Francois Giguere thinks the Avalanche will compete for the Stanley Cup next season.
"There's no doubt in my mind," said Giguere, who is beginning his third season as general manager. "A lot of things have to happen. We have to stay healthy, we have to jell. I think, if you look at our team compared to the team a year ago, we're a much stronger team with our defense. I think our offense is at least as good. Our goaltending, we'll see how they do."
The last line made me laugh when I read it. I do agree with what he says, but he has to know how mediocre things are back there in net. Budaj lost the starting job last season, and Raycroft lost his before last season started in Toronto.
Of the few blogs I've made, the reoccuring theme is goaltening, and I doubt that trend will change after the season starts.
But right now I want to focus on how good this teams defense is. Notice I didn't say defensive system. Colorado is by no means a Detroit, Minnesota, or New Jersey defensively, but I think the 6 guys guarding the net night in and night out are pretty darn solid.
The first pairing is likely to remain Hannan and Liles, a duo who worked well together in the last half of the 2008 campaign. It's by no means the top defensive pair; in fact, it's more of a very good second pairing than it is a top pair. So let's get this straight; I just said the Avalanche have on of the top defense corps, but followed it up by explaining that they don't really have a legit top pair?
Let's move on to the second unit, Foote and Clark. Both are very solid defensively, and Clark provides some offense from the point (96 points in 219 games with Colorado). This, in my opinion (whose else would it be?), is another high end second defensive unit (you probably see where I'm going with this...).
Unit three has Salei and Leopold; or at least Salei. Leopold has a habit of missing 60 games a year. But assuming he's healthy, it's a good combo of physicality and speed, both players having offensive upside. Definetely a 2nd defensive pairing filling the 3rd slot for the Avalanche next season.
Tjarnqvist, Cumiskey, and possibly prospect Nigel Williams will fill in for injuries on the back end next year.
What does this all mean? Does it mean the defense will be solid enough to keep Budaj in most games, and when it can't Sakic and company will make up for it? Well...maybe. Probably enough to try to win the divison, but enough to win the Stanley Cup?
Absolutely not. The Avalanche need a goalie. Even if Budaj impresses next season, does Francois Giguere believe he's solid enough to win a playoff series (or according to the last article, four of them)? Colorado is going to need to trade for a goalie sooner or later if they want to grant Super Joe another Stanley Cup. The unhappy Thomas Vokoun in Florida perhaps; or maybe the currently untradable Nikolai Khabibulin?
There is one thing I do know: the Avalanche will have no real shot at a Stanley Cup next season unless Budaj and/or Raycroft really explode out of the gate this season with their play.