Avalanche forward Milan Hejduk celebrates his goal with Paul Stastny and David Jones during their NHL hockey game in Toronto

Are the Colorado Avalanche for real? No, probably not


One of the biggest stories from this young NHL season has been the Colorado Avalanche. The 29th-ranked team from a year ago — only Edmonton finished with fewer points — is now first overall in the NHL, having just swept a five-game Eastern road trip.

Which begs the question: Are the Avs for real?

Let’s answer by asking our own questions!

Who have the Avs beaten thus far? The 1-0 victory in Boston was a signature win, but after that…three wins came against non-playoff teams — Ottawa, Columbus (in a shootout) and Toronto (in overtime) — and the other was a 6-5 shootout win over Montreal. Not exactly a murders’ row. The Avs will probably be made or broken in January, when they play nine of 12 games on the road with stops in Chicago, St. Louis, Nashville, Dallas, Phoenix, Anaheim, Edmonton and L.A. (x2).

Can David Jones keep this up? Jones, Colorado’s leading scorer with four goals, has proven to be a pretty effective sniper when healthy. Problem is, he’s rarely healthy. Despite playing in 77 games last year, Jones has twice had seasons ended via injury (shoulder in 2008-09, torn ACL in 2009-10). There have to be doubts about him making it through the year.

What about the goaltending? Not to discredit Semyon Varlamov, who’s been very good thus far, but we saw this two years ago when Craig Anderson came out of nowhere and morphed into a brick wall. In 2009-10, Andy went 10-2-2 to start the year with a 2.04 GAA and .939 save percentage, but eventually tailed off due to being overworked (71 starts) and facing too much rubber. So how does that relate to Varlamov? Well, Varly’s never played more than 27 games in a season and Colorado is already allowing 31.7 shots per game, eighth-most in the NHL.

Can Colorado compete with that blueline? This might be the biggest issue with the Avs. Outside of Erik Johnson, the defense has a serious lack of talent. It’s like Colorado got everybody else’s scrap parts — the Avs signed Jan Hejda after Columbus (Columbus!) let him walk, which is a serious indictment. Then they signed Shane O’Brien after Nashville let him walk. These signings would’ve been okay for depth purposes, but Hejda and O’Brien are Colorado’s No. 2 and 4 defensemen in terms of ice time right now.  It’s a major concern.

Wow, you’re negative. Anything you like about the Avs? Yeah, absolutely. Like that they’ve got so many legitimate top-six forwards that are 26 or younger: Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly, Matt Duchene, Peter Mueller and Paul Stastny. Like that they’ve got a good veteran backup (JS Giguere) to give Varlamov a breather. Like Joe Sacco, too.

I just don’t like them to make the playoffs.

Teuvo time: Teravainen to open with Toews, Hossa

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six
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Teuvo Teravainen has played both center and right wing over the course of his brief NHL career.

Now, he’s got a new position — left wing — and a pair of shiny new linemates to boot.

Teravainen will open the year playing alongside captain Jonathan Toews and right wing Marian Hossa, per the Sun-Times.

The move could be a boon for the young Finn. Several ex-Chicago wingers thrived playing alongside Toews and Hossa, most notably Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp.

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of production Teravainen, who just turned 21 last month, can manufacture on Chicago’s top line. His numbers from last year weren’t spectacular (nine points in 34 games), but he did a solid job of racking up points en route to the Stanley Cup, with 10 in 18 games.

It’ll also be interesting to see how long he sticks with Toews and Hossa.

Head coach Joel Quenneville has been known as a frequent user of the line blender, often switching up his combos at at moment’s notice.

That said, Quenneville is hoping to find some stability with this new-look group.

“[Teuvo will] play there to start the season,” he said. “Hopefully, all year.”

‘Great story’ Janmark surprises, makes Dallas roster

Brian Elliott, Mattias Janmark-Nylen
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Pretty cool story out of Texas, where Mattias Janmark, the 22-year-old rookie that’s played a grand total of nine games in North America, has defied the odds to make the Stars’ opening-night roster.

“It’s a great story,” Dallas GM Jim Nill said, per the Morning News. “We really only planned to have him here for maybe two preseason games and then send him back. But he just kept being one of the best players out there, and he changed our minds.

“It’s a great example of what you can do if you just play hard.”

Nill acquired Janmark, 22, from Detroit at last year’s deadline as part of the Erik Cole trade. Nill was familiar with the Swedish forward from his time with the Wings — he was part of the front office team that drafted Janmark in ’13 — but didn’t think the deal would pay such immediate dividends.

As for Janmark, he didn’t even think he’d be in North America this year.

He has a contract with SHL club Frolunda, where he scored 36 points in 55 games last year. Given he’s barely played in the AHL — a few games with Grand Rapids, a few with Texas — Janmark figured he’d be back in Europe this season.

His strong play in the exhibition season changed all that. Janmark beat out two of Dallas’ touted prospects — former AHL rookie of the year Curtis McKenzie, and ’12 first-rounder Radek Faksa — for a roster spot, and showed good chemistry with third-line center Cody Eakin.

Janmark also performed well on a line with Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky.