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Darwin Horan-Off-Season Game Plan: Colorado Avalanche

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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Uploaded on May 21, 2012

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Tags avalanche, colorado, darwin, horan

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