Without doing a major overhaul of their roster, the Colorado Avalanche have transformed from one of the worst teams in the NHL to one of the best. The big question now is how close to sustainable this is and, if the Avalanche really are serious contenders now, how much of the credit should go to new head coach Patrick Roy.
Avalanche leading scorer Matt Duchene would argue that the Avalanche’s coaching change has made a significant difference. He wasn’t a fan of former bench boss Joe Sacco’s tactics and now that he’s gone, Duchene doesn’t mind going public with his criticisms.
“There were very few people in this (dressing) room who were happy. Our style of play, it wasn’t right for this team. We knew it would fail,” Duchene told the Denver Post. “That was the hard part. We knew (any) success was going to be short-lived. It was hard to really be excited about it.
“For myself, it was really hard to look at what we were doing and think it would keep on working. I can honestly say now, it’s not like that.”
Duchene credits Roy for working with players “constructively” rather than having a doghouse. He also appreciates his fast-paced system.
Sacco is an assistant coach with the Buffalo Sabres now and he decided not to respond to Duchene’s comments.
The Avalanche earned a 3-2 victory against the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday to wrap up their October schedule with a 10-1-0 record. They’re enjoying offensive depth far beyond what they had last season, but it’s been their goaltending that has stuck out so far. Semyon Varlamov has been one of the league’s top netminders and backup Jean-Sebastien Giguere has allowed just two goals in three starts.
Colorado will resume its schedule on Friday against the Dallas Stars.
There has always seemed to be a connection between hockey players and the game of golf. Some are better than others when it comes to the links.
Take NHL referee Garrett Rank, for example.
Rank, also an amateur golfer, has made the cut at the 2016 Canadian Open at Glen Abbey Golf Club just south of Toronto. He’s currently tied for 36th at even par heading into the weekend. He also sits seven shots behind the leader, Dustin Johnson, the future son-in-law of The Great One, Wayne Gretzky.
Rank, who joined the NHL Officials Association in 2014, has split his time between officiating in the NHL and the American Hockey League. But, according to the PGA Tour website, he was hired as a full-time NHL ref the day before the opening round of this week’s Canadian Open.
“I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t take my clubs with me when I was on the road,” he told the PGA Tour website. “I think it helps me and makes it a little easier for me because I know that this isn’t the end of the world, whether I shot 65 or 75.”
Rank, 28, is also a cancer survivor. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011, after initially feeling discomfort while officiating a game.
“When I got the news I tried to maintain a positive attitude,” he told the Toronto Sun. “And you know what, it’s kind of a blessing in disguise. You never want to have cancer wished upon someone but I think it gave me a little better outlook in terms of a bad call on the ice wasn’t as bad. Or hitting a bad shot on the golf course wasn’t the end of the world.
“It has allowed me to stay patient and be grateful for the opportunities and things I have in life.”
Related: PHT Morning Skate: James Wisniewski caddies for PGA Tour golfer Jason Day
More good news when it comes to Carey Price.
After Price had said last month he was 100 per cent healthy following an MCL sprain that ultimately ended his season, Montreal Canadiens goalie coach Stephane Waite reaffirmed that earlier this week in an interview with RDS. That should provide Habs fans with at least a little bit of optimism when it comes to the goalie position after a rather tumultuous summer.
“I’m not a doctor, but all I know is that on the ice it was perfect,” Waite told RDS, as per The Hockey News. “It is 100 percent restored. We are happy and our medical staff did a great job with him to bring him to the top. It is no longer a concern, he is ready to go.”
Habs fans have had a difficult few months. With Price injured, the Canadiens quickly fell out of the playoff race. The off-season has ushered in tremendous change, with the additions of Andrew Shaw and Shea Weber, while the departure of P.K. Subban in that deal with Nashville remains probably the most contentious development in the NHL during the summer.
It is still reality right now that the Habs’ success is still dependent on their goalie Price.
The 28-year-old Price last played a game on Nov. 25, so it’s difficult to imagine there wouldn’t be some initial rust when it comes to getting acclimated once again to game action.
He is also among the three goalies named to Team Canada for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey, which starts Sept. 17. Braden Holtby and Corey Crawford were also named to the squad.
Price started and starred for Canada in its gold-medal win at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, while Holtby and Crawford are established and accomplished NHL goalies.
“It’s a long-ways off,” said Price earlier in the spring, as per NHL.com. “I know I’ll be prepared for that.”
Mitch Callahan signed another one-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday, and will look to once again make the jump to the NHL in the fall.
As per General Fanager, the deal pays $600,000 at the NHL level and $175,000 at the AHL.
A sixth-round pick of the Red Wings in 2009, Callahan, who turns 25 years old next month, has only one appearance in the NHL and that was two seasons ago. He’s spent five seasons with the Grand Rapids Griffins in the minors, where he’s posted decent numbers, offensively, with 19 goals and 32 points last season.
But he’s also dealt with injuries, such as a torn ACL in the 2014-15 season. Or a gory injury — 10 teeth plus a broken jaw — after taking a puck to the face in an AHL game in 2014. This past season, he took another puck to the face during practice, losing another tooth.
He’s made it clear in the past that he doesn’t want to be playing in the AHL, although competition for roster spots — Callahan would have to likely work his way into a bottom-six role — in Detroit will be stiff when the Red Wings open up training camp.
From the Detroit Free Press:
He’s almost certain to be exposed on waivers again, as the Wings have 13 active forwards signed to one-way contracts, plus Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou. And Anthony Mantha is expected to make a push for a spot.
Ping Pong. Beards. Hockey players making funny faces in street clothes. And it’s all to benefit charitable organizations.
Dominic Moore‘s Smashfest V took place on Thursday, with Patrick Eaves and his freakish facial hair taking the top prize for the second year in a row.
Here’s a shot from the happy, bearded winner from the NHLPA:
(His loved ones must be thrilled that this isn’t merely a playoff look for Eaves, by the way.)
This shot of Jeff Skinner and his “most improved” award is just too fitting.
It’s not yet clear exactly how much money was raised for charity, but this is a sign that the event was probably … well, a smash success.
Good stuff. Here’s a random hodgepodge of other photos from the event.
Bonus points to Hall of Famer Eric Lindros for the “beer in other hand” form:
Alex Burrows fell to Eaves in the final round. Seems OK about it:
Antoine Roussel was probably not being a pest on this occasion. We can’t be totally certain, however.
Looks like it was a good time for all.