No untouchables on Avalanche roster; Roy will be back as coach
DENVER (AP) Coach Patrick Roy and his intense glare will be back. That’s about the only certainty after another season gone sour for the Colorado Avalanche.
There are no untouchable players with the team missing the playoffs for a second straight year. Call with an offer and general manager Joe Sakic intends to listen.
“Wayne Gretzky got traded - twice,” Sakic said. “We have to explore different options to see how we can become a better team.”
This is a squad that struggled not only to win at home, but to hold third-period leads. Even more, they’ve been trending in the wrong direction.
Under Roy, the team has gone from 112 points - and making the playoffs - in 2013-14, to 90 last season and 82 this time around.
Sakic, the Hall of Fame forward turned executive, doesn’t blame Roy, the Hall of Fame goaltender turned coach, and said “we’re in this thing together.” They captured two Stanley Cup titles together during their playing days with the Avalanche.
“Those guys have a plan and they’re carrying it out,” forward Matt Duchene said. “All of us as a group have to do our best.”
Just who may or may not be back remains to be seen. But no one is off limits - not even captain Gabriel Landeskog or goaltender Semyon Varlamov.
“I don’t think anybody is safe in this room,” Landeskog said. “We believe we have a good enough team to make the playoffs. There is no doubt in my mind about that. When you don’t, there are going to be consequences.”
The first game of the season provided a telling glimpse of things to come as the Avalanche squandered a three-goal, third-period lead to Minnesota in a 5-4 loss. The Wild ended up beating them out for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
In all, the Avalanche blew nine games when they had a lead in the final period, according to STATS.
“We all have to look in the mirror and figure out why it happened like this,” said Sakic, whose team went 17-20-4 at the Pepsi Center this season.
And it’s not like Minnesota was uncatchable down the stretch, either, with the Wild losing their final five games. Colorado closed out the year on a six-game slide.
“Minny opened the door for us and we slammed it on ourselves,” Duchene said.
Colorado was missing talented scorer Nathan MacKinnon for the last 10 games after he sprained the MCL in his knee. MacKinnon sat out the final 18 games a year ago because of a broken foot.
“It’s no fun being on the sidelines and watching the team,” MacKinnon said.
Here are things to know as the Avalanche head into what figures to be an active offseason:
STAY OR GO: Among Colorado’s free agents are forwards Shawn Matthias and Mikkel Boedker, two players the team picked up in trades to help them down the stretch.
“If it works out we’d love to keep both of them,” Sakic said.
Defenseman Tyson Barrie, goaltender Calvin Pickard and MacKinnon are among the team’s restricted free agents.
PART OF THE PLAN: Sakic said his faith in Roy hasn’t been shaken and they will tweak the system. Younger players such as forward Mikko Rantanen and defenseman Nikita Zadorov also will provide a boost.
“This isn’t a quick fix,” Sakic said. “We’re confident we can turn things around.”
WRATH OF ROY: Duchene drew the ire of Roy for the way he celebrated his 30th goal of the season late in a 5-1 loss to St. Louis on April 3. They’ve patched things up. Still, Duchene knows changes could be coming.
“We get paid a lot of money and we’re done too early again,” he said.
HOME STRUGGLES: In years past, the Pepsi Center has provided a decisive advantage. Not so much this season as Colorado earned 38 points at home and 44 on the road.
“It’s obvious our home record is not good enough,” Roy said.
IGINLA’S CHARGE: The 38-year-old Jarome Iginla played in all 82 games and reached the 20-goal plateau for a 17th time in his career. In addition, on the final day of the season, he scored career goal No. 611, moving him past Bobby Hull for sole possession of 16th place on the NHL’s all-time list. Next up, Sakic, who finished with 625 career goals.