Behind new coach, Avalanche look to get back on track
DENVER (AP) Patrick Roy's time and tirades on the Colorado Avalanche bench are simply a memory.
There was no choice for the team but to turn the page on the Hall of Fame goaltender turned coach who surprisingly stepped away two months ago over disagreements within the organization.
In steps Jared Bednar, a career minor-league player who's getting his first NHL chance as a head coach.
It hasn't taken Bednar long to earn the respect of the players with his even-keel demeanor and firm belief in a system that focuses on speed, organization, defense and more speed, which seems ideal for a crew that includes Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene and captain Gabriel Landeskog.
''We're going to play faster,'' said MacKinnon, the 21-year-old forward who signed a seven-year, $44.1 million deal in the offseason. ''It will be a faster, quicker game, which is how you win nowadays.''
Roy's departure definitely caught the team off guard. They tied a franchise mark with 52 wins in Roy's first season before losing in the first round of the postseason. Really, though, who can forget Roy pushing through a glass partition to get to then-Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau in his debut.
The team faltered the last two years, missing the playoffs, and Roy resigned as coach and vice president of hockey operations on Aug. 11. Roy had split control with executive vice president and general manager Joe Sakic, a former teammate.
''Everybody was surprised, for sure, just with the timing of it,'' defenseman Tyson Barrie said.
Bednar definitely knows his hockey, even if this is his first NHL coaching gig. He led the Lake Erie Monsters, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets, to the 2016 Calder Cup title. He also guided the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL to the 2009 Kelly Cup.
''There's a lot of excitement among us guys to have him at the helm,'' said Joe Colborne, a free agent acquisition who had 19 goals for Calgary last season.
Bednar has plenty to work with - speedy forwards, veteran leadership (Francois Beauchemin, Jarome Iginla), a blue line that includes Erik Johnson and Barrie, along with the talented goalie tandem of Semyon Varlamov and Calvin Pickard.
MacKinnon appears primed for a big season under Bednar as he entered camp 15 pounds lighter and a whole lot more confident after helping Team North America to a good showing at the World Cup of Hockey. He's adjusting well to his new coach.
''He came from the bottom of pro hockey up to the NHL. That's pretty cool,'' MacKinnon said.
Things to know before Colorado begins the season Oct. 15 by hosting Dallas:
BETTER STARTS: Colorado put an emphasis on the preseason. That's right, the preseason. The Avs have struggled in exhibition games the last two years and it's spilled over into the regular season. They're trying to guard against that happening again.
''Our starts have been pretty average-to-bad,'' said Barrie, who signed a four-year, $22 million deal in the offseason. ''That's going to be a huge focus for us and I think the coaches know that.''
GOALTENDERS: Varlamov will be the starter, but Pickard should receive quite a bit of work, too. Varlamov is looking to bounce back from a season in which he went 27-25-3 with a 2.81 goals-against average.
QUICK HEALER: Duchene banged up his shoulder in practice while helping Team Canada to a gold medal at the World Cup of Hockey. He had two goals and two assists for Canada.
''It's going to linger for a bit, but it's feeling good,'' Duchene told reporters after his return to town.
MILE HIGH RETURN: Colborne and some of his new teammates have quickly bonded by attending a Denver Broncos game and a few Colorado Rockies contests.
''I already feel like I've been here for a long time on this team,'' said Colborne, who played college hockey down the road at the University of Denver.
JUST A NUMBER: At 39, Iginla feels better than ever. He played in all 82 games last season and reached the 20-goal plateau for a 17th time in his career. This season, he's vowing to be even more physical.
''I've always been a power forward with a little bit of finesse,'' Iginla said. ''But I don't think I was enough power on the power forward side.''