With most of the things that make the offseason bearable having already passed, the only thing left for Avs fans is to count down the days until the puck drops on October 2nd (59 in case you’re wondering, 44 ’till preseason). That being said, there has been some interesting Avalanche-oriented news, so, without further ado, assembled here just for your convenience are the most exciting tid-bits of Avalanche info not draft or free-agency oriented from this summer so far.
Nate MacKinnon has been working with Matt Duchene and Duchene’s offseason trainer to get prepared for training camp. This should excite you. Duchene worked with this trainer last summer and it led to his incredible 2012-2013 season in which he averaged .91 ppg and led the team in points, assists, shots, takeaways, game-winning-goals, and face-off percentage. If this trainer can help Duchene out that much than it’s certainly good news to hear MacKinnon is working with him. Not only should this get him as ready for training camp as is possible for a rookie, but it will also lead to a beneficial relationship between MacKinnon and Duchene. Duchy has been impressing people lately with his dedication and leadership potential, and there probably isn’t a better person on the team for MacKinnon to get help from. They’ve apparently been texting and spending a lot of time together, so that’s good. Oh yeah, and he skated with Sidney Crosby.
Speaking of Matt Duchene, he’s vowed to get even better, which, if he succeeds, would put him into competition for one of the best players in the league. He’s said he doesn’t want to be one of those guys who takes it easy after signing the big contract. Duchy is here for the long haul, both in the sense that he’ll be in Denver at least until 2019 but also in terms of his dedication; he wants to win, and he’s willing to work for it. This is exactly what the Avalanche need, especially coming off a year in which certain players *coughShane O’Briencough* were planning on Vegas trips before the season was over. He works hard and has a championship mindset, and winning simply can’t happen without both of those things. Look for him to have an “A” on his chest come October, because he’ll be showing everyone why he’s worth $30 million.
Former Av John-Michael Liles is likely to become available soon. This could lead to some interesting possibilities. On the one hand, Liles is not the player he once was. Toronto is looking to move him for a reason, and he’ll likely be bought out due to a lack of trade offers. On the other hand, he would probably be a decent fit in Denver; he wouldn’t blow anyone away (he may not even start), but he has experience and leadership ability and plays the speed-oriented offensive-defenseman style, which is the style emphasized by Colorado. He loves Denver and would make an excellent addition to the locker-room if nothing else. Still, the Avs have a full roster and likely wouldn’t be able to get Liles for a worthwhile price, so this may or may not happen, but enough people are speculating about this possibility that it’s worth mentioning.
Francoise Allaire has high hopes for Semyon Varlamov, who he claims “didn’t feel he was going in the right direction” and is “open to trying something else.” This could sound unsettling, if Varly is potentially abandoning his old system to journey into uncharted territory. That being said, Allaire has a sterling track record including Avs back-up Jean-Sebastien Giguere and St. Patrick Roy himself, and Varly’s old system didn’t exactly lead to any Jennings trophies. I am one of the many people who still think Varly has what it takes to be a great goaltender in the NHL, but if it’s going to happen then he’s going to need a new approach as well as a good coach and some more help in front; if Allaire can provide the new approach and the coaching and Joe and Patrick can provide the defense, then Varly should have a surprising (and reassuring) season.
Finally, five Avalanche players have been invited to their respective countries’ Olympic camps: Matt Duchene, Erik Johnson, Paul Stastny, Semyon Varlamov, and Gabriel Landeskog. This is exciting, as each of these players has a solid chance of making their country’s team, and would be a reassuring indicator of the talent level the Avs have accumulated. Now if Erik Johnson can have the season I expect him to and the young guys like Stefan Elliott and Tyson Barrie continue to improve, the playoffs may not be as far off as they seemed last year.