The Colorado Avalanche’s quest to defend the Stanley Cup is officially underway.
As players trickled back into town following their busy – but brief – offseasons, they kicked off the busy week with their annual Charity Golf Classic on Tuesday, Content Day on Wednesday and now, will hit the ice with Day 1 of training camp on Thursday at Family Sports Center.
The group, who hoisted the Stanley Cup this past June, has since returned to Denver, refreshed and thrilled to get the 2022-23 campaign going and officially begin defending their championship title.
“Your character has to shine through in situations like this,” Avalanche Head Coach Jared Bednar said. “They know how difficult it is, they’ve been through it, they know what it takes, that can be a positive. If they’re willing to dig in do all of the right things, the process of what it will take for us to have success will be very similar. You have to do with consistency, and you have to hone your craft in the regular season in order to be able to have success in the playoffs. I think we have a really good understanding, now it’s time to go put in the work.”
THE PERFECT SUMMER
For the Avalanche, who addressed the media following Wednesday’s Content Day and prior to hitting the ice on Thursday, the group shook off the notion that there would be any fatigue following their brief offseason that featured some well-deserved celebrations. The group instead affirmed that the summer of Stanley only rejuvenated the group and furthered their desire to become champions once more.
“The term short should be more so perfect summer,” Defenseman Devon Toews said. “Most teams have a long summer, and we had the short, perfect summer. Our guys are excited.”
“Honestly, I was thinking after we won and when some of the dust settled, I was like, ‘How am I going to get ready to play this year? How do you do this again?'” Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson added with a laugh. “As the summer started ramping back up, I was like, ‘I am so ready to start again.’ I haven’t been more ready for a season in maybe forever. I didn’t know how I was going to feel after we won, but I’m so excited. I just want to do it all over again. It was such a blast. Every guy in that locker room’s dream came true. The only way to top that is to do it again. I think we have a team that can do it again. That being said, we’re going to get every team’s best game all season long.”
DIFFERENT CHALLENGE FOR AN EXPERIENCED GROUP
Bednar noted it will be a, “different challenge” heading into this season after achieving the ultimate goal of becoming Stanley Cup champions, which had served as motivation and fueled the group in years past. But after gaining invaluable insight, the Avalanche will look to lean on their internal confidence and experience as they attempt to repeat.
“Our team came in really determined and focused ahead of last season because of some of the disappointments in previous years,” Bednar said. “I said it at the end of last season when people always said, ‘You have to lose before you win,’ but I think it helped drive our group. Personally, I had a lot of fun. Winning was great and I want to do it again now that I’ve had a taste of it here at this level. In talking to some of our guys, I know they feel the same way. Now, it’s about putting in the work it takes to have success in this league and try and repeat.”
A byproduct of winning the Stanley Cup also means that the Avalanche will now be the team to dethrone as the upcoming season gets underway. But for the accomplished group – who has posted some of the best regular-season records in the last few years – has grown accustomed to being on the receiving end of intense games during throughout the season.
“We have our teams that we circle on the calendar and use as measuring sticks,” Bednar said. “We will again this year. I think we’ve been one of those teams for teams out west for a while now, I don’t see a huge there. But we can expect our opponent’s best on any given night for a multitude of reasons. We’re used to that. It should just help us raise our game.”
At the media availability on Wednesday night, Bednar provided an injury update on forward Valeri Nichushkin, who underwent surgery on his ankle in the offseason.
“He’s back skating and is close [to return],” Bednar said. “Hopefully, we’ll have him for the start of the regular season, but he won’t be a full participating [at Day 1 of training camp].”
And despite suffering the departures of centerman Nazem Kadri, winger Andre Burakovksy, Nico Sturm and goaltender Darcy Kuemper in the offseason, the Avalanche are looking to retool with the additions of forward Evan Rodrigues, goaltender Alexandar Georgiev and others who will attend training camp like defenseman Brad Hunt and forward Lukas Sedlak.
“We’re super excited to have this team back,” Devon Toews said. “The guys we’ve added, and the pieces have been good as far as we know. We’ll figure out where everyone slots in in the next few weeks here.”