The Colorado Avalanche may finally be headed in the right direction. If the team can deal the rights to unsigned restricted free agent Ryan O’Reilly for an appropriate bounty, the trade could speed the ongoing overhaul.
Injuries have made things difficult in the near-term. Who could have guessed O'Reilly would never sign or that budding star Gabriel Landeskog and agitating forward Steve Downie would suffer long-term injuries?
The absence of key defenseman Erik Johnson (head injury) and Ryan Wilson (ankle injury) has also caused havoc. This team has suffered no small amount of misery this year.
But going forward the Avalanche must feel good about their team, especially on defense. Here are three keys to their future:
Stefan Elliott: He showed great promise last season, producing 13 points in 39 NHL games. But he didn’t make the Colorado lineup to start this lockout-shortened season and he looked a bit shaky during his first game up as an injury fill-in up from Lake Erie of the AHL.
“His circumstances were a little tougher. He had back-to-back games Friday and Saturday and flew in Sunday night for a Monday afternoon game,” Colorado coach Joe Sacco told the Denver Post. “When we needed a jump start last year, he came up and provided that for us.”
Tyson Barrie: This third-round pick in the 2009 draft is just coming into his own. He scored 27 points in 36 games for Lake Erie this season. Barrie scored his first four NHL points during his last three games for the Avalanche.
“I think right now I'm playing the way I know I can play,” he recently told the Post. “I feel more like myself out there. There were a few games this year where I played OK, but I wasn't great. Since I've been back in the lineup now, I feel like I'm skating and making some plays."
Duncan Siemens: This first round pick in the 2011 draft is back in Saskatoon of the WHL after getting a short AHL spin at the end of last season. He will become an interesting play as he fills out his 6-foot-3 frame. He can move the puck and play with an edge.