Darwin Horan-Off-Season Game Plan: Colorado Avalanche
The Colorado Avalanche missed the playoffs for the third time in the last four seasons but, thanks to development of young players, there is reason to be optimistic.
Off-Season Game Plan looks at the Avalanche and what they could do to get back to the postseason.
The Avalanche have a core of talented young players under the age of 25 -- Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O'Reilly, Matt Duchene, Steve Downie, Peter Mueller, Erik Johnson, Stefan Elliott, Semyon Varlamov included -- so that's the strength of the organization, but if they are going to take the next step and become a consistent playoff contender, they need to augment their young talent.
GM Greg Sherman will be a busy man this summer, with nine restricted free agents expected to take up a sizeable portion of Colorado's cap room. Fortunately, the Avs have been frugal and, with all these unsigned players, have the most cap room in the league by a large margin.
That kind of financial flexibility could open up opportunities for the Avalanche to get active in the trade of free agent markets this summer. Ideally, a move to add a high-calibre defenceman would likely have the most immediate impact, but any additions of proven NHL talent can't be dismissed for a team with a core that is relatively unproven.
And that's not intended as a knock. Young teams go through the process of building and it takes time before they are ready to compete at a playoff level year-in and year-out.
The challenge for the Avalanche is that it's starting to look like the process is ready to move beyond building into more refinement -- combining internal improvement with smart acquisitions to make the Avalanche a competitive team.
Drafting high for several years is a way to stockpile talent, but it's not the only way to build a roster and the Avalanche traded away this year's first-round pick (last summer to get Semyon Varlamov), so they too have expectations that
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