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Scouting the Avalanche With Mile High Hockey

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If we know little about the Tampa Bay Lightning, we know less about the Colorado Avalanche. As a team that was picked to be the worst team in the league they have surprised many people including me. David Driscoll-Carignan from Mile High Hockey was kind enough to answer some questions for me.

The Avalanche are a surprise team in the Western Conference considering this was expected to be a rebuilding year. Do you think the Avs will be able to maintain their current standing and make the playoffs?

It's taken me a while to get there, but I am starting to believe. They still have some kinks to work out - consistency being a big one - but the talent level is there. The Avs are better this year because a lot of players have improved / developed. Barring injuries or some big steps backwards, they should be in the thick of things at the end of the year.

When the Avs named Joe Sacco as their head coach it was a big surprise and had many people questioning the Avs decision makers. Now those same people are choosing him as the Jack Adams Trophy winner at the half way mark of the season. What was your initial reaction to him being hired and how has your opinion of him changed?

I wasn't pleased with his hiring. It didn't have as much to do with Sacco as it did with the Avs' maddening habit of refusing to look outside the organization for staffing hires. Sacco has proven me wrong so far. He deserves a lot of credit for turning this team around.

Most people expected that Matt Duchene would step into the Colorado lineup immediately but nobody expected Ryan O'Reilly to make the jump. I had the pleasure of watching O'Reilly play last year in Erie and I was as surprised as everyone else when he remained with the club. Why do you think O'Reilly and Duchene have been so good this season?

They both come across as mature, poised and well-composed young men - intangibles that already have people talking about them as future team captains. Most importantly, they have excellent hockey instincts which has helped them in all aspects of the game, especially defensively. They don't need to score every night to contribute, and I think that's helped both of them (especially O'Reilly, who is on the first unit PK).

The Avalanche are scoring nearly three goals per game while averaging only just over 26 shots per game which is the lowest total in the league. Why have the Avalanche had trouble getting shots on goal?

Because Matt Duchene keeps hitting the damn post. Honestly, I don't have an answer here. They have the 2nd lowest number of Missed Shots in the league, so it's not like their shots just aren't finding their way to the net (jokey first sentence aside). The Avalanche do get a lot of their scoring off of the transition game, which may be one factor. I suppose the best theory is that the Avalanche tend to have the lead a lot and, unfortunately, tend to shut it down offensively when that happens. Coasting with the lead is something we'd really like them to stop. Like, immediately.

We always ask our fellow writers for a prediction. Avs or Sabres?

3-2 Avs. But, uh, don't go betting your paycheck because of that prediction; I thought both teams were going to be awful this year.