With the season just around the corner, NHL fans are just now getting back into the swing of following their favorite teams. Since the lockout took so much time, there might be many people out there who could use a little bit of reminding of the actions that happened with the Avalanche during the off-season.
Coaching Changes and Remains the Same.
Shortly after last season ended, the Colorado Avalanche re-signed coach Joe Sacco to a two-year contract after the team fell just short of the playoffs. Colorado did improve from a 69 point season to an 88 point performance which was enough to earn him a new contract.
Despite the fact that Joe Sacco was re-signed and their was hope for some stability behind the bench, a couple of changes did come about. Both of Sacco’s assistant coaches, Adam Deadmarsh and Sylvain Lefebvre, have moved on to different opportunities. Deadmarsh stepped away from the bench for personal reasons and is now working with the Avalanche in player development. Lefebvre was offered, and accepted, a head coaching job for the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL. They are being replaced by Tim Army and David Quinn respectively. So while the head coach is the same, it is still likely the team will look a bit different anyways.
Players on Their Way Out.
Free agency came upon the Avalanche with a lot of questions as the Avalanche had several choices to make about who stayed and who went. While most of the team did end up re-signing with the team, there were a few let go. Kevin Porter was not tendered a qualifying offer, nor was Peter Mueller. Both players did end up signing contracts with other team; Porter in Buffalo and Mueller in Florida.
The biggest surprise was when the Avalanche made no attempt to re-sign unrestricted free agent Jay McClement to a new contract. McClement was the captain of the Avalanche penalty kill and was an incredibly important player on the defensive side of the puck. At the same time, the Avalanche were very heavy at the center position and it was likely that McClement would be moved to a fourth line role, which he is better than. McClement ended up signing in Toronto where he will be put to much better use.
Players on Their Way In.
All of the other free agents the Avalanche had to sign have been signed, with one exception. Ryan O’Reilly remains the only unsigned player, though the team can’t begin negotiations with him until the new CBA is ratified. Once the Avalanche are able to make contact with him again, I’m very confident that they will get a deal in place with him very quickly.
Outside of O’Reilly and the free agents on their own team, the Avalanche made a few other moves during the free agent frenzy. The Avalanche signed John Mitchell and Greg Zanon to two-year deals, and P.A. Parenteau to a four-year contract. With the Avalanche letting Jay McClement go, it made sense for the Avalanche to get a defensive center to replace him and Mitchell fits that bill. P.A. Parenteau is an underrated signing and should help the Avalanche improve in the offensive zone five-on-five and on the power play. The Zanon signing is really the only one that not a lot of people really understood, especially considering how heavy the Avalanche are on defense.
My friends over at Mile High Hockey have done a great story introducing fans to the new Avalanche players. Check it out right here.
Oh Captain, My Captain.
This last change was one of the biggest changes that happened for the Avalanche. Just before the lockout, the team announced that Gabriel Landeskog would take over for the Avalanche as their team captain, becoming the youngest captain in the history of the NHL. Milan Hejduk approached the coaching staff and said that he thought it would be better for the team to have somebody who was playing a bigger role for the team.
The coaching staff named Landeskog captain and officially passed the torch of the team to him and the young core of the team. The team has now told all of this young core that it is their time to step up and take control of this team. Matt Duchene, Erik Johnson, Ryan O’Reilly and Gabriel Landeskog are now the faces of this franchise and it will be their job to take the Colorado Avalanche back to the promised land. It should be very exciting to see where they take the team.