Denver Post sports journalist Mike Chambers answers questions in the Avs Mailbag every other week during the regular season.
Ask an avalanche or NHL related question for the Avs mail bag.
When I saw Bo Byram in spring practice last year, he clearly looked like the best player on the ice on most shifts. I could understand that as an 18 year old I was sending him back to his junior team for another year of herbs. Now, in your last article on the Devon Toews takeover, you suggest that Dennis Gilbert or Kyle Burroughs could be the additional defender this year, while Byram returns to his junior team for another year. Did Bo Byram take a step “back” from looking so good last pre-season or did I fantasize that at such a young age he looked as good as Makar?
– Scott, Lakewood
Hey Scott, I’m not sure what you mean by “spring training” – but assuming you mean the 2019 development camp in late June / early July right after he was called up. If so, yes, he looked good, but he played with and against players of the same age. Byram hasn’t stepped back. I hear he is developing quite well. But the Avs don’t want to rush him, and all signs point to him returning to his junior team since the club took over Toews, who Byram hopes to become – and possibly more. On paper, Byram is on the outside of Colorado’s top six and he won’t be serving in seventh or eighth – that’s why Gilbert and Burroughs were brought in. Byram has to play, and since he cannot play in the AHL due to the major-junior rule, he will likely return to the Vancouver Giants of the WHL. Expect Byram to become full-time Avs D-man in 2021-22, replacing Ian Cole’s expired contract.
What is our goalkeeper situation at the moment? Do the Avs have the right guys between the pipes to lead them through a deep late season?
That is the most frequently asked question about this group. Locally and across North America, it seems like the majority of people don’t think Philipp Grubauer or Pavel Francouz are good enough to lead this team to a deep run. But that’s what they said about Anton Khudobin before the career backup led Dallas to the Stanley Cup final and then signed a big deal to stay with the Stars. Grubauer and Francouz are both about six feet or six feet, which is comparable to Khudobin, and people don’t believe in the smaller guys unless they’re big on performance. The Avs certainly believe in Grubauer and Francouz, and let’s face it, they would have fared a lot better in the recent playoffs had one of them not been on the injured list.
I love the retro Quebec Nordiques jerseys that the just released Avalanche has. Is this something they will be wearing all season? Any chance they make this part of a permanent rotation would love your take on the new / old school look.
– Billy, Denver
They will put on those uniforms at least once next season, but probably more often. They will announce the schedule at a later date. It’s not just the new jersey either – they’re going with new blue breezers, gloves and helmets to support that look.
I saw that Pepsi Center is no longer there because the naming rights have changed. Are there any other updates to the arena for next season?
– Jen, Englewood
I’ve never heard of updates, Jen, and since they might not play for fans in the building or a small percentage of the 18,000 plus capacity, I don’t expect any. Ball Arena can rub people off – the man who runs Ball Corp in Broomfield is a hockey man and former owner of the Denver Cutthroats. Here is the link to that story.
Mike, it looks like the Avs have stepped up their roster with the recent additions; But aside from the Saad for Zadorov trade and the addition of Toews, they really didn’t make the big splash that was expected. Especially the Taylor Hall or Alex Pietrangelo signing. Sakic understandably refuses to discuss a deal and / or negotiation that didn’t happen. Do you have any insight as to whether the Avs: A) made an offer to one of those guys, and b) do you have any information that they might be looking for another attacker to add more “grit” to the position? In my opinion, the past Stanley Cup playoffs showed their lack of toughness as the Dallas big boys pushed us somewhat.
Dan Rish, Albuquerque, NM
Big questions. First off, yes, they need a third or fourth line grinder, a tough guy like Kyle Clifford or Matt Martin, the latter of whom is still on the market. The problem is, the Avs are only $ 1.8 million below the salary cap – and that’s based on just 20 players. They still need an extra attacker and an extra D, either one or the other. As for the transactions for Saad and Toews, two brilliant moves from Sakic and his staff. No, they didn’t make a big hit in free agency, but they didn’t have to – while moving a player they no longer wanted (Zadorov) and using only draft picks (two second-rounders) to get Toews. This was already a very good team and Saad and Toews will fit in well. As for Hall and others, no, Sakic refused to say if he was going after them. But I bet he hasn’t had a long talk with anyone.
Hi Mike, great hockey talking to you through the mail bag. With the start of the hockey season pushed back, what other changes can we see the Avs making to improve this team before the season starts? Thanks.
– Joe, Denver
Just a tough guy who can skate deep forward, Joe. But we don’t know the size of the injured boys. If some guys aren’t 100 percent, they might keep crafting. A friend saw Erik Johnson play golf with no braces or limp, etc., and we thought that EJ might have blown out a knee in Game 1 against Dallas. When everyone gets permission to start camp, I don’t see them doing anything big. I’ve thought of one possibility: trade Sam Girard if they think Byram is ready and just as good. That would free up more than $ 4 million in cap space (Girard will begin its $ 5 million annual cap next season and Byram has its entry-level contract for $ 894K). Probably won’t happen, but the addition of Toews certainly makes Girard somewhat expendable.
Dear Mr. Chambers. The Avs have just brought in the most underrated player in minor league hockey, who will be the biggest surprise in the NHL this season. I’ve watched college hockey for decades and I’ve never seen a smarter, more gifted, fast-paced decision-making and scoring player ready for the NHL than Mike Vecchione. I don’t know him personally, I’ve never met him, I don’t know his family, nor do I know anyone who knows him … but I saw him play at Union College and then was taken for granted in the minors as a UFA. My question: Will you remember to write these words out of your mailbag when this young man scores goals in 10 consecutive games this season? Thank you.
Michael J. Hallisey, MD, Wethersfield, CT
Thanks, Dr. Hallisey. I am with you on Vecchione. I covered DU at the Frozen Four 2017 when defender Will Butcher won the Hobey Baker Award from Vecchione and Zach Aston-Reese, who plays for the Penguins. So when the Avs signed Vecchione, I did some research and found he scored 21 goals in 61 AHL games last season. He’s a good goalscorer, and he wore the Union’s “C” – so I have no idea why the Blues didn’t put the man down. He signed a relatively standard one-year reciprocal deal with Colorado for $ 700K / $ 290K. Perhaps the best guaranteed AHL offer he received was the $ 290K. Anyway, yes, I’ll remember this “conversation” if Vecchione becomes the player you predict.
Mike, are there any updates on the 2021 season and where the Avs will be playing? Will there be games here in Denver with fans present? I know fans missed this team in the playoffs.
Still all in the air, Kenny. Sounds like they want to play in four temporary divisions, including an all-Canadian loop, and play baseball-like miniseries against the same team on home courts. Just division games. But nothing has been completed and there are other ideas.
Hi Mike, as the Avs are celebrating 25 years here in Denver, are there any plans for personal games and celebrations? Can you see the team bringing back players from previous championship teams to honor the history of the franchise?
– Chris, Aurora
Sure, Chris. I suspect Mr. Joe Sakic and the other five guys in retired jerseys will be special guests at a game or two. Adam Foote and Milan Hejduk still live here, along with Sakic by the way.
Mike, what can we expect from the young outlook of the Avs? Do you see any of them make the leap in the coming season and make an impact on the team? It feels like this team is in win now mode and hungry to win the Stanley Cup.
It’s absolutely win-now. Find the Avs on CapFriendly.com and view the salary structure. There is a window and it certainly is now, plus for the next 2-3 years. As for the outlook, I think Logan O’Connor will become a full-time third / fourth line striker and primary penalty killer. Read about Byram above. Dan Connor Timmins. Next year Alex Newhook. Hard to predict if 18-year-old design choices will materialize, but Newhook looks set to be a steal at No. 16 in 2019.