Patrick Roy was named the NHL's coach of the year in his first season behind the Colorado Avalanche bench, guiding them to their most victories since he was between the pipes for the franchise's last Stanley Cup title.
The 2013-14 campaign ended far short of Colorado's championship aspirations, but Roy's team won't have to wait any longer to seek a small measure of revenge for its season ending prematurely.
The Avalanche visit the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night in the opener of a home-and-home set that marks a rematch of last season's thrilling first-round playoff series.
Roy guided a resurgence for Colorado (52-22-8), which tied a franchise record for victories set when Roy won the Conn Smythe trophy in 2001. Just a year earlier, in the strike-shortened 2013 season, the Avalanche finished with the fewest points in the Western Conference.
They also won their first division title since 2002-03, but were eliminated by Minnesota in the playoffs when Nino Niederreiter scored in overtime of Game 7 after Colorado had won the first two games of the series.
Matt Duchene set a career high with 70 points, and he credits his sometimes-fiery coach for the Avalanche's turnaround and what they hope to accomplish moving forward.
''He treats us with so much respect,'' Duchene said. "When he talks about that partnership, he's lived up to every word of that.''
After Paul Stastny left for St. Louis in free agency, the Avalanche signed veteran Jarome Iginla, who scored 30 goals for Boston last season. Roy was one of the reasons Iginla decided on Colorado, along with the presence of young talent such as Duchene, captain Gabriel Landeskog and reigning Calder Trophy winner Nathan MacKinnon.
"He's extremely competitive," Iginla said of Roy. "He's always thinking and always trying to be prepared and always trying get better.
''There's going to be some fun nights because of the things (the younger players) can do - the skill level to go with the speed."
While the Avalanche are trying to move past the disappointment of the playoff defeat, the Wild head into 2014-15 looking to build on their first series victory since 2003.
Minnesota (43-27-12) finished fourth in the Central in its third season under coach Mike Yeo, who received a three-year contract extension May 31 just before his previous deal was set to expire.
The Wild fell to Chicago in six games in the second round, but general manager Chuck Fletcher likes the direction the club is headed under Yeo.
"Mike is the only guy that was going to be here," Fletcher said when Yeo's deal was announced.
Minnesota's success came despite Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu missing time with injuries and the goaltending situation constantly in flux. Josh Harding didn't play after Dec. 31 due to his battle with multiple sclerosis.
Niklas Backstrom also suffered a season-ending injury, then Darcy Kuemper and Ilya Bryzgalov each made starts in the playoffs. It'll be either Kuemper or Backstrom starting the opener, but Yeo isn't saying who just yet.
"I'm not going to say one is ahead of the other," Yeo said. "That'll be something we're evaluating every day."
Colorado's situation in net is more clear, as Semyon Varlamov will be counted on for another big season after posting a 2.41 goals-against average and breaking Roy's franchise record with 41 victories.
''He showed the world last year that he was a No. 1 goalie,'' Roy said.
Minnesota is hoping to prove last season's playoff victory over Varlamov and the Avalanche was no fluke. It has one of the league's top defenseman in Ryan Suter, brought in Thomas Vanek in free agency and has solid young offensive talent in Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, Jason Zucker and Niederreiter - none of whom are older than 23.
''I'd have a hard time listing the teams that I know are better than we are,'' owner Craig Leipold said.
Minnesota visits Colorado on Saturday to complete the home-and-home set.