DENVER (AP) - The Colorado Avalanche could be wearing out the red carpet at the NHL awards show next week with all the players they have up for honors.
Semyon Varlamov is in the running for top goalie, Nathan MacKinnon up for best rookie and Ryan O’Reilly a candidate for sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct. Coach Patrick Roy also could be recognized for his work behind the bench.
It was just that kind of season for the surprising Avalanche, who tied a franchise record with 52 wins as they returned to the postseason after a three-year absence.
The attention now - with the nominations and all - is “exciting,” Roy said.
The attention they’re sure to draw come next season?
Well, it’s enough to inspire fear - or so Roy is hoping, because, “the day you’re capable of dealing with the word fear, you’re becoming a winner.
“There are going to be expectations,” Roy said Thursday as he and front office executive Joe Sakic discussed everything from the upcoming draft to free agents to watching the Los Angeles Kings win the Stanley Cup title. “That’s what we’re going to have to go through.”
Colorado was less than 3 minutes away from escaping out of a physical and tightly contested first-round playoff series with Minnesota.
Up a goal late in Game 7, the Avs couldn’t protect it and the Wild advanced to play Chicago.
“You never know what could happen after that,” Roy said. “But it was good for us. It was a great year for us, in the way we learned a lot from it. I think it makes us a better team.”
The Avs are hoping they can return the nucleus for another run. Sakic said Thursday he is optimistic about bringing back unrestricted free agent Paul Stastny and getting a long-term deal done with O’Reilly, who led the team with a career-high 28 goals.
That is, if they don’t need to stray too far out of their salary structure to make it happen. They’ve already set the financial bar in deals with Varlamov, Matt Duchene and captain Gabriel Landeskog.
“We believe Ryan and Paul should fit in that structure as well,” Sakic said. “We don’t believe anyone should be ahead of those guys.”
Sakic insisted there’s no animosity with O’Reilly’s camp even though the team decided to recently file for an arbitration hearing. They’re hoping to work things out.
“It’s just a business decision. I know Ryan understands that,” Sakic said. “He loves being here; I believe he wants to stay here.