The Colorado Avalanche can be a tough nut to crack.
If you bounce around “Hockey Twitter” at all, the team very much stands as a guinea pig in the “stats vs. tradition” debate (or whatever you’d like to call it). That debate often gets a little weird and then overshadows the team itself.
When you look at the Avalanche, it’s an odd mix of old and new.
You have old ideas and old faces in management with Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic running the ship. They seemingly lean toward signing old veterans from Jarome Iginla to Francois Beauchemin.
The fresh faces make this squad awfully interesting, however. Gabriel Landeskog is still one of the NHL’s youngest captains at 22. With all the pressure on Nathan MacKinnon to make the next step, one might forget that he’s just 19. Matt Duchene and Tyson Barrie remain in the meat of their primes at 24.
What if all four of those promising young players make significant strides that often come at such ages, particularly MacKinnon, who may just be scratching the surface of his skill set as people move onto to the next big thing in Connor McDavid? Could the Avalanche see earlier-than-expected results from still-blooming prospects like Nikita Zadorov and Mikhail Grigorenko?
Ryan O’Reilly is a tough player to let go – and he’s also just 24 – but when you look at that group, it’s quite a bit easier to stomach, isn’t it?
Yes, that defense looks pretty shaky beyond a handful of solid players such as Barrie and Erik Johnson, meaning the Avalanche will again lean heavily on Semyon Varlamov.
Still, with the abundance of talent at the forward position in particular, even the most ardent number-crunchers would shudder to dismiss the Avalanche outright.
The Ottawa Senators announced that André Tourigny was hired as an assistant head coach on Thursday.
Tourigny (pictured to Patrick Roy’s left) was with the Colorado Avalanche in 2014-15 and 2013-14. He resigned in May, with the reasoning be stated that he was pursuing a head coaching gig. Instead, he’ll serve as Dave Cameron’s assistant.
The Denver Post postulated that Tourigny wasn’t to blame for the Avs’ oft-mentioned possession issues, yet it’s not exactly the greatest calling card, either. That said, he had a lot of success at the QMJHL level and must have made an impression on Cameron while coaching Team Canada at multiple World Junior Championships.
For more on Tourigny, check out the Senators’ release.
According to Mike Chambers of The Denver Post, the Avs’ top priority heading into free agency is to add left-handed shooting defensemen.
Chambers previously reported the club is unlikely to re-sign pending unrestricted free agent defensemen Jan Hejda or Ryan Wilson. Both are left shots.
“As a coach, yes, we’d like to have somebody to play with EJ (inaudible) and Tyson. Obviously, we have (Nick) Holden and (Brad) Stuart, who are left shots, but we’d like to add a defenseman in the top four,” Patrick Roy said. “I think it will help our team tremendously.”
According to Generalfanager.com, there are currently 60 left shot blue liners set to hit the open market on July 1.
Chambers suggests the Avs will focus on Andrej Sekera, Christian Ehrhoff, Matt Irwin, Johnny Oduya and Paul Martin. Sekera is the Avs’ top target, according to Chambers.
The 29-year-old split the 2014-15 season between the Carolina Hurricanes and L.A. Kings scoring three goals and 23 points in 73 games while averaging nearly 22 minutes a night in ice time.
Kings’ GM Dean Lombardi said the team was in negotiations with Sekera last month and believes the blue liner wants to remain in Los Angeles.
Colorado could have as much as $13 million to play with in free agency.
“It’s definitely and exciting time for everybody — stressful as well,” GM Joe Sakic said of free agency. “We’ve got guys that we’re looking to see what we can do about adding to our lineup and see if something fits. It’s a two-way street. You can like somebody but they have to … players pick where they want to go. We have guys in mind that we’d like to come on board and help us win … We’re working and things keep coming up.”
Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog opened the scoring with his 14th of the season at 3:09 of the first period; however, it was all L.A. after that.
Jeff Carter tied it 1-1 at 1:16 of the second and Tyler Toffoli scored the eventual game winner at 6:24 of the middle frame as the L.A. Kings defeated the Colorado Avalanche 4-1 Wednesday night.
Drew Doughty had a pair of assists in the win.
“With the way the schedule is and the way the season is and the importance of every game, you need something out of everybody,” said Kings’ coach Darryl Sutter. “It’s really hard to play guys who have only got five or six goals. We need more out of [them]. If they’re going to play teen-minutes as forwards, you have to get more out of them, and what you’re seeing is some balance out of our forward group.”
L.A. has now won six straight while out-scoring opponents 23-12 during the win streak. The Kings now have the same point total as the San Jose Sharks (66) for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference.
Jonathan Quick made 42 saves in the win including 18 in the second period.
Semyon Varlamov stopped 21 shots in the loss.
“I can’t complain,” said Avs coach Patrick Roy. “I understand it’s frustrating because that was a big game for us. At the same time, I’m very happy with the effort. I’m very happy with how we competed. I’m very happy with how hard we worked, back checked [and] our fore-check was there.
“We got a lot of shots [and] we had a lot of traffic in front of the net. I thought we did a lot of good things. Nothing to show for it tonight, but I think this is how we have to play.”
Carter added his second of the night into an empty net. Dustin Brown had the other Kings’ goal.
Tonight marked the first of three games between the two clubs. They’ll meet again on March 10 in Denver.
Antoine Vermette, Michael Stone and Tobias Rieder scored first period goals for the Arizona Coyotes chasing Colorado Avalanche starter Reto Berra after three goals on eight shots.
However, it was all Colorado after that.
Captain Gabriel Landeskog got the visitors on the board in the second period. Landeskog added his second of the night, and sixth of the season, in the third to pull the Avs to within one. Matt Duchene tied the game 3-3 at 4:05 of the third.
After hitting Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson with an elbow to the head early in overtime, Martin Hanzal put the puck into his own net for the overtime-winner, which was credited to Daniel Briere.
“We were resilient tonight. I think that is the story of the night,” Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said post-game. “Down 0- 3 and coming back. Like I said to the guys, ‘lets go and win the second period’ and see where we are after.
“I mean all last year I was reading a lot of comments on how resilient we were and we were playing with no fear. We were always going at the other team and that’s what we did.”
Roy did not have an update on Johnson, who may have suffered a concussion on the play.
Pickard was perfect in relief making 25 saves for his second win of the season and second win in as many games. The 22-year-old rookie stopped all 17 shots he faced in relief on Saturday in the Avs 4-3 win over Carolina.
Asked post-game if he had to tell Semyon Varlamov he had a new No. 1 goaltender, Roy had a good laugh.
“I guess so. We’re going to go with Pickard tomorrow,” he said. “It’s a tough stretch right now for Reto and unfortunately for him… but good for us Calvin’s playing well.”