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2016-17 NHL Season Preview: Colorado Avalanche

2016-17 NHL Season Preview: Colorado Avalanche

It still feels like the season just ended, but with the draft and free agency already behind us, it's time to look forward to the 2016-17 season. We will preview every team in the NHL throughout August and take a look at what the new season may hold.

Team: Colorado Avalanche

How they did last season: 39-39-4 (82 points) 6th in the Central, 9th in the Western Conference. Did not make the playoffs.

Notable acquisitions: C Joe Colborne, D Fedor Tyutin, D Patrick Wiercioch

Notable departures: LW Mikkel Boedker, C Shawn Matthias, D Zach Redmond, D Nick Holden, G Reto Berra

When they will play the Caps: Analysis: Oct. 18 in Washington; March 29 in Colorado

RELATED: CAPS REFUTE OVECHKIN INJURY RUMOR

Analysis: Just over a month before the start of training camp, the outlook for the Colorado Avalanche changed dramatically with the resignation of head coach and VP of Hockey Operations Patrick Roy.

As a coach, Roy has only had one successful season and since then has shown an inability to build a system for the modern NHL or tailor it to the roster he has. The Avalanche were dead last in the league last season with an abysmal 44.2 Corsi percentage. They’ve been a horrible possession team since Roy took over making his lone run to the playoffs look more like a fluke than anything else.

By allowing so many more shots, you allow your opponents to dictate the play and your team becomes reliant on the goalie. It’s no coincidence that the one year Roy actually did bring the Avalanche to the playoffs was the same year Semyon Varlamov posted a career-high .927 save percentage.

But even if you dismiss analytics, it’s clear when you watch Colorado play that coaching was an issue. Breakouts were ugly and uncoordinated while defensively it looked like there was no system at all, just five players skating around in their own end hoping nothing bad would happen.

So while Roy's timing is unfortunate as it comes so late in the summer, the end result should positive for the team's possession and defense becasue, frankly, it would be hard to get worse.

The next head coach will step into a team in desperate need of coaching on the blue line, but is brimming with offensive talent. You can absolutely build a team around young forwards Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog. At only 20 years old, MacKinnon registered 52 points last season and he is only getting better, as is the 25-year-old Duchene and the 23-year-old Landeskog.

Is it ideal that your three best offensive players are under the age of 26? Perhaps not, but it means the future is very bright.

Season prediction: It's hard to fathom that a team could lose it's coach in August and be better off, but that could very well be the case for the Avalanche. This year's training camp is delayed because of the World Cup, meaning the new coach will have more time to prepare. Any NHL coach worth his salt should be able to improve Colorado's defense and possession numbers. Add in the team's young offensive talent and it looks like the Avalanche may be better this season.

The bad news is that Colorado is still in the Central Division. Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas and Nashville are all very good and Minnesota just improved with the hiring of Bruce Boudreau. So even if the Avalanche are better, they're going to have a hard time supplanting any of these teams in the standings.

Colorado will likely miss the playoffs again this season, but this year will feel different. This year, there will be more defensive structure and a Joe Sakic will lay a blue print down for the future.

MORE HOCKEY: OVECHKIN DANCES WHILE SKATING DOWN THE STREET

2016-2017 NHL TEAM PREVIEWS

Pacific Division
— Anaheim Ducks
— Arizona Coyotes
— Calgary Flames
— Edmonton Oilers
— Los Angeles Kings
— San Jose Sharks
— Vancouver Canucks

Central Division
— Chicago Blackhawks
— Colorado Avalanche
— Dallas Stars
— Minnesota Wild
— Nashville Predators
— St. Louis Blues
— Winnipeg Jets

Atlantic Division
— Boston Bruins
— Buffalo Sabres
— Detroit Red Wings
Florida Panthers 
Montreal Canadiens (coming Aug. 19)
Ottawa Senators (coming Aug. 20)
Tampa Bay Lightning (coming Aug. 21)
Toronto Maple Leafs (coming Aug. 22)

Metropolitan Division
Carolina Hurricanes (coming Aug. 23)
Columbus Blue Jackets (coming Aug. 24)
New Jersey Devils (coming Aug. 25)
New York Islanders (coming Aug. 26)
New York Rangers (coming Aug. 27)
Philadelphia Flyers (coming Aug. 28)
Pittsburgh Penguins (coming Aug. 29)
Washington Capitals (coming Aug. 30)

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: And so we meet again

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: And so we meet again

We all knew this was coming, right?

The Capitals will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs for the third consecutive season and for the 11th time in franchise history. Washington has only beaten Pittsburgh once in their previous 10 series. This season gives them the opportunity to get over the second round and Pittsburgh hump once and for all.

Will this year be different? Will the Caps finally take down their arch nemesis? Will they finally advance to the conference final?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break down the Caps-Penguins matchup in the Capitals Faceoff Podcast.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page

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Penguins will be without Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin for Game 1

Penguins will be without Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin for Game 1

As the Capitals and Penguins prepare to open their second-round series, significant injury news came out of Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Head coach Mike Sullivan informed the media that both Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin would not play in Game 1 due to injuries.

The fact that Hagelin would not be traveling with the team suggests that he will miss Game 2 as well, but that has not been confirmed. That also means that Malkin is at least a possibility for Game 2.

Malkin did not play in Game 6 against the Philadelphia Flyers after getting injured in a collision with Jakub Voracek in Game 5. Hagelin was injured in Game 6 on a big hit from Claude Giroux.

So when the series against Washington begins, Pittsburgh will be playing without two-thirds of its second line.

Malkin made a real push for the Hart Trophy this season with 42 goals and 98 points. He was a major factor in last season's Cup run with 28 points in 26 games and was gearing up for another big postseason with five points in his first five games.

But don't celebrate too much, Caps fans. It is not as if either loss will be crippling to Pittsburgh's offense.

Despite not having Malkin for the entire Game 6 and losing Hagelin midway through the second period, the Penguins still managed to put up eight goals on the Flyers in the series-clinching win.

Still, with scoring depth being such a strength for Pittsburgh, the Capitals need to take advantage. The Penguins will be without one of the best players in the NHL and that makes Game 1 crucial. Washington has gone down 0-2 in each of their past two playoff series including last year against Pittsburgh. They lost that series in seven games. They need to have a better start this year and with no Malkin or Hagelin for Game 1, this may be a must-win for the Caps.

Riley Sheahan and Dominik Simon skated with Phil Kessel on the second line at practice on Wednesday and it is a good bet that is how the second line will remain for Game 1. That way, Pittsburgh can keep its third line of Conor Sheary, Derick Brassard and Bryan Rust line together which has been very effective.

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