Here are some of my random notes and observations from the Avs season so far.
Unfortunately, I did not get to see as much of the rookies as I would have like to this year. The Avs spent most of their time in Sweden or Hershey and I mistakenly planned my vacation around a failed attempt to check out the USA Olympic practice in Colorado Springs. Little did I know that they would not let me in to watch. So I drove up Pike’s Peak to over look the World Arena and to get closer to the Hockey God’s. I ask them for good things to happen for team USA. Little did I know that less than a week later, patriotism would take on a whole new meaning. What I did see of the rookies were in their 3 preseason games:
Mikhail Kuleshov: By now everyone knows about the impression he made on Dallas Star goalie Ed Belfour. Kuleshov scored two spectacular “goal scores goals” in a short period of time. Both goals were unassisted goals in which he picked the pocket of a Dallas defender and whisked the puck past Belfour before he knew what had happened. After a very moving moment of silence and a great rendition of “ God Bless America” the crowd was ready and willing to show Eddie our love with a big round of BELLLLLLL-
FOOOOOORRRR chanting. Looking down on the bench from my nose-bleed seats, I distinctly remember Coach Hartly discussing some strategy with Kuleshov and he was listening very intensely. To me, this was a good sign that these two flashy goals weren’t going to his head.
Czech mates: It can’t really be called “a line” when you throw a defensemen into the equation but it looked like coach Hartley was trying to drum up some European chemistry and it seemed to work. Skoula was often connecting with fellow Czechs, Vrbata, Nedorost and of coarse Hejduk. Vrbata still has great speed and Nedorost was a solid, consistent forward who did well in just about every situation he faced. Somewhat surprising was the fact that defenseman Brian Muir was sent back to Hershey over Jaroslav Obsut. (a Slovak)
Drury on the point: Through out the preseason, Drury was back playing the point on the power play with Blake close by. This is going to be a lot of fun to watch all season, as the two of them get familiar with each other. Which is a goalies worst nightmare: Worrying about slippery Drury, sliding through everyone to sneak one in the net or setting up Blake to BLAST one from the blue line?
Best players so far:
Dan Hinote: Could someone please tell this guy that the playoffs are over and the Avs won! Hinote is still playing like it’s game seven, hitting ANYTHING in an opposing jersey. He occasionally gets a shift on Sakic’s line to create a distraction while Sakic and company work their magic. I hope the GM of the US Olympic team is watching.
Patrick Roy: Not only is he playing like the greatest goal tender in the world but he also has become very Yoda like. In every post game interview he has been stressing the importance of patients, especially with all the new faces on the team. I admit that the Avs have not had a fantastic start but Roy stresses that there is absolute no reason to panic just because there are many new guys and a few big holes to fill.
Scott Parker: Parker worked on his skating over the summer and in the first few preseason games it really showed. Healthy scratches and suspensions haven’t helped him get a lot of ice time lately but you have to love a guy who works as hard as he dose every year to improve. Battles against Laraque and Brashear have proved he can hold his own with the toughest in the league.
More random notes:
Goal of the year (so far…): If you didn’t see it, I can’t explain. Chris Drury’s goal against Vancouver defies description. As usual Drury was in the eye of the storm, with 2 Cannucks draped all over him and still managed to magically get the puck in the net.
Heroes helping heroes: In a short period of time, Shjon Podein and 20 of his teammates threw together a charitable event for the Sept 11 victims.
Podein and company played celebrity bartenders at Tin Lizzies in Lodo. Over
$30,000 was raise from admission and a memorabilia auction.
Firefighter standing outside the Pepsi center during the first two pre-season games collected over $40,000.
New costumes unveiled on Halloween: The Avs will wear their much anticipated third jersey on October 31st against the St. Louis Blues. The jersey will be unveiled soon and are rumored to have a “retro” look.
White House Visit: Traditionally, the Stanley Cup Champs visit the White House during their defending season. The Avs were scheduled to do this during their trip to Pittsburgh but the events of the world did not make this possible. They hope to be able to reschedule this event later in the year.
Avs newest defenseman: Congratulations to first time dad Rob Blake. Jack Blake was born on Sept 25, 2001 and is expected to be invited to training camp in September of 2020.
Rumor, Rumor, Rumor: Even though the Avs management will never leak a trade rumors, word out of Chicago is that the Avs (along with Pittsburgh and The Rangers) are interested in Tony Amonte.
Foppas greatest play ever: Of coarse any discussion about the Avs must include the topic of Forsberg’s surprising announcement. Unfortunately, the timing of his announcement caused a lot of people to read more into it. Radio stations in Denver were filled with people suggesting that he was doing this because he didn’t want to fly or didn’t feel safe in America. Thankfully, that kind of talk has died down. The sentence from his press conference that sticks out in my mind the most is “I hope people aren’t mad at me” The fact is, in this age of extremely greedy athletes, Forsberg has done something more incredible than wining a Calder or a gold metal or 2 Stanley cups. He has given up an extraordinary amount of money in the name of principle, integrity and competitiveness.
Players to watch: Pascal Trepanier is on his second tour of duty with the Avs. While in the Mighty Ducks organization he often took a dumb penalty and maybe even an occasional suspension. So far he seems to have improved in this area and hopefully can continue to help out on the Av’s depleted blueline.
Brian Willsie has only been seen in the line up in the most recent games but seems to be clicking well on the third and fourth line. His biggest asset is his willingness to take a beating in front of the net.
Vaclav Nedorost: Nedorost frequently plays on the first or second line and you can hardly tell he’s a rookie. He seems comfortable in every situation he faces. Even though he is a center, Coach Hartley tries not to destroy a forwards confidence by throwing him into the responsibility of a full time center all the time.
For the Canadians, Sakic and Blake are already in. If Roy continues to play the way he is right now then he is a shoe in for the starting spot. Foote will more than likely be on the team and Tanguay is a strong possibility.
For the Americans it’s all about Chris Drury but someone has got to pay attention to ex-Army, future FBI agent Dan Hinote. It doesn’t get much more patriotic than that and he’s playing like a mad man.
Switzerland will be playing most of their games before the NHL break. As of yet, the Avs have not said whether of not they will let David Aebischer leave early to play for Team Switzerland. This decision will probably be made farley close to the time of the games and will factor in the Avs record, how well Roy is feeling and how well Hershey’s goaltenders are doing.
For the Czechs, Hejduk is in and even though it’s not official, I can’t imagine them passing up Skoula who, at just 21 years of age, has already chalked up over 200 NHL games. Nederost and Vrbata have done very well in international compitition in the past and might be a possibility.
Down on the Farm
Look out for former Washington Capitol Matt Herr. Herr has already tallied 6 points in four games for the Hershey Bears.
Hershey’s is dealing with a lot of new faces and their 1-6 record reflects that. Hopefully a group of new goal scores like Vrbata, Kuleshov, and Krestanovich will adjust to the AHL and help out the team soon.
Goalie Philippe Sauve has already made more save than any goaltender in the AHL.
If you would like to check out any of my photos that I’ve taken of the Avs with my pathetic little camera you can check out these links:
For a few recent photos:
For a bunch of photos I’ve taken over the years try: