Kukla's Korner Hockey
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.
from Adrian Dater of the Denver Post,
Does Jarome Iginla have much left in the tank? The numbers indisputably say yes. Iginla led a good Boston team in goals last season (30). Not since the 1999-2000 season has Iginla failed to score 30 goals in a season (excluding the NHL's 2012-13 lockout year). He scored 29 in the 1999-2000 season for the Flames.
He is 37 and not the fastest skater on the ice, but all indications are that his hands and finishing ability remain among the elite in the NHL. He also gives the Avs something they have lacked since Chris Stewart was traded: a power forward from the right side.
Will the defense still be a liability? The Avalanche allowed too many shots last season, an average of 32.7 per game. That ranked 25th in the league. The only significant addition to the top six is veteran Brad Stuart, who turns 35 in November. While Stuart adds toughness and experience, the overall defensive corps remains the Avs' most worrisome area. Players such as Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie and Nick Holden will have to be just as good, and likely better, if the Avs are to make things easier on themselves and Varlamov.
DENVER – The Colorado Avalanche announced today that the team has signed defenseman Tyson Barrie to a two-year contract through the 2015-16 season.
"Tyson is a big part of the young nucleus of our team," said Avalanche Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Joe Sakic. "He is a gifted young defenseman who brings a lot of offense. We are pleased to have him under contract and look forward to his contribution this upcoming season.”
Barrie, 23, led all Colorado defensemen with 13 goals this past season, the most by an Avs blueliner since 2006-07 (John-Michael Liles - 14). Barrie finished second among Avalanche defensemen in both points (38) and assists (25) while appearing in 64 games.
The legal case for the loss of my NHL career is over. I have accepted a settlement agreement which has now been finalized and signed by all the parties.
This day comes with mixed emotions. I am extremely thankful for the compassion and encouragement of so many people over the past decade. These years have been very difficult for me and my family. The injuries I sustained in my rookie year, the years I spent trying to return to my NHL career, and dealing with the loss of my career and the ensuing legal case, have been long and trying experiences. While nothing replaces the loss of one’s dream, I am happy my family will no longer be burdened by an unresolved legal case, and I am grateful to be able to move forward.
I thank the fans and the public who have supported me so passionately and tirelessly, not just across Canada, and the U.S., but around the world – your support has meant more than you can imagine. I thank the people who supported me in this legal case; your courage, and integrity are an inspiration. I thank former Chief Justice of Ontario Warren Winkler for helping with this settlement. Finally, I thank my friends, and especially my family, for your unwavering love and devotion which kept me going over these last ten years.
I look forward to continuing to bring more attention and resources to the prevention and treatment of concussions and other head and neck injuries in sport, through The Steve Moore Foundation.
While my own hockey career was cut short, my love for the game has never diminished.
from Mike Chambers of the Denver Post,
Less than a month shy of its preseason opener, the Avalanche is feeling stronger than it was a year ago. The toughness and depth gaps between the Avs and the Los Angeles Kings, defending Stanley Cup champions, along with the Western Conference giant Anaheim Ducks, seem to have diminished.
Executive vice president of hockey operations Joe Sakic, defensive assistant coach Adam Foote and newly signed right winger Jarome Iginla recently spoke about the improvements while trying to maintain their excitement about defending their Central Division title and making another step in the playoffs.
"Last year we were dealing with trying to win back the trust within the community and belief in the team, and this year is a different challenge," Sakic said. "We did so well last year, but (now) it's to improve and get to the next step, and obviously the next step is not to just make the playoffs — it's to improve in the playoffs."
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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