Colorado Avalanche: 5 Storylines to Follow Heading Into Training Camp

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Colorado Avalanche: 5 Storylines to Follow Heading Into Training Camp

Colorado Avalanche: 5 Storylines to Follow Heading Into Training Camp
Ron Chenoy - USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 season was a rough one for the Colorado Avalanche, as they won just 16 games. The Avalanche finished last in the Western Conference, and only the Florida Panthers won fewer games. Injuries and the holdout of Ryan O’Reilly were the major storylines early on last season, and inconsistent goaltending and defensive woes negated any progress a talented young group of offensive players was able to make. Things got so bad near the end of the season that backup goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere called out his teammates, suggesting that some of them were thinking more about summer vacation than finishing the season on a high note.

There will be no shortage of areas where the team can improve this season, as they were 26th in the league in goals scored and 27th in goals against last season. Special teams didn’t fare much better, as the power play units converted only 15 percent of their chances and their penalty kill unit ranked 20th. There are still many reasons to be optimistic, including young captain Gabriel Landeskog and 2013 top draft pick Nathan MacKinnon. Matt Duchene remains consistent when he’s healthy, and P.A. Parenteau proved to be a great addition.

With Joe Sakic now in management and Patrick Roy now on the bench, two of the greatest players in team history will try and turn things around. Here’s a look at five major storylines for the team as they head into training camp.

Jonathan Katje is an NHL featured columnist for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter or add him to your circles on Google Plus.

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Can The Defense Improve After An Awful 2013 Season?

Erik Johnson
Brace Hemmelgarn - USA TODAY Sports

Last season, only Matt Hunwick and Ryan Wilson finished the season with a positive plus/minus rating. Erik Johnson managed only four assists and will need to do more as the veteran leader on the blue line. Youngsters Stefan Elliott and Tyson Barrie will also be looked to for bigger contributions.

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How Will Patrick Roy Do As a Rookie Head Coach?

Patrick Roy
Ron Chenoy - USA TODAY Sports

Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy gets his first shot at coaching an NHL team this season, after a successful tenure as the bench boss of the QMJHL's Quebec Remparts. As one of the most beloved players in franchise history, he'll get a decent chance to turn things around. It seems fair to think the goaltending would improve under his leadership, and he has a proven track record of success with young players.

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The Return of Alex Tanguay

Alex Tanguay
Jerome Miron - USA TODAY Sports

Alex Tanguay scored 25 or more goals in four of the five seasons he spent in Colorado from 1999 to 2006, and now after time with the Flames, Canadiens, Lightning and again with the Flames he will once again join the Avalanche when the 2013-14 season kicks off. He's 33 years old, but can still chip in around 15 goals and should be an excellent mentor for the team's younger players.

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What Impact Will Nathan MacKinnon Have?

Nathan MacKinnon
Ed Mulholland - USA TODAY Sports

Despite all of their defensive shortcomings, the Avalanche passed on Seth Jones in the 2013 draft, and instead selected QMJHL scoring phenom Nathan MacKinnon. How quickly MacKinnon adapts to the pro game and which line he ends up skating with could have a major impact on this season, and he'll certainly get a lot of the attention at camp.

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Will Goaltending Improve With Roy As Coach?

Semyon Varlamov
Anne-Marie Sorvin - USA TODAY Sports

Now that the greatest goaltender in franchise history is behind the bench, Avalanche fans will be hoping for a significant improvement between the pipes. Semyon Varlamov struggled last season but still looked like a franchise goaltender in a few wins. J.S. Giguere was serviceable in the backup role, but his late-season comments questioning the team's focus rubbed some the wrong way. Summer rumors had the Avs working out a trade for Ryan Miller, and it's not impossible that a deal might come together at some point during the season.

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