Avs on Verge of Anticipated Season
From the front office to the ice, Colorado had a busy offseason
The Avalanche has hosted some of its top prospects this week at its rookie camp in Centennial, Colo., and that’s been great. It’s given fans a chance to whet their appetites for some Avalanche hockey and catch a glimpse of the future.
Training camp is just around the corner, though, with a 9 a.m. scheduled start Thursday at South Suburban Family Sports Center and with it the Avs offseason is about to take on some considerable momentum.
The reason is two-fold.
As with rookie camp, getting a chance to see the franchise’s veterans and stars evokes excitement and means games—real, live hockey games!—are just around the corner after a long, hot Denver summer.
The other reason is born out of a pretty remarkable offseason for the franchise. Since the Avs last took the ice in late April, their Pepsi Center offices have been a busy place. Thursday’s first practice session will serve as a period on that offseason sentence and a capital letter on a new sentence that the franchise hopes writes itself deep into spring and next summer.
Let’s take a look back at the offseason and get ready for what figures to be a fun 2013-14 season.
WINNING THE LOTTERY
The Avalanche finished 29th out of the NHL’s 30 teams last season and entered April’s Draft Lottery with an 18.8 percent chance of winning the first pick. Florida had the best chance at 25 percent, with all 14 clubs not qualifying for last year’s playoffs eligible to win the first overall pick.
Colorado, which ultimately selected Halifax, Nova Scotia star Nathan MacKinnon in June’s draft, won the No. 1 overall selection for the first time since the franchise moved from Quebec prior to the 1995-96 season. The Avalanche/Nordiques franchise had drafted first overall on three previous occasions: 1989 (Mats Sundin), 1990 (Owen Nolan) and 1991 (Eric Lindros).
The Avalanche’s previous high draft pick came in 2011 when it selected Gabriel Landeskog with the second overall choice.
"Avalanche Wins No. 1 Pick At Draft Lottery"
FRONT OFFICE RESTRUCTURE
The Avalanche made some significant changes to its front office in May, adding titles and responsibilities to team governor Josh Kroenke and alternate governor Joe Sakic and bringing in hall of famer Patrick Roy as the franchise’s 14th head coach to replace former coach Joe Sacco.
Kroenke added team president to his title and subsequently named Sakic, a former Avs captain and hall of famer, as the club’s executive vice president of hockey operations.
HIRING PATRICK ROY
Sakic’s first order of business was to find a new coach, and he only had one person in mind: Roy.
“When I took this job—and I knew I had to find a coach—Patrick was always my top candidate,” Sakic said at a May 28 news conference announcing Roy’s return to the franchise. “Patrick has a great hockey mind, he is a tremendous coach, and there is no one more passionate about this game. He’ll bring a winning attitude to this dressing room and help this young team grow, and I know he’ll get the best out of each player.”
Roy, who also serves as the franchise’s vice president of hockey operations, returned to the Avalanche 10 years to the day after he retired from his playing career.
"Ten years ago to the day I was here at the Pepsi Center, in this very same room, announcing my retirement as an NHL player," Roy said in his opening statement. "Shortly thereafter, I realized that the passion I had for the game never left me. I wanted to stay involved in hockey, and I found a way to do so. Here I am today, back in Denver, ready to embark on a new challenge that I’m really looking forward to."
All amateur drafts are important for a sports franchise, but Colorado entered the June 2013 draft in Newark, N.J., knowing it had a chance to add additional young talent to its franchise in just a matter of hours.
The Avs tabbed five defensemen, one forward and one goaltender, but the crown jewel of its 2013 class came in the form of junior offensive standout Nathan MacKinnon, who was the Avalanche’s first No. 1 overall draft selection and just the fourth in the Avalanche/Nordiques franchise history.
In all the Avs drafted a pair of players from the Ontario Hockey League and one apiece from the United States Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Western Hockey League and Sweden.
MacKinnon, a 6-foot, 182-pound center had 75 points (32g/43a) in 44 games for Halifax in the 2013-13 season, averaging 1.70 points per game. He then scored 33 points (11g/22a) in 17 playoff games as the Mooseheads won the CHL’s Memorial Cup.
For all the changes that happened off the ice this summer, Colorado was relatively quiet on the player-acquisition front.
Of course, there’s some expectation that a player or two from its 2013 draft will wear the Avs logo this season, but the Avalanche will enter Thursday’s training camp with a roster that looks pretty similar to the one that skated off the ice last April.
Tanguay, 33, who was originally selected by Colorado in the first round (12th overall) of the 1998 draft and spent his first six NHL seasons with the Avalanche, tied for third on the Flames in scoring last season (27 points) and figures to add to an already potent offensive Avalanche attack.
Sarich, 34, and Benoit, 29, will be looked upon to help shore up Colorado’s defensive play this season.
DUCHENE AND LANDESKOG EXTENSIONS
Duchene signed a five-year extension July 18, keeping him in Colorado until the 2018-19 season, while Landeskog signed a seven-year extension Aug. 15, and will wear an Avs’ sweater through the 2020-21 season.
Duchene enters this season fresh off one of the best seasons of his career after he tied for the team lead in 2012-13 with 43 points (17g/26a) in 47 games. Since being selected third overall in the 2009 draft he hasfinished in the top three on the Avs in scoring in three of his four seasons.
Landeskog, the second overall selection in the 2011 draft, won the 2011-12 Calder Memorial Trophy as the league's rookie of the year and joined Chris Drury (1998-99) as the only Colorado players to win the Calder Trophy. Honored as the fourth captain in Avalanche history Sept. 4, 2012, Landeskog became the youngest player to wear the "C" in NHL history (19 years, 286 days)."Matt Duchene Under Contract Long Term"