Summer fill: A conversation with Mile High Hockey

Since the summer news cycle has slowed down to a crawl and training camps are still a few weeks away, the hockey blogs of SB Nation have teamed up to provide some much-needed filler. This year Silver Seven has gotten together with the Mile High Hockey, the Colorado Avalanche blog. I sent a series of questions to blogger David Driscoll-Carignan about the upcoming Avalanche season, and later in the week we'll have our answers to some of his questions about our Ottawa Senators. But first, here's what David had to say:

Possibly the biggest weakness for the Avalanche last season was the number of shots they allowed per game. Defencemen Brett Clark and Ruslan Salei left via free agency, but nobody was signed to replace them. How big of an issue will the defence be?

The Avs gave up a ton of shots last year, but I do think the defensemen did a pretty good job keeping a lot of those shots out towards the perimeter which Craig Anderson could handle with relative ease. While I would have liked to see GM Greg Sherman add a veteran like Willie Mitchell or even former Senator Andy Sutton, the Avalanche do have a lot of young defensemen who need opportunities to play. Personally, I'm not all that worried about the defense.

You could make a pretty solid argument that goaltender Craig Anderson was the team's MVP last season. If he can't play as spectacularly this season, how much will that affect the Avalanche's playoff hopes?

There's no question in my mind that Anderson was the team MVP. While I still believe in Peter Budaj, the Avalanche were not a playoff team without Anderson's heroics last year, and won't be this year without another repeat performance.

What do you expect from Matt Duchene in his second season? What about some of the other rookies (T.J. Galiardi, Ryan O'Reilly, Ryan Wilson, Brandon Yip)? Should we be expecting a major sophomore slump?

Duchene got better as the season went on last year and now that there's no chance he'll get saddled on a line with Darcy Tucker, the sky's the limit. Seriously, I could see a solid improvement and an 80-point season wouldn't shock me. I'm very high on Galiardi as well and I feel he could have a solid sophomore season. I think Radar O'Reilly will probably stay at about the same level. Wilson is probably the biggest candidate for a sophomore slump, as I personally feel he played a bit over his head last year. Brandon Yip? Honestly, I don't have a clue. I'm still in the dark about what sort of player he's going to become.

Sometimes the best move a team can make is to subtract rather than add. Could not re-signing Darcy Tucker and Marek Svatos actually benefit the Avalanche?

Absolutely. Neither player was contributing enough on the ice to warrant keeping around, so it's better to use some players that better fit Joe Sacco's uptempo system. I'll miss Svatos, but it's time for him to get a fresh start. Now, the Avs don't have a plethora of upcoming young forwards like they do on defense and I definitely feel Greg Sherman should have added a forward or two via free agency, but clearly I am an idiot and he is a genius. Or something.

How do you feel about the Peter Mueller trade now that we're entering a new season? Are you satisfied with giving up Wojtek Wolski for him? How big an impact do you expect the concussion he suffered at the end of last season will have?

This is a tough question. I like what I've seen from Mueller so far, but he's going to need to continue to perform at that high post-trade level to make this trade work out for the Avs. Frankly, I don't have a lot of confidence that he'll be able to do that. I didn't really mind seeing Wolski moved, but I think I would have liked to see a more bankable return... but hopefully Mueller will prove me wrong.

Colorado had the 6th-best offence in the league during the regular season, yet in the playoffs they scored fewer goals than every team not named the New Jersey Devils. What happened to the offence?

Three things. Injuries to Peter Mueller and Milan Hejduk were a big factor. That wiped out the Avs' 2nd line and the team just didn't have the depth to overcome that. Another factor (and I'm sure I will totally sound like a homer here) but the Avs were subjected to some extremely one-sided officiating. The Avalanche had a measly 15 PP opportunities in 6 games, the lowest total for a team playing 6 postseason games going back at least to the '97-'98 season (that's as far back as the NHL.com stats go). If the refs hadn't swallowed their whistles so many times, I could be blaming the Avs' anemic powerplay instead of the officiating, but they never got the opportunity. Finally, the Sharks did spend a lot of time in the Avs' zone ... and it's awfully hard to get shots on net from 200' away.

Looking back at the 2010 NHL Draft, the Avalanche had the 17th-overall pick and took a kid ranked 55th by Central Scouting for domestic skaters. What the heck was with the Joey Hishon pick?

For what it's worth, I don't mind the Hishon pick. It seems like he's the guy the Avs wanted. Everyone says they should have traded down, but this isn't the NFL where you can jump around and squeeze every bit of value out of your draft. Better to pick the guy you want and not screw around.

Last question: Adam Foote is back for another season as captain. Have you been satisfied with how he's replaced Joe Sakic? Who do you see as the next captain when Foote retires?

I think it's really hard to gauge the performance of a captain, as so much of what he does in that role takes place away from the public eye. Foote is a warrior and it certainly seems like the young guys look up to him (including his house guest, Matt Duchene). Who will the next captain be? That's a tough call. The oldest player currently under contract for the following season is John-Michael Liles who will be a whopping 30 years old. My money would have Paul Stastny trading in his "A" for a "C" when Foote finally retires.

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