Friday, July 29, 2011

The Social Avalanche

If anyone's seen The Social Network, I do not need to give a history lesson on social media.  Let's just say that in the mid 2000s, like many 20-something Americans, I became obsesssed with Myspace and then Facebook.  While Myspace has certainly seen better days, Facebook is still thriving and so is Twitter.  In fact, I have found out news such as the Johnson trade, the Varlamov trade, and Landeskog's and Siemens'  signings via Twitter.  Several Avalanche players have Facebook accounts and some of them will even accept Friend Requests from people like you and me!  TJ Galiardi, Brandon Yip, Kyle Cumiskey, and former Av Peter Budaj come to mind.  However, where Avalanche players and celebrities in general are really accessible is Twitter. 

Late last year, the young face of the franchise, Matt Duchene decided to open a Twitter account so that his fans could be more accessible to him.  He said that growing up, he would have loved to be able to follow guys like Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg on a medium like Twitter.  With his 45,000+ followers today and his 379 tweets, Duchene is no doubt one of the most popular players on the team. 

Over the past couple of months, several other Avalanche players have opened Twitter accounts.  Daniel Winnik, Ryan O'Byrne, Jonas Holos (although most of his Tweets are in Norwegian), Greg Mauldin (who gave me a shoutout on my birthday!), David Jones, and the newly acquired Shane O'Brien and Joakim Lindstrom.  Several former Avs are also on like John-Michael Liles (from whom I also got a Retweet), Chris Stewart, and Kevin Shattenkirk.  Also, many Avs prospects like 1st rounder Joey Hishon, possible goalie of the future Calvin Pickard, and Stefan Elliott.  Makes sense that a lot of these guys are much more active Tweeters in the summer with it being the offseason and all.

For my complete list of Avalanche players and personnel on Twitter, check out!/avrilanche/avalanche

David Jones joined as recently as yesterday and one of my new favorite tweeters has been TJ Galiardi.  Gali's always had a reputation as a joker and a funny guy in the locker room, but also as a guy who can get under opponents' skin.  Like Dan Hinote with scoring ability!  If Gali can stay healthy, regain his scoring touch and his grit, could we be seeing the next Corey Perry?  Ok, that might be a reach since Perry just came off a 50-goal season and was the league's MVP, but I don't think 20 goals, 50 points and a spot on a top line is out of the question for Gali.  He will have some competition at Left Wing in David Jones and Gabriel Landeskog though.  Anyway, here are two of Gali's tweets that literally made me laugh out loud:

TJ Galiardi
TJ Galiardi

Thursday, July 21, 2011

All-time Avs

Ok, so it's officially the dog days of summer and there isn't a whole lot going on in the hockey world right now.  There was a big free agent frenzy a few weeks ago and there are still a few names out there, but not a whole lot of activity overall.

Therefore, I've decided to compile my all-time Colorado Avalanche roster.  Here...we...go...

Starting Goalie:
Patrick Roy - No question here.  His resume with the Avs and throughout his career speaks for itself.  During his prime, no other goalie could even challenge him.  Enough said.

First Line:
At Center, Joe Sakic.  The longtime captain and surefire Hall-of-Famer holds virtually every offensive Nordiques/Avalanche record possible and is the NHL's all-time leader in playoff overtime goals.  Mike Haynes often called him the best clutch player ever.  On Sakic's Left Wing, I would put Matt Duchene.  Sure, Duchene is a Center, but he never got a chance to play alongside his boyhood idol and it would have been a sight to see the young #9 with the legendary #19.  On the Right side, I would play Chris Drury.  He's a former Calder Trophy winner and a versatile forward who has always played with tremendous passion and was a champion going back to the 1989 Little League World Series.

Second Line:
While the first line was purely hypothetical as Duchene never played with Sakic and Drury, my second line was in fact a very successful line; the AMP line.  Alex, Milan, and Peter.  Prolific scoring wingers Alex Tanguay and Milan Hejduk centered by probably the most talented Avalanche forward ever, Peter Forsberg.  While Sakic quietly accumulated points, records, and HOF credentials, Forsberg was a frustrating enigma.  With Sakic, you could barely notice he was on the ice and then he would get the puck, take one of his patented wrist shots, and the puck would be in the net.  When Forsberg was on the ice, everybody knew it. He could handle the puck in such a way where everyone in the arena was dazzled and no defender could possibly take it from him.  There was always an aura, a buzz when he was on the ice and especially when the puck was on his stick.  Deservingly so, his #21 will be hanging from the Pepsi Center rafters in a couple short months.

Third Line:
On the third line, I would have Stephane Yelle, Claude Lemieux, and Adam Deadmarsh.  Yelle won Cups with the Avs in both '96 and '01.  Deadmarsh was the youngest member of the '96 team and was recently promoted to the Avs' Assistant Coach posistion.  All Claude Lemiuex did was win 4 Stanley Cups with 3 different teams and prove to be one of the greatest playoff performers in the NHL.  He won the Conn Smythe in New Jersey and always seemed to elevate his game in the postseason.  Lemieux and Deader were two of the best power forwards the Avs ever had.  Hopefully Landeskog can fill the long void.

Fourth Line:
On the fourth line I would have Dan Hinote, Ian Laperriere, and Mike Keane.  Sure, they are not the most talented players who have ever played for the Avs, but they are three of the hardest workers.  Hinote always brought energy, grit, and intensity always with a smile on his face.  Laperriere did the same and even sacrificed his career by blocking two shots with his face.  He won the Bill Masterton Trophy in 2011 without even playing a single game during the 2010-11 season.

The first pair would be Ray Bourque and Adam Foote.  Bourque, arguably the greatest defenseman to ever play the game, only spent parts of two seasons with the Avs, but the Cup win in 2001 was for him.  Adam Foote on the other hand, spent the majority of his career with the Avs and became only the second captain in franchise history.  He was the toughest, best shut-down defenseman to play in Colorado.  He played the final game of his career last year with a broken foot!

The second pair would be Rob Blake and John-Michael Liles.  Rob Blake could do it all.  He had a blistering slap shot from the point, he could stop breakaways with his long stride, and hit guys into next week with his freight train-like hip check.  Liles, while small, was fast and could cut through the slot and score like a forward.

The third pair would be Sandis Ozolinsh and Erik Johnson.  Ozo was the Avs' original offensive defenseman.  When he was on the ice, it was essentially like having four forwards out there.  While Johnson has only played a handful of game with the Avs, he is now the anchor of the Avs' D and will be the man on the Avs blue line.  A former #1 overall pick, he is loaded with potential.

Backup Goalie:
Let's face it, there's Patrick Roy and then there's everyone else.  You could go with a stalwart backup like Craig Billington or Peter Budaj or go with someone who enjoyed flashes of brilliance as a starter that could not be sustained like Jose Theodore or Craig Anderson.  Overall, I'd probably go with Craig Anderson.  During the 2009-10 season, Anderson had the best season in net of any Avs goalie not named Roy.

Honorable Mentions:
The Avs have also seen noteworthy players like Jari Kurri, Theo Fleury, Pierre Turgeon, Teemu Selanne, and Paul Kariya don the "A" but it was either at the end of their careers like Kurri and Turgeon or their seasons were injury plagued and disappointing like Selanne and Kariya.  All those players did great things in the NHL, but mostly with other clubs.  Valeri Kamensky was another staple during the Avs' '96 Cup run and definitely deserves a shout out as does Paul Stastny, who is currently the Avs' most experienced center.  On defense, Alexei Gusarov was the longtime partner of Adam Foote and guys like Jon Klemm and Greg deVries were always dependable as well.

Well, there you have it.  I kinda feel like I'm missing a player or two and I'm sure a couple of my picks could be debatable.  Until next time...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Starting Goalies and Captains...

Here are my predictions for each team's 2011-2011 starting goalie. 

Anaheim Ducks - Jonas Hiller
Boston Bruins - Tim Thomas
Buffalo Sabres - Ryan Miller
Calgary Flames - Mikka Kiprusoff
Carolina Hurricanes - Cam Ward
Chicago Blackhawks - Corey Crawford
Colorado Avalanche - Semyon Varlamov
Columbus Blue Jackets - Steve Mason
Dallas Stars - Kari Lehtonen
Detroit Red Wings - Jimmy Howard
Edmonton OIlers - Nikolai Khabibulin
Florida Panthers - Jose Theodore
Los Angeles Kings - Jon Quick
Minnesota Wild - Niklas Backstrom
Montreal Canadiens - Carey Price
Nashville Predators - Pekka Rinne
New Jersey Devils - Martin Brodeur
New York Islanders - Rick DiPietro
New York Rangers - Henrik Lundqvist
Ottawa Senators - Craig Anderson
Philadelphia Flyers - Ilya Bryzgalov

Phoenix Coyotes - Mike Smith
Pittsburgh Penguins - Marc-Andre Fleury
St. Louis Blues - Jaroslav Halak
San Jose Sharks - Antti Niemi
Tampa Bay Lightning - Dwayne Roloson
Toronto Maple Leafs - James Reimer
Vancouver Canucks - Roberto Luongo
Washington Capitals - Tomas Vokoun
Winnipeg Jets - Ondrej Pavolec
Of the teams currently without a captain, here's whom I think will be named before this season starts:
Buffalo Sabres - Derek Roy
Colorado Avalanche - Paul Stastny
Florida Panthers - Stephen Weiss
New Jersey Devils - Ilya Kovalchuk
New York Islanders - Mark Streit
New York Rangers - Marc Staal
Philadelphia Flyers - Chris Pronger
St. Louis Blues - David Backes

Friday, July 8, 2011

SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSMOKIN'! (that's a reference to the Jim Carrey movie, The Mask)

Since the Avs' acquisition of goalies Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere, a question that's been on my mind has been what their new Avalanche masks will look like?!  Ever since Patrick Roy was traded to the Avs in late 1995 and went from the generic white mask during his Avs debut to his trademark Avalanche mask (below), I have been intrigued by goalies' choice of design for their respective teams. 

Of course, my favorite NHL mask of all-time is Roy's second and final Avalanche mask, which was debuted in the 2000-2001 season (when they won their second Cup) and it's also the mask I've worn myself since 2002.  BTW, they do not sell masks that cool anymore.  Wholesalers and retailers need to step it up!

Varly and Giggy have both had cool masks in the past with the Caps, Ducks, and Leafs respectively, so I'm interested to see what they'll do with the Avs' design and colors.

Other masks around the NHL that I've liked a lot are Kari Lehtonen's Joker mask while he was with the late Atlanta Thrashers and his maks from Dallas last year featuring the movie Tombstone.

I'm a sucker for comic book-themed masks such as former New York Rangers goalie Steve Valiquette's Spider-Man mask and former Avalanche goalie Peter Budaj's Red Hulk mask.  Boods went with the Red Hulk to match the Avs' colors better.  His response when asked about it was, "You don't see us wearing green, do you?"  Let's hope he carries his trademark Ned Flanders over to Montreal.

Speaking more of Avalanche masks, I also like Jose Theodore's and David Aebischer's.  Brian Elliott's was pretty blah except the Casey Jones was cool.

The worst mask in the NHL belongs hands down to Chris Osgood.  I mean, what is that?  It's like he forgot his real goalie mask and just borrowed someone's helmet and threw a facemask on there.  Lame!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Thoughts on the new look Avs...

Quick Tuesday morning blog...

Sad to see JML go and wish the Avs would have gotten a bit more for him in the trade.

Love the Landeskog and Siemens picks.

Jan Hejda - solid signing.  He'll add more size and provide leadership to the D core.

Chuck Kobasew - Former 1st round pick and didn't cost the Avs much.  Not expecting the next Mueller or Fleischmann, but maybe he'll stay healthier than those two have in the Burgundy and Blue.

Semyon Varlamov trade - At first I thought the Avs overpaid to get him, but after Washington's bargain basement signing of Tomas Vokoun (the Avs initial target), I think the Varlamov acquisition was a good one.  Vokoun's signing proved that the Caps do not have faith in their remaining two goalies (Neuvirth and Holtby) and that McPhee and Boudreau do not handle their goalies well at all.  Best of luck to Sacco with Varly!

Giguere signing - Love it.  Always been a fan of Giguere.  He's still got some gas in the tank and he'll make an excellent mentor for the young Varlamov.

Sad to see Boods go, but it was time.  Best of luck to him in Montreal.

I wasn't a huge fan of Varlamov before, but like I said, I don't think the Caps handle their goalies well. Like 2 years ago, when Jose Theodore had a solid season and was benched after 1 game in the playoffs. Hopefully Varly will justify the Avs' faith in him!

Friday, July 1, 2011

"He was our guy pretty much from the start."

Those were the words of Avalanche Executive Adviser/Alternate Governor Joe Sakic regarding #2 overall draft pick Gabriel Landeskog.  I considered doing a blog entry before the draft, but it was hard not having seen the prospects play beforehand and not really knowing too much about them.  However, I will say that I am very glad with the way it went down.  Prior to last Friday, speculation had the Avs taking either Landeskog, Jonathan Huberdeau, Adam Larsson, or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.  RHN was pretty much a dark horse because most people had Edmonton taking him #1 overall, which they did.  Would the Avs have taken him if he did slip to #2?  We'll never know. 

Despite not being the #1 pick, let alone the projected #1 pick, Landeskog seemed to be the face of the draft, similarly to Duchene in 2009.  Landeskog had a draft blog on Yahoo! and a video feature on NHL Network showing him and a several of the other guys at The Mall of America before the draft.  From everything I've learned about this kid, he seems like the real deal.  He's well-spoken; originally from Sweden, but played juniors in Canada so you couldn't even detect an accent in his English.  His boyhood idol was Peter Forsberg and he's been compared to current players like Ryan Kesler and Mike Richards.  He was also proclaimed the most "NHL-ready" out of the entire draft class.  He's very polite and looks like a Swedish model.  He's saying all the right things about knowing that his work has just begun and that he's going to have to work hard to make the team in September.  Not a hint of haughtiness or entitlement at all.  If he's for real, the Avs may have struck gold and have their top power forward for years to come.

While most of the talk around town has been about the golden-haired Swede, Duncan Siemens may prove to be just as vital of a piece in the Avs future plans.  He has been described as the toughest player in the WHL.  Physical, mean, tough.  These are all words used to describe the Avs' #11 pick.  Perfect considering the captain and frachise staple on defense Adam Foote recently retired.  Siemens is only 17 however and will likely need another year in juniors before making the jump to the NHL.  Especially with Stefan Elliott and Tyson Barrie expected to be NHL-ready this year.

When I first started this post, I was expecting to write about what seemed to be the inevitable signing of coveted free agent goalie Tomas Vokoun.  I'll say one thing about the recent Avs transactions, they're unpredicable.  First, prior to the draft, they traded away veteran defenseman and fan-favorite, John-Michael Liles for a 2nd round pick.  Although I was a fan of JML, I do see the reasoning behind the move.  Money, wanting to get bigger on D, etc.  However, I would have liked to see them get more than just a 2nd rounder for a guy who had a career year last season. 

On to today...the Avs signed Jan Hejda.  I'm ok with that.  A big, hitting, stay-at-home defensemen, who's further proof that the Avs are trying to get bigger and tougher on D (despite them retaining Cumiskey and Hunwick).  The Avs also signed Chuck Kobasew today.  Ok with that signing too.  He has underachieved throughout his career for being a former 1st round pick, but he always played well against the Avs so maybe he'll be able to put together some consistancy and hopefully gel with a center like Stastny.

Initially I was going to stay away from the goaltending sitch since that was what my last blog focused on, but I would be remiss if I did not address it here and now.  So, the Avs traded away a 1st round pick and a 2nd round pick for Semyon Varlamov.  At 23, Varlamov is young and could certainly establish himself as a bona fide #1 goalie.  However, a 1st round pick is a steep price to pay.  Greg Sherman just bet his job on Varly.  Bottom line.  The Avs also signed veteran and former Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup winner Jean-Sebastien Giguere.  I've always been a fan of Giguere.  I like this move.  If he's healthy, he can still be a #1 capable goalie.  Varlamov is the big gamble.  What happened with Vokoun?  Who knows, but as of this moment, he's still out there.  Maybe he'll join the Evgeni Nabokov club.  While Vokoun would have been the safer option, Varlamov's 23 years are more appealing than Vokoun's 35 and Varlamov is also a former first round pick with a lot of potential.  At 23, perhaps he's just hitting his stride and will be the Avs starter for years to come.  Only time will tell.