Show and party over, Avs focus on Stanley Cup defense

DENVER – Eric Johnson didn’t have enough hours in the day for all the plans he had for his new running mate, the Stanley Cup.

The Colorado veteran made his best run this month as he celebrated his first avalanche title since 2001. For starters, there were lunchtime cocktails ( Bloody Mary’s features celery sticks and donuts ) from the cup, then take the cup in exchange for a Slip ‘N Slide ride in the backyard. He showed it to Colorado fans (the cup was hung from a sunroof) before visiting the animal clinic. Then he went to California to show it At the Del Mar racetrackwhere she even won the NBA championship trophy.

“By the time I got to my party…I looked and it was 11 (p.m.), and I had an hour with the cup,” Johnson was shocked on the eve of bootcamp. “I just want to do it again.”

Not an easy task, though. The avalanche returns from their fun, summertime adventure to raise the cup knowing this: Staying at the top of a hockey mountain can be more difficult than getting to that top. There were two teams to repeat in the hat era that began in 2005 – Tampa Bay (20, 21) and Pittsburgh (16, 17).

“If you win, you’ll remember the success at the end of the year, and it’s easy to forget how hard it was to get there and all the sacrifices you had to make as a team,” explained coach Jared Bednar, who dethroned his team. Lightning in six games. “It’s a long and difficult road and our guys will have to be ready to climb the mountain again and do all the right things because we’re starting over.”

With some new faces, too.

Such as goalkeeper Alexander Georgiev, who was acquired in a commercial deal with the New York Rangers and will intervene in favor of Darcy Comber (now in Washington). There is also, Evan Rodriguez, who has signed a one-year contract to help the team fill the void of losing Nazim Kadri at a free agency to Calgary.

But the pillars are still in place with Mikko Rantanen, Stanley Cup, Cal Makar, captain Gabriel Landskog and fast forward Nathan McKinnon. Just before camp, 27-year-old McKinnon signed an eight-year contract worth $100.8 million.

“He’s been the man to lead our team for a long time and he couldn’t be happier for him,” Landeskog said. “It is very well deserved.”

Johnson quickly added, “Now we can all focus on my extension.”

There was some belief that the 34-year-old Johnson might consider hanging at the highest level. After all, this was a tough moment on top: receiving the trophy from his good friend Landeskoog on the ice in Tampa. Johnson said it was the best experience of his life.

“Honestly, after we won and some problems subsided, I was thinking, ‘How am I going to prepare to play this year? How can you do that again? Johnson, the former first pick who was traded by St. Louis to Colorado in 2011. Then with the summer somewhat back, I was like, “I’m ready to start over. I really haven’t been more excited for a season maybe forever.”

In the past few seasons, the avalanche has been driven by second-round exits. In 2020, Avalanche lost in Game 7 to Dallas. In 2021, there was a bitter loss to the hard-hitting Vegas team. It all fueled an avalanche in their march towards that title, as they went 16-4 all the way.

The fuel is now different – save the cup.

It’s the itch and the will to win again,” said defender Devon Toyos. “We got a feel for what you’re feeling and it definitely feels good.”

Notes: Bednar said Valeri Nichushkin (foot) is back in skiing, but he won’t be a full participant to start training camp. … was not expected to start campers Darren Helm (lower body), Landskog (lower body), and Josh Manson (personal) on the ice. … Rodriguez will wear the number 9 shirt for Colorado. … Alex Galechenyuk centered in camp in a professional trial deal. He has 146 career goals in 643 games. He played last season with Arizona.

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