lost to Minnesota 4-3.

Goaltending:

  • Patrick Roy, 7-3-4, 2.27 GAA, .910 SV PCT, 1 SO.

Leaders:

  • Scoring: Center Joe Sakic, 7-6-3-9.
  • Power play points: Joe Sakic, 7-2-1-3.
    Defenseman Derek Morris, 7-0-3-3.
  • Game-winning goals: Three tied with 1.
  • Ice time: Defenseman Rob Blake, 27:27 per game.
  • Plus/minus: Right winger Milan Hejduk, plus-4.
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