Feb 14, 2013; St. Paul, MN, USA; Colorado Avalanche forward Milan Hejduk (23) against the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center. The Avalanche defeated the Wild 4-3 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Meet the Colorado Avalanche--Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

If you’ve been paying attention to Gone Puck Wild lately, and shame on you if you haven’t, then you know school has begun as Wild fans brush up on their knowledge of the new teams within Minnesota’s division. This week, that new team just so happens to be a former Northwest Division rival–the Colorado Avalanche. Going through Sunday, we’ll break down Colorado’s major additions and subtractions, strengths and weaknesses, prospect pool, 2013 draft class and team outlook.

We kicked off Colorado Avalanche Week yesterday by analyzing the additions to Colorado’s roster. Today, we take a look at who’s missing from last season’s edition of the Avalanche.

With their season in the books, Colorado shipped off forward David Jones and defenseman Shane O’Brien to Calgary for former Avalanche offensive stud Alex Tanguay and defenseman Cory Sarich. The team also said goodbye to one of the franchise’s all-time greats in Milan Hejduk, a man who scored 375 goals and 430 assists for 805 points and a plus-101 rating in 1,020 career NHL games, all spent with the Avalanche. The youngsters like Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon will certainly have big shoes to fill in his absence, but the addition of Tanguay will likely cushion the blow.

Since free agency opened, Colorado has lost forwards Geoff Walker, a minor leaguer, and Aaron Palushaj. Of the two, Palushaj is the greater loss. A second round pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 2007, the 5’11” 187-pound forward has notched three goals and 14 points in 66 career NHL games between Montreal and Colorado, including two goals and seven assists in 25 games for the Avs last season. Signed to a one-year, two-way deal with the Carolina Hurricanes, the 23-year old forward could very well have his best seasons of NHL hockey still ahead of him.

In addition to Walker and Palushaj, the club also decided not to re-sign former Wild players Chuck Kobasew and Greg Zanon. Probably a smart move.

Aside from losing Hejduk, the core unit is still intact in Colorado, and the return of one of the team’s golden boys from the late 1990s-early 2000s could reignite a spark in the Mile High City. Almost all the pieces are there for a good season. Add another solid top-4 defenseman and this team could be dangerous next season.

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