Upper Body Injury with… the Colorado Avalanche

Considering that the Colorado Avalanche have only been in existence 15 years, there is a good amount of history between the Av’s and the Los Angeles Kings. These teams meet each pre-season in Las Vegas for a rip-roaring good time… one of the biggest trades in Kings history went down between these two teams (yes, I’m talking about Brad Richardson for a 2008 2nd Rounder)… they’ve shared the same well-coiffed coach… and not many people realize that back when the Kings still made the playoffs (over 6 years ago and counting!) they played two excellent 7 game series back to back against the Av’s.

the_colorado_avalanche_celebrate_a_second-period_goal_by_milan_hejduk_23_to_give_the_avs_a_2-0_lead_as_peter_harrold_5_of_the_los_angeles_kings_skates_away_during_preseason_nhl_action_at_the_pepsi_center_on_september_23_2009_in_denver_colorado

This is what pretty much most of the 00′s looked like when playing the Av’s.
Except without Peter Harrold and Kyle Quincey.

I’ve kind of always had a soft spot in my hockey heart for the Avalanche. I think it’s because one of my closest friends went to Denver University and called me one night saying “Dude… I’m at a frat party… and Forsberg, Deadmarsh and Foote just walked in.” This was during their first season in Denver. I’ve even said that Peter Forsberg was the best center of the past decade. (But taking his spleen from him in 2001 is definitely one of my highlights as a Kings fan) The Avalanche have been a superior NHL franchise… so it’s no surprise that their re-build only took 1 year. Thought to be one of the bottom-dwellers in the Western Conference at the start of this season, the Av’s currently sit tied with the Kings for 5th in the Western Conference. And it’s really surprising that Saturday night at Staples Center will be the first time these 2 teams have met all season. A few weeks ago over at The Olympic Hockey Blog, I co-blogged (?) an article about Jon Quick and Craig Anderson with Sean from Anyone but Detroit. To find out what Sean thinks of Brian Willsie’s ability to play in the NHL again or the Av’s in-ability to market their young team… check out the latest installment of “Upper Body Injury” (you can see past installments here, here and here) after the jump!

 

 

gratefuldeadmarsh

I had this t-shirt once. It said “Grateful Deadmarsh” on the back.

 

1. Of course I’m sure you had the Avalanche pegged to be first in the Northwest at the start of this season. But can you let the other, less informed, hockey fans know exactly how the Av’s are in competition for the top of the Western Conference? Do you see them keeping this pace till the end?

I’ll admit it, I had the Avs finishing 13th in the conference, last in the Northwest.

But I’m a believer now – and I do see Colorado hanging in there – they have a home heavy schedule and have only lost 3 in a row (in regulation) once this season. Yeah, maybe the pressure will finally get to them, but so far this team has risen to every challenge and so it’s tough to predict that they will fall apart at this point. I think the bigger question is whether they will win the Northwest division – they are in a heated race with Vancouver who have a brutal 6 game road trip coming up after the Olympic break.

2. Jon Quick or Craig Anderson… who do you take for the US Olympic Team?

Both – and I’d leave Tim Thomas at home. I actually agree with the decision to bring Quick: since the 3rd goaltender would only play in a disaster scenario, bringing a young kid who could be in his prime the next go around in 2014 makes sense. While it’s understandable that Burke already had his mind up on Ryan Miller and Thomas in September, Thomas hasn’t been nearly as good as he was last season, and so his early decision that now means Miller has to go all the way for Team USA – even if he looks shaky – which Coach Ron Wilson has already admitted to. If you had Andy (who has been a top 5 goaltender this season in the NHL) in the mix, I doubt Team USA would have made that declaration and maybe more importantly, they would have a more comfortable option to go with if Miller suffers an injury during the tournament.

3. Us Kings fans are excited about the youth on our team… with 2 of our better players only being 20 years old. How does it feel to have two 18-year olds on your everyday roster and what is life like in Denver for a 18 year old hockey star?

Hey, Duchene and O’Reilly are both 19 now (they had Jan and Feb birthdays).

You certainly have reason to be very optimistic about the future if you root for the boys in burgundy and blue. Duchene has been the team’s best center over the last 20 games or so (yes, including Paul Stastny) and O’Reilly has been the team’s 3rd line center / top penalty killer since game 1. But this youth movement is bigger than those two – TJ Galiardi (21), Brandon Yip (24), Chris Stewart (22), Kyle Cumiskey (23), and Ryan Wilson (23) are all playing their first full NHL season this year and have all been impressive.

You would think that these kids would be running this town right now, but that’s not the case. Avs marketing that had it too good for too long (NHL record 487 game sellout streak from 95 – 06) couldn’t market itself out of a paper bag this season. The sad truth is many casual Denver sports fans have little to no idea who Duchene or O’Reilly are. My guess is a playoff push will go a long way to help to correct that situation.

4. How bad does Brian Willsie suck and how in the hell did he get into 4 games with the Av’s this season?

Last year, there were two players I absolutely knew were incapable of scoring, no matter how golden their scoring chance was: Tyler Arnason (who name is now a synonym for “poor effort” in the Avs blogosphere) and Brian Willsie.

Brian Willsie was a signing primarily for the Avs AHL affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters. He played in 4 games in late Oct – early Nov and then the Avs figured out that they had guys in Lake Erie (Matt Hendricks, Chris Durno) who were much more effective 4th liners. Outside of an injury epidemic, there is no chance Mr. Willsie will see any additional NHL game action with the Colorado Avalanche this season.

5. I’ll throw this question that you gave to me back to you. How do you feel about the trade that went down over the summer between the Av’s and Kings. Losing Captain Canada but gaining Kyle Quincey, Tom Priessing and a 5th rounder?

You know as well as I do that we didn’t “gain” Tom Preissing, we were burdened with him and his awful contract – most likely a request from Lombardi because Ryan Smyth has his own bad contract.

Anyway, the deal was really Kyle Quincey for Ryan Smyth and in the short term, I think this is your classic win / win for both teams. The Avs have a lot of emerging top six forward talent, but lack two way top talent on the blueline. Quincey has been “mostly good” for the Avs – I’d like to see more out of him on the PP, but he gets big minutes and has been the team’s best all around defenseman.

However, long term (assuming that Kyle’s game doesn’t fall off a cliff) this trade will be a win for Colorado simply because Kyle’s best years are in front of him and Smyth’s are not.

To read my answers to Sean’s questions, check out his post over at Anyone But Detroit.

The Royal Half has been a Los Angeles Kings fan since 1988 and a Half-Season Ticket Holder since 2002. He has seen the following goaltenders play in person for the Los Angeles Kings… Kelly Hrudey, Grant Fuhr, Byron Dafoe, Jamie Storr, Stephane Fiset, Felix Potvin, Cristobal Huet, Roman Cechmanek, Mathieu Garon, Adam Hauser, Jason LaBarbera, Barry Brust, Sean Burke, Dan Cloutier, Yutaka Fukufuji, Jean-Sebastien Aubin, Erik Ersberg, Jonathan Bernier, Jonathan Quick, Ben Scrivens and Martin Jones.You can follow The Royal Half on Twitter @TheRoyalHalf.