Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy watches play from the bench in the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Dallas Stars, Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Avalanche finished 2013-14 with plenty to be happy about


Colorado’s playoff run was short-lived thanks to the Minnesota Wild, but it’s hard to look at the Avalanche’s 2013-14 campaign as anything but a success.

In the lockout shortened season, the Avalanche finished with their worst record from a points percentage perspective since they moved to Colorado and they followed it up with the second best regular season in their franchise’s history. They gave fans a reason to be excited again, with past heroes Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy shaping and coaching the team respectively, and youngsters Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Matt Duchene leading the charge on the ice.

From the beginning of the season, Roy pushed the underdog Avalanche to ask themselves the question, “Why not us?” With that mentality, they took an early season hot streak and developed it into a 52-22-8 record.

The new sense of hope was contagious as that combined with the on-ice results led to a spike in fans attendance from 15,445 per game in 2013 to 16,296 in 2013-14, according to the hockey database.

The team had been dealing with attendance problems for years. Part of the issue, as Denver Post report Adrian Dater argued years ago, was that the team lacked identity and direction.

That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore, but then, we’ve only been through one season of the new Sakic/Roy-era. There’s an argument to be made that the Avalanche might have been playing above their heads and were leaning too heavily on Semyon Varlamov, who they need to hope has another spectacular season after breaking out in 2013-14.

The silver lining is that while a regression is certainly possible, given the overall youth of the team, it wouldn’t be devastating. Perhaps they won’t do as well in 2014-15 compared to last season, but they have a core in place that could be fun to watch for years to come.

Sabres waive d-man Donovan

HKN Sabres Senators
Leave a comment

Buffalo has put blueliner Matt Donovan on waivers, per Sportsnet.

Donovan, 25, signed a one-year deal with the Sabres on the opening day of free agency after spending his entire professional career with the Isles organization.

The fact he’s being waived isn’t a huge shock. Donovan failed to draw into a single Sabres game this year despite a whittled-down blueline; Jake McCabe, recently called up from AHL Rochester, drew into the lineup for Monday’s win over Columbus at the expense of Carlo Colaiacovo, who played the first two games of the year.

The fact both McCabe and Colaiacovo were ahead on the depth chart didn’t bode well for Donovan. Today’s move could also suggest that Zach Bogosian, who hasn’t played this year due to injury, is ready to return.

Stars to scratch Nichushkin after rough outing versus Avs?

Craig Anderson
Leave a comment

Looks as though slumping Dallas winger Valeri Nichushkin could be a healthy scratch tonight when the Stars host the Oilers at American Airlines.

Per the Morning-News, Nichushkin — who barely played in the second and third periods of Saturday’s 6-3 loss to Colorado — is likely to be replaced by Colton Sceviour in the lineup.

Stars head coach Lindy Ruff was fuming after the Avs defeat, calling it “embarrassing, worse than disappointing.” It didn’t take a genius to realize one of the players in his doghouse was Nichushkin, who had just 2:02 of ice time in the second period and 3:24 in the third.

Yesterday, Ruff dropped Nichushkin to the fourth line in practice.

“I’ve been trying to help him by shifting him around,” the head coach explained. “He had some struggles early in camp on right wing, so I put him on left, and he doesn’t seem real comfortable at left right now.

“His game, everything has got to get a little bit quicker.”

The 10th overall pick in 2013, Nichushkin has struggled to build on the form shown in his rookie campaign, when he scored 14 goals and 34 points in 79 contests.

He missed nearly all of last season with a linger hip ailment and has been a virtual non-factor through the first two games this year.