An NHL season is filled with twists and turns for each of the League's 30 teams. Here are five of the major questions that could define the 2016-17 season for the Colorado Avalanche:
Will first-year coach Jared Bednar make a smooth transition to the NHL?
Hired Aug. 25, two weeks after Patrick Roy's unexpected resignation, Bednar is still learning about the Avalanche, and he'll need to become familiar with the League on the fly. He spent his entire nine-season playing career in the minors and coached there for 14 seasons. Bednar led Lake Erie (now Cleveland) to the American Hockey League championship last season, and South Carolina to the ECHL title in 2009.
Will Colorado suffer a World Cup hangover?
Six of the Avalanche's best players took part in the World Cup of Hockey 2016, and they can't afford for any of them to experience a burnout. Matt Duchene played for Team Canada, Erik Johnson for Team USA, Gabriel Landeskog and Carl Soderberg for Team Sweden, Nathan MacKinnon for Team North America, and Semyon Varlamov for Team Russia. "The biggest thing after the tournament was it felt like such a letdown, you felt like your season was over, but really it's just beginning," Johnson said. "I feel recharged, I'm ready to go. It's always good to get back to your comfort zone, your hometown and your home rink with all your teammates."
Can Semyon Varlamov bounce back?
His 2.81 goals-against average last season was the second highest of his NHL career, 0.41 higher than in 2013-14 when he was a Vezina Trophy finalist. Varlamov was brilliant in some games and mediocre or worse in too many others. He allowed four or more goals in 14 games, and the Avalanche lost each of them.
Video: WSH@COL: Varlamov prevents Johansson twice in the 2nd
Will the Avalanche protect third-period leads?
The failure to do so was a major reason they missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Colorado lost eight games when leading after two periods, six in regulation. They overcame third-period deficits in several games, but gave up late goals to prevent overtime, which cost them valuable points. The Avalanche had a League-low four overtime losses.
Can Colorado get off to a fast start?
The Avalanche won their first six games in 2013-14, 12 of the first 13 games, 14 of the first 16 and unexpectedly won the Central Division. They missed the playoffs the past two seasons following poor starts -- 10 losses in the first 14 games last season, 13 losses in the first 17 games in 2014-15. The Avalanche play five of the first seven games on the road this season, seven of the first 11. "It's been talked about a lot the last two seasons," defenseman Tyson Barrie said. "We know that's hurt us. You look three years ago when we got off to a hot start, and it just kind of carried us to the division title. That's going to be a huge focus for us." Colorado must play better at Pepsi Center, where it was 17-20-4 last season.
Video: DET@COL: Barrie nets Comeau's dish after fake