Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Mike Shackil,
The Colorado Avalanche enter the 2014-15 NHL season on the heels of a record-tying 52-win season last year. The team’s success last year cemented a first place finish in the Central Division of the Western Conference, though the Avalanche would ultimately fall to the Minnesota Wild in the Conference Quarterfinals in seven games. In light of their first playoff berth since 2010, the Avalanche will also see ticket prices rise on the secondary market for home games at the Pepsi Center.
In case you missed it earlier today, the Avs re-signed Stuart.
added 11:22am, Press release below plus the Avs have also signed Cody McLeod.
from Mike Chambers of the Denver Post,
Like Avs players, Avs fans will soon appreciate having Stuart on their side. If nothing else, pay attention to Stuart's skating — his smooth, seemingly effortless stride gets him in position to make plays as well as anyone in the NHL.
"He's a really steady influence," said Erik Johnson, who is playing with Stuart as the Avs' top pairing. "He won a Stanley Cup in Detroit and has been on a lot of winning teams. He's approaching mid-30s, but he really skates well out there. If you can skate in the league you're going to be around for a long time, and he can definitely move."
Stuart came to Colorado from San Jose at a large cost: The Avs sent the Sharks a second-round draft pick in 2016 and a sixth-rounder in 2017. Stuart waived his limited no-trade clause to come to Colorado after the Sharks self-imploded again in the 2014 playoffs after taking a 3-0 series lead over the Los Angeles Kings, the eventual Stanley Cup champions.
"Yeah, I think it was a good time," Stuart said of getting out of San Jose, the team that chose him third overall in the 1998 draft. "They wanted to make, probably, more changes than they did. First thing I noticed here is, everything is positive; everybody is excited about the season. Reading some of the things going on (in San Jose), it's a little different atmosphere. I'm excited to be a part of this. It really feels good."
from Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet,
A dozen reporters and analysts from Sportsnet’s hockey brain trust — Doug MacLean, John Shannon, Chris Johnston, Damien Cox, Mark Spector, et al. — submitted a list ranking all the teams in order of how they think the NHL season will shake out. We crunched the numbers and will be unveiling our consensus standings prediction from worst to first.
Colorado is our 12th-ranked team.
Biggest story line to watch: Tracking the continued development of Colorado’s young guns will likely be the most interesting story line to follow this year. MacKinnon won the Calder Trophy after scoring 24 goals and 63 points, and many think he’s on a quick path to superstardom. Meanwhile, Ryan O’Reilly, Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene are no slouches themselves, all scoring more than 20 goals and 60 points last season and joining MacKinnon to form a terrific offensive core of dynamic players in their early 20s. The continued development of that quartet could make the Avs one of the most exciting teams to watch in 2014-15 and might be enough to make everyone forget about the team’s defensive woes.
2014-15 prediction: It will be difficult for the Avalanche to repeat the incredible heights of their breakout 2013-14 season, especially if they don’t get better on the back end, but this is still a playoff team in a strong Western Conference.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
During his French media scrum Thursday, Patrick Roy's face lit up when asked about his blue-line corps.
There seemed to be genuine excitement in his eyes.
"Yes," Roy said Thursday morning at the Bell Centre when asked if that was indeed the case.
You see, where everyone else around the hockey world sees Colorado’s soft underbelly, the reigning Jack Adams Award winner sees a group that’s very much under the radar.
"Tyson [Barrie] had a really good second half of the season," began Roy. "He was outstanding. When we lost him [against] Minny in the playoffs that was a really big loss for us. Nick Holden, same thing, what a year he had for us. E.J. [Erik Johnson] is an important part of it, it’s a group that’s been learning. [Jan] Hejda and Brad Stuart will bring a lot of experience and help our young guys."
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
“Yeah, it was different (than he’d expected),” rookie of the year Nathan MacKinnon acknowledged.
“I didn’t realize how smart he’d be. I know he was passionate, very competitive, but he understands the game so well. Everything he does there’s a reason behind it,” MacKinnon told ESPN.com.
“He doesn’t just bark at guys. He’s always thinking. It’s only my second season but I’m sure he’s one of the most progressive coaches in the league,” MacKinnon said.
Young Avs captain Gabe Landeskog admitted he, too, wasn’t sure what to expect from the legendary goaltender turned coach.
“I think it surprised me, you always get the questions is he yelling at you, is he all fired up every game and all this stuff. I think to a lot of people (with the team) he’s surprisingly calm. He’s very smart in the way he interacts with his players whether it’s between periods or after games or before games he’s very calm and he’s able to look at the big picture. He’s emotional yes, but he’s smart about it,” Landeskog said in an interview.
from Adrian Dater of The Denver Post,
Unlike recent years, the Avalanche is a "cap team" again, one with a payroll coming close to the NHL's $69 million cap ceiling for the 2014-15 season. Under the ownership of the Kroenke family, led by Stan and son Josh, the Avs' cap-averaged payroll entering Wednesday was $67,279,762 — up about $15 million from the highest it got last season.
What might surprise fans is that the Kroenkes agreed to substantially increase payroll despite the Avs being in the bottom five of the NHL in ticket revenues last season, at about $26 million. The Avs' ticket revenue was low enough that it qualified for the NHL's revenue-sharing plan, a complicated formula that helps buffer teams whose revenues dip for whatever reason. Several years of losing teams saw Avs attendance slide, and while the team is a winner again and season-ticket sales have improved from last year, some of the financial aftereffects of the losing years are still being felt.
That is why Avalanche executive vice president of hockey operations Joe Sakic is both thankful to the Kroenkes and hoping fans will reciprocate by coming out to games more often this season.
from Katie Strang of ESPN,
While most people were gob-smacked by their success, former Avalanche forward and four-time Stanley Cup champion Claude Lemieux was not. Having played with Roy in Colorado, Lemieux knew that Roy's passionate personality would take the team places no one expected.
“I wasn’t surprised,” Lemieux told ESPN.com in a recent phone conversation. “I know Patrick is a good coach, more than a good coach -- a really good coach. I knew he would have a big impact. He’s so committed to the game, he’s so well-prepared, and he understands winning. He has been a winner for life and that only translates to being contagious to players.”
Lemieux said he actually expected the Avalanche to fare far better in 2013, but knew it was only a matter of time once Roy was hired. The Avalanche lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Wild, but gained valuable postseason experience, which Lemieux hopes will aid them heading into their 2014-15 campaign.
from Terry Frei of the Denver Post,
Here's the Avalanche's biggest problem as veterans prepare to report for physicals Thursday: It's difficult to come out and declare that you don't want to be as successful in the regular season as you were a year ago.
You can't really say that to your players, to your fans, to the media, to anyone.
But if an adoption of a collective veteran mind-set personified by one of the game's top leaders, Jarome Iginla, makes Colorado better suited for a deeper postseason run in 2015, a regression in the regular-season standings is more than acceptable.
In the first season of Joe Sakic being atop the hockey hierarchy and Patrick Roy behind the bench, the Avs stunningly rebounded. They rang up 112 points and, thanks to the St. Louis Blues' collapse down the stretch, won the Central Division. They also posted the second-best record in the Western Conference and third-best overall in the NHL.
This is a huge compliment, not a slight, but there's no way the Avalanche truly was the third-best team in the league. It was one of the more monumental single-season turnarounds in the history of the league. But then came the first-round loss in seven games to Minnesota, which went down as failure despite the fact that the Wild's payroll was $11 million higher.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
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