Colorado Avalanche: Young Leadership Speaks

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The young leaders of the Colorado Avalanche speak.

“I think I speak for the whole group when I say training camp couldn’t come fast enough.” ~Gabriel Landeskog

Hockey’s here, Avs Nation. It may still be 80 degrees outside. The majority of Colorado may be swimming in orange and blue for the Broncos. (Though I hear tell Peyton Manning is looking weak.) However, the Colorado Avalanche held their media day today, and full training camp starts tomorrow.

Tomorrow I’m running a post on the gospel according to Patrick Roy. There’s no question that he’s setting a new mindset for the team. I also have no question that the team is going to gladly follow suit.

To that end, the young leaders of the Colorado Avalanche had a lot to say about the upcoming season, among other things.

The Captain’s Address

The theme for the season is making the playoffs, at least according to our captain. He’s looking ahead, and he wants to play spring hockey — and not at IIHF Worlds.

Landeskog acknowledged that every team in every sport knows how important it is to have a good start. However, he also acknowledged that that’s not the most intense part of the season:

"“You don’t want to be playing your best hockey of the season at the start of the season. You want to save that for late April and early May — all of May, pretty much.”"

That said, Landeskog talked more than once about that first game against the Minnesota Wild on October 8. He didn’t sound like a man who was obsessing — he sounded like a man who wanted to prove something.

Landeskog admitted that players “get a little rusty” during the summer and perhaps “forget some things.” The focus for training camp is definitely to ensure “everybody’s on board with the systems.”

Gabriel Landeskog, ever the captain, knows what his role in the season is:

"“To help the team win, I’ve got to lead the way.”"

I like how relaxed and serious Gabriel Landeskog looked. He definitely looked prepared to take on the new year.

Duchene’s Relaxed Speech

Speaking of relaxed and confident — though not so serious — Matt Duchene talked a lot about the team’s focus in the upcoming season.

Interestingly, like Gabriel Landeskog, he acknowledged that the start was important, but not paramount. In fact, he remarked that it’s just as important to not get bogged down if they start slow — the team needs to reel it in quicker. He added:

"“You can’t play in fear. You’ve got to play with confidence and excitement. I think that’s going to be our focus.”"

I’m happy to report “Dutchy-isms” are back — those little phrases that Matt Duchene sprinkles into his interviews. He’s starting out a little cautious, but he characterized the Why Not Us season as a “honeymoon year,” and the Avs New Age season as the “hangover.” Most players aren’t this poetic.

Matt Duchene talked about living up to his potential. He pointed out that he’s 24 years old and in his seventh year. “It’s time to win.”

And then came another Dutchy-ism:

"“It’s time to stop building and start living in the house you’re building.”"

That’s one of my favorite Dutchy-isms to date.

Seriously, though, he sees the next eight years as his prime. Considering that Matt Duchene has had some pretty decent — and pretty — success, that’s a mighty fine house he’s built.

Erik Johnson: Condor Contract Watch

Veterans attended rookie camp and skated informally on a separate ice sheet. Erik Johnson was flying around the ice. I’m not just saying that because his nickname is Condor. He’s showing speed.

Indeed, Johnson says he feels “awesome.” He worked hard with reconditioning and physical therapy, and he got cleared to play pretty much right after the season ended. That gave him the chance to get into even better shape than he got into last summer — and he was in peak shape after working with trainer Andy O’Brien.

Erik Johnson makes no bones about what his goal is:

"“I feel really good and really confident and ready to lead this team back into the playoffs.”"

I find it interesting that Johnson talked about “leading” the team back into the playoffs — he’s defintiely getting comfortable with his leadership role on the team, letter or no letter.

Right now the big contractual question is about defenseman Erik Johnson. These are not Ryan O’Reilly style contract negotiations, and the player himself seems to be making that perfectly clear.

Indeed, when asked about the Ryan O’Reilly trade, Johnson was unequivocal. O’Reilly said he wanted to stay on the team, but he made contractual demands that made that impossible.

That’s what Johnson said:

"“Management did a great job with the hand they were dealt. I think Ryan put himself in a situation where he said he wanted to be here, but he didn’t want to be here with his contract demands.”"

That is a little more direct than players often get when they’re talking about each other in terms of contracts.

I find it telling what Johnson said after that:

"“We wish him well, but we’re really happy with the guys we got.”"

This may seem just like the party line. However, right now Erik Johnson is in a similar situation — at the conclusion of this season, he’s an unrestricted free agent. Unless the Colorado Avalanche extend his contract.

Johnson has been making a point since last season to align himself with the Avalanche. He’s been downright pugnacious in his support of the team vs foes like the Minnesota Wild. He remarked on the fact that it’s important to him that the Colorado Avalanche traded for him.

And now he’s touting the party line at just the time when he and the team are talking contract extension. That seems a clear indicator to me where his loyalties lie.

Luckily for us, Avs Nation, it’s here in Colorado.

Next: What are We Going to do with Kiddo MacK?

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