Colorado Avalanche: Questions for Playoffs Training Camp

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - NOVEMBER 09: Head coach Jared Bednar of the Colorado Avalanche directs his team during practice at the Ericsson Globe on November 9, 2017 in Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)
STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - NOVEMBER 09: Head coach Jared Bednar of the Colorado Avalanche directs his team during practice at the Ericsson Globe on November 9, 2017 in Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Colorado Avalanche begin their training camp in preparation for the playoffs tomorrow. Here are some questions they must answer.

The Colorado Avalanche are on the eve of Phase 3, the official training camp. They concluded their unofficial practices on Friday. All regular NHLers were present as were several prospects and Eagles players.

Here’s the official roster:

The only notable absence was Colin Wilson, who apparently is still out with his lower body injury. I guess that’s it for him and the Avalanche.

Notable for the Avalanche’s prospects, prize defenseman Bowen Byram joined the team. Conor Timmins, who spent the whole year with the Eagles, was also present. According to the Avalanche’s Twitter coverage, Logan O’Connor, Sheldon Dries, Kevin Connauton, Anton Lindholm, and Shane Bowers are also in attendance.

Martin Kaut is also absent from that list. He’s played nine NHL games. If he plays one more, he can’t slide on his ELC. I guess the team didn’t even bother inviting him if he can’t play.

Anyway, this training camp is as unusual as everything else this year. Instead of being an easing-into for the season, it’s a crash course to prepare players for the playoffs. What’s more, instead of a week (including rookie camp), it will last two weeks.

Despite the unusual nature of this camp, some of the questions are the same. Let’s look at what they’ll want to answer this year.

Starting Goalie

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The Colorado Avalanche are pretty set on goalies going into the playoffs. All goalies are healthy. I could identify four goalies from the team social — Philipp Grubauer, Pavel Francouz, Adam Werner, and Michael Hutchinson. Presumably Hunter Miska and Antoine Bibeau or Justus Annunen were present, too. The team can take as many goalies into the playoff bubble as they’d like.

However, the story is only about the first two on that list — Grubauer and Francouz. Grubauer went into the pause of injured reserve. Even before that, Francouz was the better goalie some nights.

That said, Grubauer was our goalie last playoffs. He never left Denver, so he folded into the first group for Phase 2 right away. I’m going to guess he’ll get the nod as starter, with Francouz as his backup. However, it’s still a question to look at during training camp.

Standout Black Aces

Martin Kaut didn’t make it on the list, but there are plenty of players who are the black aces who will want to be put on the list for first “call up” — from the stands anyway. (I would think the players not playing would be allowed to sit in the stands.)

Everyone wants to see Bowen Byram. As I wrote in a previous post, we’re highly unlikely to see him in action. Ditto Conor Timmins, though I’d rather see him than Byram. Bo is only 18 — Timmins really needs his NHL legs.

I’m going to guess the Colorado Avalanche will stick with their older journeymen such as Sheldon Dries and T.J. Tynan rather than toss Shane Bowers into the mix. For the goalies, the only real black ace is Adam Werner.

Playoff Readiness

NHL players haven’t participated in a game since March 12, which was exactly four months ago. They’ve had regular access to ice for just the last month or so. They’ve had to just get their skating legs back.

What about their sharpness? In the normal course of a season, teams can enter into the playoffs hot or cold. The Avalanche, winning nine of their last 11 games, were going in hot.

That momentum is long gone. All the teams are at the starting gate. You could say that the 16 teams that have to compete to qualify for the playoffs might have a bit of an edge because they’ll be playing meaningful hockey from the start.

The Colorado Avalanche are going to have to sharpen up in the training camp and show that they’re ready for playoff action. Judging by their Phase 2 activities, they’re chomping at the bit.

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The Colorado Avalanche haven’t announced times or formats for this training camp. Of course, fans can’t attend anyway. Well, at least we know the excellent social team will cover the events well.