Every Friday during the offseason, Gazette beat writer Kyle Fredrickson will take you around the NHL and inside the Avalanche.
What they said
“We keep taking extra looks. … We’re still kind of hoping and watching some guys to see if they can take another step. We’ve been discussing it all along as a coaching staff and management team. Then we’ll decide on what the best approach is for our opening day roster.” — Avalanche coach Jared Bednar Wednesday after the final exhibition game at Ball Arena, a 2-1 victory over the Dallas Stars.
What I’m thinking
— It’s going to be a tense few days for a handful of Avalanche hopefuls this week. The preseason is over (thank goodness) and it’s time to determine the 23-man active roster for opening night with the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday at Ball Arena. Avs coach Jared Bednar said that process might take until Sunday, the league’s deadline for roster cuts.
— I’m no expert on NHL roster math (yet). But it appears that five forwards are vying for three bottom-six openings in the Avalanche lineup: Anton Blidh, Shane Bowers, Martin Kaut, Ben Meyers and Lukas Sedlak. Bednar, when asked for standout players from Wednesday’s exhibition finale, mentioned two names from that list.
— On Blidh: “He knows exactly what he is. He plays to his identity and is a loud player. He finished every check. Hard hits, too. There’s a simplicity to his game. … There are guys that are probably playing a little bit too nice. If you’re playing a fourth-line role for us, it’s got to be hard-working, relentless and physical.”
— On Meyers: “He was really good tonight in a lot of different areas. Strong on the puck offensively, especially. … He’s skating better the last week. Some of it is training and getting up to pace. … He’s been more impactful in the games he’s played here recently.”
— I predict that Blidh and Meyers will be on the opening night Avalanche roster. But who slots in as the last forward? Bowers and Kaut will hit waivers if not picked up. That creates difficult decisions for the front office. Stay tuned for news and updates as the team takes shape.
What I’m reading
Prediction time. USA Today’s panel of four hockey writers took an educated guess at how the season will play out. No surprises here. They all think Colorado repeats as Central Division champions. But no one believes the Avalanche will repeat to win the Stanley Cup.
Defensive evolution. Ryan Clark, former Avs beat writer for The Athletic, is now a national NHL writer for ESPN. He recently dropped an in-depth examination of how defensemen like Cale Makar are redefining their position. The piece is well worth your time.
They’re young. They’re changing the game. They’re getting paid tons of money. … They’re also going to make winning the Norris even more difficult. Young, puck-moving defensemen are having an instant impact and this is just the start. https://t.co/MpAP0u6j0g— Ryan S. Clark (@ryan_s_clark) October 6, 2022
— The fallout from Hockey Canada’s mishandling of sexual assault allegations continues to grow. The sport’s national governing body up north recently dismissed claims that it has a culture problem, per The Athletic. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded that “it boggles the mind” and that parents “across the country are losing faith or have lost faith in Hockey Canada.”
— The facts: Hockey Canada confirmed it has paid out $8.9 million in settlements to 21 individuals claiming sexual misconduct against its players dating back to 1989. The organization reportedly used player registration fees to pay for the settlements.
— Backlash extends to Hockey Canada’s business interests. The organization has since lost major sponsorship deals with Canadian Tire, Telus and Tim Hortons, per the CBC. Sadly, it might be what inspires change ... The almighty dollar.
— Why should you, an Avalanche fan, care about any of this? We should all become stewards of hockey to promote a culture of inclusivity and accountability. Recognizing the sport’s shortcomings, and enacting meaningful change, will make hockey better for everyone. Give credit to the intrepid journalists who continue breaking news on this scandal. Ignorance is not bliss.
"I think it boggles the mind that Hockey Canada is continuing to dig in its heels," PM Justin Trudeau told reporters when asked about the organization's handling of sexual assault allegations. His comments come as Hockey Québec said it would cut ties with Hockey Canada.#cdnpoli pic.twitter.com/N4qrBawFJJ— CPAC (@CPAC_TV) October 5, 2022
DENVER — Imagine waking up with the rosy perspective of Avalanche goalie Pavel Francouz.
“My favorite thing is the sun and the blue sky every morning,” Francouz said regarding his last three years living in Colorado. “That’s something you can get used to.”
Positivity is something you can always count on from the man they call “Frankie” inside the team’s practice facility. Even when the Avalanche traded for a player expected to start ahead of Francouz in net to begin the season. What does he think of Alexandar Georgiev?
“He seems like a nice guy,” Francouz said during early stages of Avs training camp. “We sit next to each other in the practice facility, so we have some time to talk. … We really try to be the best possible (versions of) ourselves and try to push each other to be even better.”
Francouz clearly isn’t sweating Georgiev’s addition to the roster. Just look at how well Francouz performed in his last exhibition start. He made 38-of-39 saves in Dallas with his unique right-catching goalie style. It’s clear the franchise trusts him. Coach Jared Bednar said that Francouz is “going to push (us) to make that a difficult decision on who we’re going to put in net.”
Even the new goaltender in town had nice things to say.
“(Francouz) is an awesome guy. A really, really good goalie,” Georgiev said. “I got to play against him in a couple of games before. Obviously, he’s really experienced, so I’ll try to take a few things from him during the practice.”
The Avs’ financial commitment to Georgiev ($3.4M AAV) in comparison to Francouz ($2M AAV) suggests that Frankie is the backup. Just don’t be surprised if the team employs a tandem strategy instead of labeling a clear-cut starter.
Georgiev might face a learning curve adjusting to Colorado’s defensive strategy. Francouz is the perfect security blanket.
“There is always a big competition on every team between the goalies,” Francouz said. “There are lot of goalies around the league and pretty much all (of them) are high level. To me, I try to focus on my game and my preparation. Trying to be the best possible me and be ready to help the team.”
Francouz is well on his way to becoming a true Coloradoan at this point. He bought a new house before the playoffs began last season. Ask Frankie, and it’s right where he belongs.
“Coming back from the Czech Republic this summer, I was surprised, it really felt like coming back home,” Francouz said. “Definitely a great feeling.”
Nová maska Pavla Francouze 🔥Další krásná práce od @Koraldesign 👍@Avalanche #GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/7IVPQErt2O— avsworldfans (@Coloradofans1) October 4, 2022
Few professional sports embrace player and coach nicknames quite like the NHL. You hear them all the time during interviews. Sometimes more than the real thing. Here’s my list of the Top 5 best nicknames currently with the Avalanche.
1. “Tazer” — Defenseman Devon Toews
2. “E-Rod” — Forward Evan Rodrigues
3. “Frankie” — Goalie Pavel Francouz
4. “LOC” — Forward Logan O’Connor
5. “Bedsy” — Coach Jared Bednar