Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post,
While his status as a legendary goalie is forever, the honeymoon period for Roy as the Avalanche's coach is over.
Another NHL season is here. At age 50, Roy has as much to prove as his young players. Was the Central Division title won by Colorado and a rookie coach two years ago more than a fluke?
"I've been learning a lot the last two years. I feel like I'm a much better coach today than I was then," Roy said. "And I'm probably never going to win the Jack Adams (Award as the league's best coach) again. It's kind of funny ..."
It would be a simplistic mistake to give Roy too much credit from the out-of-nowhere success enjoyed by the Avs, when he was named coach of the year in 2014 after the team won 52 regular-season games. It also would be wrong to drop all the blame on Roy for the flop that was last season, when poor puck possession and lack of grit at the blue line caused Colorado to sink near the bottom of the Western Conference.
But, heading into his third season on the Avalanche bench, the sample size will grow large enough to ask: How good is Roy as an NHL coach?
Grade on nothing except the scoreboard, which would merit an "A" for his first campaign and a "D" for his second season, then Roy has been only slightly better than average as a strategist and motivator.
Inspired by Patrick Roy’s fiery NHL coaching debut, Connected counted down some of Patrick Roy’s most memorable acts.
from Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post,
In his debut NHL season, MacKinnon was a teen sensation. He scored 24 goals and added 39 assists as a rookie. While goalie Semyon Varla- mov was rock-solid between the pipes, MacKinnon was the X factor that made Colorado the league's most surprising team, claiming a division championship and earning a berth in the playoffs.
In his second NHL season, however, the teen spirit no longer was enough for Mac- Kinnon, and everything became work. He said for the first time in his young life, playing hockey was difficult. With the Avalanche sinking toward the bottom of the Western Conference standings and his confidence shaken, MacKinnon's scoring touch disappeared early in 2015, and for the first time, he dealt with the frustration of enduring a month-long drought without a goal.
"That's not fun," said MacKinnon, poking through the ashes of his sophomore slump. "I worked pretty hard in the summer to get ready. Then you don't have a good start and it just kind of carries over through the whole season. You get down on yourself."
These were the words MacKinnon had to keep repeating: "You're 19 in the NHL. It's not easy."
Hey, I was as guilty as anyone in expecting too much too soon. MacKinnon's talent is undeniable and obvious. He has the right stuff to uphold the grand Avalanche tradition of Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic. But actually doing it on the ice? It's way harder than it looks, and can be a heavier burden than most players are willing to admit.
"Being part of the Avs, it adds to the pressure. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of guys I looked up to, guys like Forsberg and Sakic and (Patrick) Roy," Matt Duchene said.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
Don't be thinking for a moment the Colorado Avalanche have changed their MO just because they missed the playoffs last season.
And thank goodness for that.
In a league that's regressed the past few years as a number of teams go back to a defense-first mentality, Patrick Roy's squad wants to remain true to its DNA: an aggressive, fast-paced style that's awfully fun to watch -- when it's working.
Having two of the NHL's most offensively positive clubs in the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning meet in the Stanley Cup finals last June seems to justify Colorado's stubborn belief.
"Yes, that's the type of hockey we want to play, and that's the type of hockey we're going to play, anyway," Roy said this week before his team's 5-4 preseason overtime win over the Anaheim Ducks.
DENVER – The Colorado Avalanche Hockey Club announced today that the team has signed defenseman Erik Johnson to a seven-year contract extension through the 2022-23 season.
Johnson, 27, finished tied for first among Avalanche defensemen with a career-high 12 goals last season despite missing the final 34 games of the year due to injury. He ranked second among Colorado defensemen with 23 points (12g/11a) while averaging a team-high 24:25 of ice time per game. Johnson was selected to his first NHL All-Star Game, the first Avalanche defenseman to be picked since Rob Blake in 2003-04.
“Erik is a big part of the core of this team,” said Avalanche Executive Vice President/General Manager Joe Sakic. “We felt it was important for our franchise to secure his rights for the long term as he enters the prime years of his career.”
from Ryan Boulding of ColoradoAvalanche,com,
Those with the eyes of a hawk, or astute attention to the gear that a player adorns while in the rink, might have noticed a running trend through two days of training camp.
Every skater on the ice, with the exception of the coaching staff, was wearing protective guards on their feet. That will be the case through camp, preseason and even the coming campaign.
“They don’t look very good but it will make us more fearless blocking shots,” said center Matt Duchene, a proponent of player safety. “Obviously, we had some key injuries to guys’ feet last year, so I understand why the coaching staff and management wanted us to wear them.”
In an effort to reduce the amount of injuries sustained, there has been a top-down decision to require the use of the safety equipment in all skating situations.
“It takes the element of a potential foot injury out of it a little bit more,” Duchene said. “There are still some areas that aren’t covered, so it’s still going to hurt when you get hit by a puck. But I get it and understand. It’s one of those things that I don’t think guys can really complain about unless it hinders their skating, and it doesn’t seem that way so far.”
from Mike Chambers of the Denver Post,
A team-record number of injuries, poor possession time and an ineffective power play turned the up-and-coming Avalanche into a playoff wannabe last season. Colorado went from a Cinderella story in 2013-14 to a team searching for itself in the second year of the Joe Sakic- and Patrick Roy-led front office and coaching staff.
So what will it be this season? Will the Avs return to their Central Division-winning formula of 2013-14, when they finished 52-22-8 (112 points)? Or will they again be territorially dominated and struggle with the basics of the game as they did last season, when they went 39-31-12 (90 points)?
Here are eight concerns heading into rookie camp and training camp:
Blue-line improvement. It appears the Avs didn't adequately improve their defensive corps by acquiring Nikita Zadorov via trade and Francois Beauchemin through free agency. Zadorov, 20, might be too young and Beachemin, 35, too old. But what the Avs didn't do on the blue line says a lot about what they have in the system, particularly Chris Bigras, 20. The recent trade for former first-round draft pick Brandon Gormley, 23, supports the youth movement on defense, and might explain why the Avs didn't offer a long-term contract to a prized free agent.
from Jonathan Wllis of Sportsnet,
It’s always difficult to identify breakout players; by definition, these are individuals who have never in prior seasons accomplished the things they are about to accomplish. However, analytics offers us some hints as to which individuals might be on the cusp of a revelatory performance. The following are five candidates for big seasons.
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
MacKinnon is the kind of player who might get the “sophomore slump” label after falling from 63 points as a rookie to 38 a year ago. It’s unfair, because he was a dramatically better player in Year 2 of his NHL career. His line (with Ryan O’Reilly and Gabriel Landeskog) improved according to every five-on-five metric we have available.
Consider shots. In an average hour with MacKinnon on the ice, the Avs went from being out-shot 33-30 to outshooting the opposition 33-31, going from just below team average to well above it (as Colorado tends to get out-shot). His personal five-on-five scoring numbers were almost identical year-over-year, and he shot the puck far more frequently, almost 20 percent more than he did as a rookie.
Why did his scoring fall? Colorado’s power play imploded, with the unit’s goal production down nearly 30 percent from the previous season, and MacKinnon’s personal shooting percentage fell markedly, down from a reasonable 10 percent to a lousy 7.3 percent.
He’s 20 years old, all of his personal performance markers at even-strength are pointing in the right direction, and he’s coming off a year where everything went wrong on both the power play and as a shooter. He shouldn’t just match his rookie scoring totals, he should blow past them.
read on for Nazem Kadri, Justin Schultz, Jakob Silfverberg and Ryan Strome...
from Rick Sadowski at NHL.com,
The Colorado Avalanche will need to tighten their defensive play for a return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after falling short last season. Overworked goalies Semyon Varlamov, Reto Berra and Calvin Pickard faced 40 or more shots on goal a combined 16 times, and they permitted four or more non-shootout goals 21 times.
The Avalanche also need to regain their swagger on offense. Their goal production fell from 250 to 219, the power play skidded from the fifth-best percentage in the NHL to 29th, and they were shut out eight times.
Game management and puck possession were other troublesome areas.
Here are three questions facing the Avalanche this season:
Did they do enough to improve a leaky defense? It remains suspect, but the additions of Francois Beauchemin and Nikita Zadorov should help. Beauchemin will be a stabilizing presence. He's 35 but logged major minutes with the Anaheim Ducks and will be expected to do the same while paired with Erik Johnson. Zadorov, 20, plays a physical game and his size (6-foot-5, 235 pounds) should make him a good partner for the puck-rushing Tyson Barrie.
via Rob Mixer of BlueJackets.com,
Typically, I don't deal in the hypothetical, but since there seems to be a bit of conversation about this player, we'll take a closer look. The first thing that comes to mind is the money: can the Blue Jackets sign Christian Ehrhoff at a salary number that fits under the cap? They have $3,728,693 in salary room (according to our friends at General Fanager), and assuming a short-term deal here, the agreed-upon amount would need to be a bit lower than that to afford the Blue Jackets some wiggle room throughout the season.
Let's say they sign Ehrhoff. Where does he fit? If I'm the coach (and thankfully for everyone reading, I'm not), he goes right into my top-four and is a top pair power play quarterback. But again, this situation is probably not close to a resolution and may not be for some time. Is there mutual interest? Multiple outlets have reported that to be the case, but as my made-up saying goes, 'it takes two to tango at a reasonable price so the team has salary maneuverability in case something inevitably happens along the way.'
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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