landeskog stastny

Backhand Shelf’s previews for the 2013-14 NHL season are going to work like a choose your own adventure novel, because fans only hear what they want to hear anyway, so we might as well embrace it.

You’ll get the flippant barstool prediction, the push-the-glasses-up-your-nose numbers take, the team is going to be good take, the team is going to be bad take, and then we’ll try to bring it back full circle at the bottom. Let’s get to it.

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Added: Patrick Roy, Nathan MacKinnon, Alex Tanguay, Cory Sarich
Subtracted: Joe Sacco, Milan Hejduk, David Jones, Chuck Kobasew, Greg Zanon

The Avs are going to be good

It took awhile, but the Avs have finally restocked the cupboard with top shelf talent. Gabriel Landeskog is a special hockey player. At only 20 years old he’s been named the captain of the club, as a guy who never stops working, can contribute offensively, and really, do anything you ask of him rightfully should be. He’s reliable. They’ve still got one of the league’s best young forwards in Ryan O’Reilly (speaking of all-around), and they’re still paying him nickels. They just grabbed the number one pick in the last draft, which means an instant injection of offense thanks to Nathan MacKinnon’s game. And frankly, the best player of the whole bunch might be Matt Duchene, who just signed a contract extension through 2019. Paul Stastny has some of the best vision in the league, and complimentary scorer P.A. Parenteau has more than proven his ability to produce at the NHL level without John Tavares (43 points in 48 games last season).

They’ve added life in the form of Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic, they’ve brought in Francois Allaire to help JS Giguere and Semyon Varlamov be all they can be, and those two get to play behind one of the more underrated d-corps in Erik Johnson (at $3.75 he’s a steal) and reliable guys like Cory Sarich and Jan Hejda. It’s really up to that back-end – if they can meet expectations, this dynamic team has a legit shot at being a playoff squad.

The Avs are going to be bad

Oh man, read that last paragraph in the “this team is going to be good” section. I had to mention Cory Sarich and Jan Hejda in that part. I wasn’t exactly sure who the other d-men were (Andre Benoit?), so I couldn’t even make up some story about their potential. Their offensive talent is mostly too young to be more dangerous than league average, and after their top two lines, it’s just NHL Name 52 Pick-Up. Grab some names, who’d you get? Vincour, Bordeleau and Olver? Oh, did I grab the wrong deck, I meant to play with the NHL one. One of their goalies is past his prime and below average, and the other is just below average. So you’ve got young offensive talent that will be prone to making some mistakes, backed up by an atrocious d-corps, playing in front of below average goaltending. GO GET ‘EM, TIGER.

Flippant barstool prediction

Elite talent is finally in place, but they need a couple years and that roster still sorely needs some re-working before they un-suck.

The numbers:

I mean, they weren’t good last year. Flat out. They were 26th in goals-scored-per-game (2.38 a night, though they were 13th in shots-per-game with 29.5, so that’s a plus), they were 27th in goals-against-per-game (3.12 a night) thanks in large part to being 25th in shots-allowed-per-game (31.4), all of which meant their goal differential was minus 36 in 48 games (only Florida was worse, though to be fair, Florida was an additional 23 goals worse). They sucked 5-on-5 (0.83 goals for/against ratio, 28th overall), and their PP was bad too (24th overall, 15%).

Okay, but seriously:

I really like their young players – Landeskog, Duchene, MacKinnon, O’Reilly, I mean…that’s some good stuff right there. But when you hand the keys over to your teenage son, who may one day be a great driver, he may make a few initial errors until he figures some things out. In this case, there’s just no support for those kids to make mistakes. They’re going to give up too many goals to sniff playoffs. The kids may be unfun to play, but this won’t be a particularly hard team to beat.

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