Colorado Avalanche v San Jose Sharks

Will Colorado’s super-sized defense help turn things around?

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While Boston Red Sox fans with “What have you done for me lately?” attitudes will dispute this point, few teams fall apart more dramatically than the Colorado Avalanche did in 2010-11. It seemed like the speedy, attacking team had a shot at maintaining the momentum from a Cinderella 09-10 through the first chunk of 10-11, but their meltdown escalated quickly.

As a result, the team’s makeup changed in significant ways. The Avalanche traded power forward Chris Stewart and offensive defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to St. Louis for disappointing (but intriguing) 2006 No. 1 pick Erik Johnson. They shipped Craig Anderson to Ottawa for peanuts (OK, Brian Elliott). During the off-season, they also cut ties with their offensive catalyst from the blueline, John-Michael Liles.

While the most obvious question is whether or not Johnson will justify that risky trade, the bigger issue is: can the Avalanche turn around their atrocious defense from last season? That certainly remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: they’ll be different.

To be more specific, NHL.com points out that they’ll be big, with four defensemen tilting the scales at at least 230 pounds. There’s no guarantee that they’ll be better, mind you, but their group won’t be quite as easy to push around in 2011-12.

Quincey was recovering from season-ending shoulder surgery on Feb. 18 when the Avalanche acquired 6-4, 232-pound Erik Johnson from St. Louis in a blockbuster trade that included four players and two draft picks. Exactly one month before Quincey was injured in a game against Washington, the Avalanche brought in Ryan O’Byrne (6-5, 234) from Montreal in exchange for prospect Michael Bournival.

Colorado bulked up the blue line even more this summer by signing unrestricted free agents Jan Hejda (6-4, 237) and Shane O’Brien (6-3, 230) after trading John-Michael Liles to Toronto for a second-round pick in 2012.

Polarizing defenseman O’Brien thinks that the Avalanche’s size-centric shift could pay big dividends, even echoing the beefy strategy employed by the Boston Bruins.

“If you look at a team like the Boston Bruins, they were Stanley Cup champs last year, and they had a lot of size and grit on the back end,” O’Brien said. “If you can have size and still have guys who can skate and move the puck and get it to the forwards, I think it’s a good recipe for success.”

(snip)

“This team has never had any trouble scoring goals,” O’Brien said. “With the additions they made on defense and with the guys they already had, our D corps is big and strong. If we can keep it to the outside, do our jobs in our end, I think we’ll have a good chance at success.”

Much like the jersey sizes in the locker room, the Avalanche’s defense can only go up compared to last year – unless an even bigger disaster takes place. The odds might be against them to make enough of an improvement to crack the West’s top eight this season, but playing against them shouldn’t be a walk in the park like last season.

Caggiula expected to sign shortly, Canucks could be front-runners

during the championship game of the 2016 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championships at Amalie Arena on April 9, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.The North Dakota Fighting Hawks defeated the Quinnipiac Bobcats 5-1 to win the national title. Getty
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College free agent Drake Caggiula is expected to pick a team shortly, possibly even today.

The University of North Dakota winger had originally shortlisted six teams, according to a report. Those teams were Philadelphia, Edmonton, Ottawa, Vancouver, Chicago and Buffalo.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie said this morning on Edmonton radio that the Canucks are “maybe” the front-runners to land the 21-year-old. Vancouver signed Caggiula’s teammate, defenseman Troy Stecher, a couple of weeks ago, and Caggiula’s linemate, Brock Boeser, was drafted by the Canucks in the first round last year.

Recently, Boeser told Postmedia that he was trying to convince Caggiula to sign with Vancouver, where there will be plenty of opportunities for young forwards in the next couple of years.

If it’s not the Canucks, McKenzie said he’s heard the Oilers have a “puncher’s chance” of getting Caggiula.

Vigneault will be behind the Rangers’ bench in 2016-17

New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault runs a practice at NHL hockey training camp Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, in Greenburgh N.Y. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
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The New York Rangers may have been bounced in the opening round of the 2016 playoffs, but they aren’t looking to make a coaching change. In a phone interview with Montreal’s LaPresse newspaper, Alain Vigneault confirmed that he’ll be back behind the Rangers’ bench next season.

“I’ve had discussions with the club’s front office and they told me that they wanted me to come back next season,” Vigneault told LaPresse (quotes have been translated by PHT).

Vigneault and Rangers management will meet in Palm Springs next week to discuss what went wrong in 2015-16.

Even though the season didn’t go the way the Rangers had hoped, Vigneault insists he was never worried about losing his job.

“I don’t really worry about that stuff,” Vigneault said of the rumors surrounding his job security. “There’s 82 games in a season plus the playoffs and you can’t start thinking about your fate after each game. After a loss, you forget it and start thinking about the adjustments you need to make. In regards to our situation, we still managed to pick up 101 points this season. That’s a good season, but we still expected more from our team in the playoffs.”

Like every off-season, there will be changes, but Vigneault isn’t expecting any major ones.

“There’s definitely going to be changes. I don’t know if there’ll be big changes because today, it’s hard to make big changes. With the salary cap, it’s not realistic to think that way.”

When pressed about potential changes, Vigneault wasn’t willing to elaborate.

Vigneault also touched on the way Dan Boyle went after two reporters at the team’s year-end media availability. It’s safe to say he wasn’t thrilled about the way the whole thing went down.

“It’s a lesson for me and our whole team,” added Vigneault. “It’s disappointing because Dan had a really nice career. He won the Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay, but all people will remember him for is this incident. What happened with him really surprised us. It’s too bad. I hope people will remember him for the career he had.”

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

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The Stanley Cup playoffs continue with one game on Friday night. You can catch tonight’s action via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Tampa Bay at NY Islanders (7:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 4 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here. The Lightning lead the series 2-1.

Here’s some relevant reading material you might enjoy:

No hearings scheduled for Boyle on Hickey hit, or Hickey on Drouin hit

Lightning take dramatic OT win vs. Islanders, go up 2-1 in series

WATCH LIVE: Canada-USA (IIHF World Hockey Championship)

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A huge tilt on day one of the World Hockey Championships, as Canada and the USA clash in Russia. You can watch the game online using the NBC Sports Live Extra app.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Canada came away with a gold medal in last year’s tournament while the United States took home the bronze. Of course, each team’s roster changes significantly every year.

The USA’s next game is tomorrow against Belarus. Canada will play Sunday against Hungary.