Frei: Like sands in the hourglass, so are the days of the Avalanche offseason

Mar 2, 2018; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) celebrates his goal in the first period against the Minnesota Wild at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Capitals can claim the Stanley Cup — well, at least for a year — on Thursday night in Las Vegas, with a road win over the Golden Knights in Game 5 of the Finals.

Actually, though, it would be poetic and even top-notch entertainment if the Golden Knights extend the series, even if that only sets up the Capitals to hoist the Cup in front of their fans in Washington after Game 6.

I wrote that as if I assume the Golden Knights’ improbable first-season story won’t end with a championship. Heck, they’re down 3-1 in the Finals. Winning three in a row is a daunting, even ridiculous longshot and it can’t hap …

Wait.

After what this expansion franchise has done, that would fit right in, wouldn’t it?

Many of those holding what-the-hell futures tickets on the Golden Knights to with the Stanley Cup, whether at 150-1 or 500-1, probably have decided it was fun and tantalizing while it lasted … but it’s over.

What strikes me, and I’m going to guess many fans feel the same way, is that although Colorado made the playoffs for the first time since 2014 and extended the season by one round, it seems as if the Avs have been done about six months.

As of this typing, it has been 45 days — a little more than six weeks.

The hockey season in Colorado isn’t over, though, since the Colorado Eagles beat the Florida Everblades 4-2 in Game 6 of the ECHL Finals Wednesday to extend the series to a Game 7 Saturday in Estero, Florida.

That was especially notable because it was the final home game for the Eagles franchise before it leaves the “AA” level after 15 seasons in, first, the Central Hockey League and then the ECHL.

Next season, as I’ve written about several times, the Avalanche completely takes over the hockey operation as the Eagles move up to the American Hockey League level as the Avs’ affiliate.

The other thing the switch does is increase the pressure on the Avs to do a better job than in recent years building an AHL roster, even if that means sacrificing a bit of the developmental component to stock the Eagles roster with winning at the AHL level in mind.

If this AHL team struggles 50 miles from the Pepsi Center, in front of a fan base accustomed to the Eagles ‘ savvy management building wining teams in the CHL and ECHL, it could get ugly.

Last week, as expected, DU made the obvious and correct choice, naming David Carle as Jim Montgomery’s successor. He’s only 28 but after his career was cut short before he played a collegiate game because of a heart abnormality, he has been in coaching as long as Montgomery — the former NHL and AHL journeyman — had been when he was hired at DU.

The other hockey news in the area was relatively minor. But the word got out last week and the Colorado Junior Eagles confirmed it with a Wednesday announcement. The Tier II Junior A franchise in the Western States Hockey League was moving from Windsor’s NoCo Ice Center to Greeley’s Ice Haus and undergoing a name change to the Northern Colorado Eagles.

That’s a big deal in Greeley and makes more sense for the franchise, given the Ice Haus’ seating capacity of 1,600 and its location among Greeley’s downtown rejuvenation.

Then next week, on June 20 at the NHL Awards ceremony at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, we’ll find out if Nathan MacKinnon has beaten out the other finalists, New Jersey’s Taylor Hall and Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar, for the Hart Trophy. Avalanche coach Jared Bednar is a finalist for the Jack Adam Award as coach of the year, but if the Golden Knights’ Gerard Gallant doesn’t win that, it would be shocking.

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Terry Frei of the Greeley Tribune writes two commentaries a week for Mile High Sports. He has been named a state’s sports writer of the year seven times, four times in Colorado and three times in Oregon. He’s the author of seven books, including “Third Down and a War to Go” and “’77: Denver, the Broncos, and a Coming of Age.” His web site is terryfrei.com. His Mile High Sports commentary archive and additional “On the Colorado Scene” commentaries are here. His major Greeley Tribune pieces, including his column on Eaglecrest High and UNC grad Andy Kelso, a bona fide Broadway star, can be accessed here.   

E-mail: terry@terryfrei.com

Twitter: @tfrei

 

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