Avs Know How to Lose, Learning to Win


“We’re learning how to win.” – Gabriel Landeskog

The core Colorado Avalanche players spent a lot of time learning how to lose. That’s the catch of being a high draft pick like Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and Erik Johnson were — you get drafted by losing teams. And it’s impossible to draft an 18/19-year old and expect him to fix your losing ways.

From about the time Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly were drafted until last year when Avalanche greats Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy took the reins, the Avs were a losing proposition. They made the playoffs just once, and they were eliminated in six games. For four formative years, Duchene and O’Reilly learned how to lose. Johnson learned for even longer, having been drafted by the St. Louis Blues in 2006, and never even making the playoffs until last season. Up until 2014, Landeskog spent his whole career on a losing team. Ditto Tyson Barrie.

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That doesn’t go away after just one season. When head coach Patrick Roy states the Avs are in a learning process, he’s not just equivocating. He means these young men, as well-trained and well-paid as they are, do not have the skills to know how to win when the going gets tough. They never learned how, and yet they are the leaders of the team.

While it’s true Avalanche management brought in veteran star leadership in the form of Jarome Iginla, it’s still a process. Iginla can’t do it all by himself when a game starts falling apart. And the young’uns don’t know what to do except lose their heads.

Until now. The Avs have faced adversity all season, not being able to find that scoring touch and working within a defensive system that had stopped serving them. In the beginning, they danced around, trying to find their footing in this unfamiliar horizon. Sometimes that looked like false bravado:


"“We know that it’s hard to flip a switch once the regular season comes.”“We’re not going to hang our heads or feel sorry for ourselves. We’re going to move on and get ready for [the next game].”"


"“If you search for positives, PK was good, power play was good. Special teams are critical during the season, so it’s good that we did pretty well with that tonight.”“You can focus on a real game now. You get your systems in order.”"


"“There’s some wrinkles to iron out still – there’s always going to be this time of year. But it’s a good start.”“We want to show our fans that [opening] night was a fluke. We weren’t ready for last night.”"

About a week, 10 days ago, the reality started setting in — they were heading for a losing season. And, dang it, that was familiar territory. They knew how to lose.

That’s where the cream started separating from the curd. The core players realized that, no, they really couldn’t flip a switch. Sometimes they were going to play to the best of their ability that night, and they would lose anyway. Maybe calls went against them, maybe the other team was better or maybe they just couldn’t get into their rhythm. Whatever the explanation, they weren’t going to win games they didn’t deserve to win — and they might lose games they deserved to win.

How the Avalanche reacted after that reality set in is what we can take solace from. Yes, they blew the Vancouver game big time. And, no, they didn’t take care of the Toronto game in regulation. However, they persevered. When calls went against them, they pushed through. When plays went against them, they pushed through.

The game against the Philadelphia Flyers is another such example. Nate MacKinnon was being demonized by the Broad Street Bullies, as if he were a bigger bully than all of them combined! They were down by four goals going into third period — four goals!

Yet the Avs just kept at it. No, maybe they hadn’t played their best earlier in the game. Maybe none of their young stars scored in the end — goals eventually came from Alex Tanguay, Max Talbot and Zach Redmond.

However, Johnson had two shots, two hits and two blocked shots. Barrie had two shots and an impressive three hits — three from our T-Bear! Duchene recorded three shots, and MacKinnon recorded two once he was finally allowed back into the game. Landeskog tore it up with seven shots and three hits.

The young core of Avalanche players were following the long, un-fun process of learning how to win. And that is something we in the Avs Nation should celebrate.