Colorado Avalanche fans, arguably the best in the United States, haven’t allowed a simple event like the suspension of the NHL for an entire season to dampen their interest this year.
In fact, ticket sales are on a pace equal to the 2001 campaign when the Rockies won their second Stanley Cup. Entering their 10th anniversary season, Colorado owns the longest streak of consecutive sellout crowds at 439.
Whether the Rockies can win the Cup as they did in 2001 is questionable. Certainly they are strong contenders — ranked second best along with Ottawa at 8-1 by Caesars Palace. Detroit, archrival of the Rockies, is favored at 5-1.
"I think the Avalanche will contend, but they’re not as strong as years past," said Scott Ramsey, hockey oddsmaker and analyst at Las Vegas Sports Consultants. "They don’t have the best player in the world in Peter Forsberg (now at Philadelphia) and won’t be as strong on defense without Adam Foote."
The Av’s will have their corps of players returning for the Oct. 5 season opener. Management re-signed center Joe Sakic (33 goals, 87 points in 2003-04), wingers Alex Tanguay (25-79) and Milan Hejduk (35-75) along with defenseman Rob Blake (13-46).
The loss of Forsberg will hurt, but the Rockies acquired veteran center Pierre Turgeon and defenseman Patrice Brisebois. Returning goalie David Aebischer was 32-19-9 for Colorado with four shutouts and a tidy 2.09 goals against average.
Rule changes such as the elimination of the red line and an overtime shootout to eliminate ties should benefit a speed and finesse team like the Avs.
"Any team that can skate well and has offensive-minded defenseman will be helped greatly by the rule changes," Ramsey said. "In Blake and Brisebois, the Rockies should be in good shape."