Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Colorado Avalanche
There may not have been another team this summer who embraced what it meant to go “back to the future” the way the Colorado Avalanche did.
They fired coach Joe Sacco and replaced him with Patrick Roy. Then they brought former captain Joe Sakic on board as the Executive VP of Hockey Operations all while GM Greg Sherman sits by nervously waiting for the ax to fall on him. Even former defenseman Adam Foote was also added as a defensive coach.
With all that change in the team, it seems to have invigorated some interest in what’s a fascinating young team. With Roy’s addition, the Avalanche will either be entertaining because they’ll be a fun, young team to watch or because Roy will lose his mind when they struggle. Win/win?
Their front office and coaching stuff was only part of the fun. They brought back former Sakic linemate Alex Tanguay in a deal with Calgary that also saw Cory Sarich come to Denver. David Jones and Shane O’Brien headed out the door to make that happen.
The NHL Draft saw them land offensive powerhouse Nathan MacKinnon with the No. 1 overall pick. The team has already said MacKinnon will be right there to start the season and having him joining up with recently extended forwards Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene gives Colorado one hell of a young core.
With focus on the youth, not much attention has been paid to long-time veteran Milan Hejduk who is hoping to catch on with another team. That must be awkward with all of his old teammates coming back to roost in the organization.
Free agency saw them not do a whole lot adding depth along the blue line with Andre Benoit (Ottawa), Nate Guenin (Anaheim), and Nick Holden (Columbus) joining the team. The latter two will likely spend more time in Cleveland in the AHL than Denver.
All that aside, hope everyone has their popcorn waiting for the moment Coach Roy blows his top the first time. It’s going to be great.
Introducing: PHT’s ‘Team of the Day’ summer series
Pavel Zacha was this close to making his NHL debut.
Just days prior to opening their season against the Jets, the Devils returned Zacha — the sixth overall pick at this year’s draft — back to his junior club in OHL Sarnia.
The move comes after Zacha, 18, impressed throughout training camp and the preseason. He appeared in four exhibition games for New Jersey, scoring one point while endearing himself to the organizational brass, coaching staff and players.
“He understands the game. He plays with a maturity. It’s crazy to think an 18-year-old coming out of high school is up here and playing with the maturity and understanding of the game with the new system,” Kyle Palmieri told NJ.com. “I think he’s got a lot of raw talent there as a power forward. He’s got the body for it, the puck-handling skills and the nose for the net.”
At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Zacha has the frame and physical stature to play at the NHL level, and looked the part for long stretches of the exhibition season, getting turns on New Jersey’s top line.
The decision to send him back to junior is probably the right one, however.
Zacha only turned 18 in April and has limited experience even at the OHL level; ’14-15 was his first year with Sarnia, though he did appear in 38 Czech League games (for Liberec) the season prior.
There’s another Raffl in the NHL.
On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.
Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.
“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.
With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.
For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.