2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Avs: No winner/loser in Game 7?

    Wed, April 30, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    That’s what it looks like, according to one survey.

    If the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild are anything like their fellow residents, both teams happily will go home after this series is over. Colorado and Minnesota rank in the top 10 of people least likely to leave their state, this Gallup poll shows.

    The top 10 of happiest residents: Montana, Hawaii (duh), Maine, Oregon, New Hampshire, Texas, Colorado (ranking seventh), Minnesota (eighth), South Dakota and Wyoming.

    You know where people don’t want to live? Illinois and Connecticut, apparently. So whether it’s the Avs or the Wild who advance to face Illinois’ Blackhawks, they will face one unhappy bunch.

    If the folks at Gallup are accurate, of course.

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • Broncos: Peyton Manning on the Late Show with David Letterman

    Tue, April 29, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    Broncos.PFM.Boy     Broncos.Ware.Dove

    The Peyton Manning presidential campaign is on the road.

    In recent days the Broncos quarterback spoke with the Boy Scouts of America, the Oklahoma State student body, Nick Saban, McGlone Elementary School and his new Broncos teammates (DeMarcus Ware, right). Those are the campaign stops we’re aware of. But Manning never divulges his entire gameplan.

    OK, OK. Manning isn’t running for office.

    (Yet.)

    But next on Manning’s campaign trail, er, offseason agenda, is a trip (back) to New York. The Broncos quarterback will be a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman on Monday night. This will be Manning’s fourth appearance on the Late Show. His most recent appearance came in 2007 when he was named MVP of Super Bowl XLI.

    Our favorite part of the Letterman press release: “Rating, TV-PG.” 

    Of course it’s rated PG. A presidential candidate can’t alienate his younger constituents.

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette 

  • Avs: Pink elephants? Alive and kickin’

    Sat, April 26, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    Avs.Winner

    Somewhere, possibly in St. Paul or the surrounding area, the Avs lost their pink elephants.

    Their pink elephants are a happy crew. They carry with them positivity, optimism, an overwhelming confidence that anything is possible. A two-goal deficit is no worry for their pink elephants. 

    Turns out, the pink elephants were chillin’ at Pepsi Center the whole time.

    Colorado’s 4-3 overtime win against Minnesota here at Pepsi Center tonight had pink-elephant footprints stomped all over it.

    P.A Parenteau’s tying goal with 1:14 left in regulation? Nathan MacKinnon’s winner in OT (above)? Come on. This was Game 1 on replay. Or this Avs season on a loop.

    You learned about pink elephants in this column. So did I. It was Ryan O’Reilly’s code phrase for the positive outlook Patrick Roy brought this season and when the Avs faced deficits late in games. 

    It’s not as if the Avs implemented some magic strategical advantage to pull off these hockey miracles so many times during the regular season — and twice in a playoff series Colorado now leads 3-2. It’s simply an optimistic belief in self, stemming from Patrick Roy, that seems to push them through.

    “We’ve got a very calm group,” MacKinnon said in the dressing room after he added three more points to bring his playoff total to 10.

    Truth is, I thought the pink elephants might be extinct. For much of the third period Saturday night, there wasn’t the usual feeling that Colorado would return from a late one-goal deficit to send the game to overtime. The crowd didn’t feel it. Pepsi Center was unusually quiet. I didn’t feel it. There was something about two Avs losing their sticks, in their own zone, that made you wonder if this just isn’t their series.

    (The Wild scored the go-ahead goal on the stick-less Avs.)

    It looked like the Avs didn’t feel it. When Gabe Landeskog was served a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct — for snowing goalie Darcy Kuemper with 4:33 left in regulation — the home bench appeared numb.

    “Whether it’s sportsmanlike or not, it’s playoff hockey. That’s a tough call,” Landeskog said of the penalty. 

    But the Avs killed the penalty, then killed Minnesota’s momentum.

    “It was hard to remain calm after the (penalty) call. But when I look at the clock, it said we’d have close to 2-minutes-something,” Roy said.

    Translate this however you like, but it sure sounded like Matt Duchene will return for Game 6.

    “We’re going to take a serious look at it,” Roy said.

    Perhaps Duchene, who has missed the first five games of the series, will ride a pink elephant onto the ice for Game 6 in St. Paul on Monday.

    At this point, nothing should be a surprise.

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • Avs: Best press conference to date? No, just Patrick Roy

    Fri, April 25, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    There won’t be anything you don’t already know in this blog. So in that, I’ve failed.

    But the topic is worth a word or two, simply because it’s so rare. In a cutter-cutter sports world, it’s a phenomenon, really. 

    Patrick Roy. Eleven months since he was introduced as head coach of the Avalanche (Headline in The Gazette: “Hold on tight, Roy’s return to Avs guarantees hockey headlines”), never a dull moment in between. Never a dull press conference; that’s for sure. Today was the latest reminder. You can watch it here. Or you can read about it here in the column I wrote today.

    The exchange was just 15 minutes, nothing groundbreaking. Roy was blunt (“Minny played with a type of urgency we haven’t seen all year”). He was informative, relative to a coach’s normal approach to injuries (on Matt Duchene’s return: “Is he going to play in this series? We’re not sure yet.”). He was entertaining.

    Very, very entertaining.

    The Gazette has covered the Avalanche extensively since Roy’s hire, perhaps exceeding the demand for a team that finished 29th in the league last season. Part of the reason is because we remember how the Avs captured the state’s attention for just under a decade after their arrival in Colorado.  

    Roy is the way back to that.

    Are press-conference performances the reason he will win Coach of the Year and projects as a coach you want to have around for a long time? No, of course not.   

    But if Roy has the ear of a collection of local media, imagine his influence on a locker room of players who grew up watching him play.

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • Buffs (and Air Force): Basketball schedule taking shape

    Mon, April 21, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    Playing in-state schools is not necessarily advantageous for CU basketball.

    The Buffs have more to lose than they have to gain. Even so, it’s a great thing the Buffs are willing to play Air Force and Colorado State. It’s better for Air Force and CSU and, more important, best for fans.

    So here’s the good news: CU and Air Force will continue their series starting in the 2014-15 season, Buffs coach Tad Boyle tells me. “It’s a new contract,” he said. Boyle was uncertain if it’s a two-year series or a four-year series, but it’s a home-and-home that will start next season in Boulder.

    “It’s a good Front Range game,” Boyle said.

    These series are important. In a state that tends to rank college basketball way down on its Totem pole of sports interest, we need these games. 

    Regardless of Spencer Dinwiddie’s NBA decision, the Buffs should be Top 25-good in 2014-15. Their schedule also will include games against CSU (in Boulder) and at Wyoming, he said. CU has a return game at Georgia and will participate in the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, a field that includes four teams that qualified for the NCAA tournament (CU, Wichita State, George Washington and Nebraska).

    Boyle said the Buffs still are looking to add another power-conference team to their schedule.

    CU doesn’t have much to gain from scheduling Air Force, CSU or Wyoming. If the Buffs lose, the perception is it’s a game they shouldn’t lose. If they win, no biggie. So credit CU for continuing these Front Range series. College basketball in Colorado needs them.

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • Avs: Broncos, Avs share crossroads in playoffs

    Fri, April 18, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    Remember when Peyton Manning was ordered to take a knee?

    Sorry to remind you. Broncos coach John Fox said his team was shell-shocked by the Mile High Mistake — Joe Flacco’s touchdown bomb to Jacoby Jones — and needed time recovery before overtime.

    Did the same thing happen to the Minnesota Wild in Game 1 of its playoff series with the Avalanche?

    Patrick Roy thinks so. His Avs scored a game-tying goal with 13.6 seconds left in regulation. Then the Avs stunned the Wild with a quick game-winner in overtime.

    In explaining the wild turn of events at Pepsi Center late Thursday night, Roy (today, after the Avs’ practice) sounded a lot like Fox (last year, after the Ravens stunned the Broncos).

    “It has to affect a team when you’re getting tied with 13 seconds left in the game and losing a game in overtime,” Roy said. “This is a game you felt that you had. This is a game you felt you had under control. That has to hurt a bit.”

    Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

    Do I wish Fox had allowed Manning to attempt a game-winning scoring drive against the Ravens? Yeah, I still do.

    But there’s a lot of truth to Fox’s reasoning, if you believe Patrick Roy.

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • Broncos: Peyton Manning says Broncos must mold new identity

    Wed, April 16, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    Broncos.PFM.Boy

    What’s the next step for Peyton Manning and the Broncos?

    In many ways, starting over.

    “You have to kind of reestablish your identity as the 2014 team,” Manning said this morning in his first conversation with media since Super Bowl XLVIII in early February. “2013 was a good season in a lot of ways, there’s no question. It did not end the way we wanted it to, but we have to build off that and try to take it a step further, try to finish. There’s no question, we kind of have to start over and reestablish the chemistry on this team with all the new players. That’s important, and that really starts on Monday.”

    After reflecting on a banner season that was stopped one step short of the ultimate goal, the Broncos must lick their wounds and wipe the blood from their jerseys.

    The Broncos open their offseason program Monday at Dove Valley. Manning, who served as the keynote speaker for a Boy Scouts breakfast at Pepsi Center today, suggested a proper introduction to their new teammates is in order. The quarterback also tipped his cap to the Broncos who are no longer Broncos. 

    “Well, first off, we lost some great players and some great friends. It’s been a real pleasure to play the last two years with Champ and Knowshon, Eric (Decker), Wesley Woodyard, Chris Kuper retiring, Zane Beadles has been great,” Manning said. “I might be leaving a name or two out, but that’s the worst part about football, when you form some friendships with these guys and really put a lot of hard work in, and just the business side comes into play.

    “But we added some great players, I’m excited about working with them starting on monday. I’ve communicated with them all, had a chance to throw with (Emmanuel) Sanders down there in North Carolina and am excited about playing with him.”

    The Broncos won’t look the same as they did in 2013. But the NFL MVP returns for another run and brought one of his zingers with him.

    “I know Eli told me he’s excited DeMarcus Ware was leaving his division,” Peyton said. “He could no longer hit him and I’m glad he’s on my team.”

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • Buffs: NBA or nah? Spencer Dinwiddie will….

    Tue, April 15, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    … have breakfast tomorrow. And continue rehabbing from a knee injury that ended his season and, ultimately, the Colorado basketball team’s chance at advancing in the NCAA tournament.

    Other than that, the Buffs aren’t quite sure. Dinwiddie’s future remains the biggest question of their offseason. Will the standout guard ditch his final year at CU and leap to the NBA?

    “I don’t know yet,” CU coach Tad Boyle told me today. “I really don’t.”

    It was a testament to Boyle and the stability of the program that Colorado earned an NCAA tournament berth after losing Dinwiddie on Jan. 12. Losing your best player, midseason, is one ingredient for a late-season spiral. The spiral never transpired and the Buffs danced for the third-straight year.

    But losing Dinwiddie to the NBA would be a monumental tease. Instead of fielding what could be the most balanced roster in program history, the Buffs wouldn’t be as good as they should be. 

    This marks the second straight offseason — and third in four years — Boyle faces the possibility of losing a gifted contributor to the NBA draft. Alec Burks entered the 2011 draft after his sophomore year. Last year, Andre Roberson declared after his junior season. Both became first-round picks with guaranteed contracts. When that happens, it’s a good thing for a program in the long-term.

    But the Dinwiddie Dilemma is different. Burks and Roberson were healthy as they entered the predraft process. Dinwiddie missed the final 18 games of his junior season after tearing an ACL. So he hasn’t been able to receive the kind of valuable feedback, from the NBA side, as he would if he were healthy.

    “It’s hard. He’s going to have to rely on third-party information,” as Boyle said, and the lack of reliable information makes a difficult decision even more difficult. 

    The deadline to declare is April 27. Here’s the scary part for Boyle, or any coaching staff with an injured player contemplating an early exit: “You don’t know who’s giving them the information.”

    “Unfortunately, with Spencer’s injury, the process becomes really clouded. There’s been a lot of wishy-washy type of information,” Boyle said.

    Would CU prefer if Dinwiddie returns? Well, yeah. But the wrong decision, particularly for a prospect coming off a knee injury, can doom a player’s career before it really gets rolling.

    “I want what’s best for him. What’s best for him is to get a guaranteed contract from an NBA team. I always want what’s best for Spencer or Andre or Alec or any of our guys,” Boyle said. “Are we a better team with him coming back? Absolutely.

    “But that’s not what this is about. That might not be what the fans want to hear, or what Buff Nation wants to hear. But as the coach, a young man we recruited and sold a vision to and sold a dream to, he’s on the cusp of realizing his dream. We don’t want to hold him back. We just want him to make the best possible decision.”

    What will Dinwiddie do? The Buffs don’t know yet. His knee injury makes this a dicey decision. 

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • Fishing: Revisiting the Arkansas River

    Sun, April 13, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    Ark.River.Mountains     Maya.Fish.Ark

    After writing this column on the evolution of the Arkansas River, I was eager to see its progress in 2014.

    This river is changing, in a very good way, and the most popular fishery in Colorado is more attractive than ever. (I shy from hyperbole in fish stories — no, really — but in this case it’s accurate.) The drought helped. The introduction of salmonflies helped. And (much-appreciated) water-management decisions are helping.  As a result, the fish are bigger. That’s no fish story.

    I snuck down to the Lower Basin, a few miles downstream of Salida, for a couple days last week. My loyal fishing guide was there (above right). As you can see, she’s the only guide who doesn’t advocate catch-and-release.

    One day the fishing was extraordinary. The next it was remarkably slow. When it was good, fish were keying on brown streamers (the biggest, ugliest in your box) and the usual suspects (#18-20 Rainbow Warriors, #16-20 Olive Pheasant Tails, various Caddis larvae patterns). There was no dry-fly action to speak of, although that could be due to the wind. 

    Mostly, I’m writing this blog because the snow is blowing sideways outside my house, and the idea of another sunroof afternoon on the Arkansas lifts the spirits. But if you are researching the next destination to get on the river before runoff hits, there are worse options than the Ark. There might not be better.

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • Nuggets: Randy Foye, medical (and shooting) marvel

    Wed, April 9, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    Nuggets guard Randy Foye just had 22 points in the third quarter.

    That’s cool.

    This is cooler: You might remember Foye has a health condition called Situs Inversus. His heart is on the right side of his body, instead of the left. He’s told me it rarely affects him.

    The Rockets agree.

    In today’s column, Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said he’s “never seen anything like” their run of injuries this season.

    So doesn’t it figure that Foye — whose organs are all out of whack — is the one guy who has managed to stay healthy?

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette