Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Terry Frei of the Denver Post,
Before the game, Sakic reprised some of the themes his second-year coach, former teammate Patrick Roy, discussed recently, including that the Avs — especially judged in retrospect — weren't primed for the season.
"I actually thought training camp, the first three days, went really well," Sakic said. "I thought the guys were flying and excited. As it went on, you could almost sense that guys weren't quite ready for what to expect coming into the season. We had so much success and smooth sailing the year before, you could see — I won't say it was a letdown — but we weren't expecting how other teams were going to play against us. The pressures, the expectations were up there this year, where last year at the start of the year there weren't a lot of expectations. ...
"We had a tough start, faced a lot of adversity and it took some time for our core guys to learn to deal with it."
Was there something that could have been done at the time, when he and others "sensed" that reality?
"I went through it as a player," Sakic said. "We talked to the players about it. We talked to the players at the end of last season about how much harder it was going to be. You have to go through it. I will say I'm pretty proud of the way the guys dealt with it. I know it took longer than we were hoping, but you could see the smiles, the excitement the last couple of months, where we played much better as a team, more confident, kind of learning to deal with what it's going to take to get to that next level."
added 11:42pm, video is below...
So absolutely, this season is a disappointment, and it was destined to be considered that long before the Saturday afternoon confirmation that the Avalanche wouldn't make the playoffs.
For the sixth time in the past nine seasons, there will be no postseason hockey at the Pepsi Center.
This will be the biggest test for Joe Sakic and Roy.
They must avoid denial.
Denial would entail assuming that the run of injuries — including to Erik Johnson and Nathan MacKinnon — explains too much.
-Terry Frei of the Denver Post where you can read more on the Avalanche.
from Jeff Simmons of Sportsnet,
While the NHL will hand out its share of awards at the end of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Sportsnet’s NHL web team decided to hand out some awards of our own.
Winner: Patrick Roy, Colorado Avalanche
A year after winning the Jack Adams Award, Patrick Roy and the Colorado Avalanche have taken several steps back this season.
Even with a deep core of young talent (Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly, etc), the Avalanche have fallen back to earth after a breakout season in which they won the Central Division with 112 points and pushed the Minnesota Wild to seven games in the opening round of the playoffs.
Despite that, Roy’s team was a wildly popular regression candidate heading into 2014-15.
from Terry Frei of the Denver Post,
Complacency, even short-lived and subconscious, and even when not obvious, is a fatal flaw in the NHL.
"All my years, and it's not been 100 years, but the last 10 years as a coach and a coaching staff, I think we always like to evaluate our work," Roy said Thursday in Vancouver before coaching the Avalanche to a 4-1 victory over the Canucks.
"We did that least year, we're doing it this year. We're always going to learn something. Talking to other coaches, there are years you're going to be learning more than others. This year was a year that I thought I learned a lot more, compared to, say, last year.
"Last year we were playing with confidence, we were playing with such a good mind-set, it was kind of a lot easier. This year, we had to try to find ways to get the team going, find ways to help the power play, working at it, changing the structure of the team, working harder on details of our neutral-zone forecheck. These are things I feel that we learned a lot."
from Mark Spector of Sportsnet,
Winnipeg has passed the Avalanche because the Jets have size and physicality to go with their skill players, even if MacKinnon, Landeskog, Duchene likely have a higher offensive pedigree than Winnipeg’s stars up front.
It’s not all about scoring. As Colorado learned this season, sometimes it’s about surviving with whatever lineup is left come game time. And just because you win one season, it doesn’t guarantee a damned thing next October.
“We all fall in it. The coaching staff and the players,” Roy said. “A lot of things came pretty fast. You have a tendency to think it’s going to be easier. Then you’re not as sharp when you come to camp. Then you start behind.
“I think the thing that I learned the most is, you always have to adapt to you group,” said Roy. “You have to deal with this. You have to learn to adapt to your team.”
Lesson learned. Too late, mind you, but with this lineup, the Avs will be back.
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
Overall, his legacy is cemented. In addition to starring on two Olympic gold-medal-winning teams, Iginla has won a case full of trophies – an Art Ross, two Rocket Richards, a King Clancy and the Mark Messier leadership award.
What he hasn’t won is a Stanley Cup, though he of course came achingly close when Calgary pushed Tampa Bay to Game 7 in the 2004 Cup final. More recent playoff runs fell short in Pittsburgh two years ago and Boston last year. Finding the right landing place as a free agent, in what he hopes is his final NHL stop, was critical to Iginla for personal and professional reasons.
“It’s hard to pick, especially now with how the cap works,” Iginla said. “If you try to predict what the final four are going to be, maybe you can do it, but for me, it’s hard to tell. They’re all so close. There are no teams you play now where you feel they’re so much ahead of you – and that wasn’t always the case.
“Right now, we’re playing some good hockey and getting better and we’re missing some impact players [Erik Johnson, Nathan MacKinnon]. That should – and I believe will – only get better. So absolutely, it was more than just about this year. It was about being part of a team that’s trending positively in the right way. And even though we had a step back in the beginning, overall, we’re going to keep getting better and better.”
Every time Iginla returns to Calgary, it gets a little easier for him, he said. His family is enjoying life in Denver, from his three kids’ schools to their minor hockey. He sees a lot of similarities to Calgary – “a lot going on, but not too busy. Maybe a little warmer.
from Rick Gethin of FoxSports Ohio,
With players looking at Columbus as a destination and not some backwater, the caliber of skill coming into the organization is better. This makes it much easier for Todd Richards to find a role for the players, as most of them are known quantities. This was the case with Scott Hartnell being traded to the Blue Jackets from the Flyers June 23, 2014, while rene Bourque was acquired at the trade deadline in exchange for James Wisniewski March 2, 2015.
"They're veteran guys," said Richards. "Hartnell has been around the league long enough and played enough games. There's a reason why he's played over one thousand games. It's not necessarily 'Blue Jackets hockey'. I think when you acquire players, you understand because they've been around long enough, you know what they can do, what they can bring and maybe what their potential is."
Scott Hartnell has recorded 22 goals and 28 assists for 50 points in 67 games this season, while Rene Bourque has accrued 4-0-4 in 8 games since the trade.
"In Bourque's case, maybe it's a fresh start, new surroundings to maybe ignite him and get him going. With Hartnell, you know what to expect when he comes in. Those are players that you're trying to add to your team to add certain things to your team. So, it doesn't surprise me what Hartnell's done this year."
With the Blue Jackets making strides in becoming the team that fans have waited a long time to see, these "changes of scenery" have been beneficial for the players and the club. Knowing who will fit and who to pass on starts at the top with GM Jarmo Kekalainen, along with President of Hockey Operations John Davidson, and filters down throughout the play on and off the ice.
from Mike Chambers of the Denver Post,
... forward Jesse Winchester — who has not played this season after suffering a preseason concussion at Calgary — is on the trip and is a candidate to make his long-awaited Avalanche debut after signing with the club as an unrestricted free agent last summer.
Winchester's post-concussion symptoms disappeared about 10 days ago, he said, ending a dark and depressing period for the Colgate University graduate. His illness became so uncomfortable he was told to stay away from the team and its facilities. He met with a specialist in Memphis, Tenn., and learned to juggle, among other eye-hand coordination skills, with a local therapist.
"I'm just happy to feel totally alive again," Winchester said. "I stuck with the program, working with a vision-training lady and made some big strides. Just one day, I felt normal and felt like playing hockey. I'm just happy to be back with the guys, especially at such an exciting time of the year."
Winchester had severe vision problems that made him ill when he would walk through a grocery store or skate in an arena with large seating and other landmarks. Avs coach Patrick Roy said Winchester might play Monday if he feels good during and after the morning skate.
In case you missed what happened a few days ago, you can get caught up here.
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