Patrick Roy – “I’m Going to Live and Die With These Guys”


The Colorado Avalanche are a team searching for answers. The issue is, it isn’t crystal clear what the problem is. One thing is clear. Patrick Roy is on board with “his guys” and is going to “trust them and [believe] that eventually the puck will go in.”

When looking at why the Avalanche have been under-performing, the first logical pit stop for contemplation, is the injury list. The Avalanche are currently enduring their third stint without the services of their elite starting goaltender, Semyon Varlamov.

Their bottom six is ravaged with injuries, including two key defensive centers, John Mitchell and Jesse Winchester. They are also without utility wingman Jamie McGinn, and the energetic Dennis Everberg.

On defense, top-four d-man Brad Stuart is out, and they lost a top-six guy in Ryan Wilson for the season, who certainly could have added a booming physical presence to the blue-line.

The counter-argument to the injury issues, is the fact that Calvin Pickard has come in and played outstanding for the Avalanche. Statistically speaking, Pickard (2.30 GAA and 0.929 save %) has actually performed much better than Varlamov (3.22 GAA and 0.909 save %) this season.

The Avalanche’s top-six forwards have remained extremely healthy (knock on wood). Aside from Tanguay missing a couple of games with a facial injury, the so called “big-guns” haven’t missed a game.

Defensively, the injuries have opened up the door for Zach Redmond to come in, and showcase a really solid two-way game for the Avalanche. Karl Stollery has also cracked the lineup, and he has impressed me with his simple yet decisive game. He isn’t overly flashy, but has a refreshingly calm and effective style, as evidenced by his team-leading 58% Corsi rating over his four games.

It is still pretty safe to say that injuries have affected this team in a negative way, but there seems to be much more to the equation. Why hasn’t this team performed?

One of the biggest takeaways from the injury commentary, is the fact that the top forwards and young core of this team have had their health. The problem is, they haven’t had great production. The scorers aren’t scoring. The Avalanche have seen their goals per game average drop from 2.99 last season to 2.50 this year.

After getting shutout by Nashville last night, Patrick Roy came out and said he is “going to live and die with these guys.” Roy has been remarkably patient with this team all season, and this is no different. Roy knows that this core is the future of the team, and there is no point making knee jerk reactions.

Roy’s message all season, is that this a process to get this team to the next level. Last year’s team was a lot of fun, but progress and growth still had to happen. Growing pains are sometimes part of that process. I like that Roy hasn’t distanced himself from the problem, but instead attached himself to his players. This “trust” is how you build a healthy relationship.

I’m sure Roy is just as ticked off and frustrated with the results as anyone. The honest truth, is that this franchise is going to be steered by the performance of Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Ryan O’Reilly. The Avalanche are going to go as these guys go, and this season they haven’t been going at the level needed for this team to contend in the division.

Overall, this team has actually made some progress in many ways. They have improved their even strength possession numbers to nearly 50% since switching to zone. This after being in the bottom fifth of the league at ~46% last season, and having an even worse start this season in possession metrics.

The defensive coverage, while not perfect, has been much better than it was at the start of the season. The Avs have reduced the shot totals against their goaltenders are facing each night.

The numbers suggest that the Avalanche are getting better at controlling and managing the game. This is a trait that will only benefit them going forward. Possession wins hockey games. Possession wins championships.

The frustrating thing is, these improvements aren’t being rewarded right now. It’s hard to put a finger on things exactly, but it seems like a blend of bad puck luck and low self-confidence. The Avalanche look like a deflated team, who are waiting for the next bad thing to happen to them, rather than pressing the game until something good happens.

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This is an unhealthy way to play the game. The Avs are improving systemically and fundamentally. Now they just need to improve their mental fortitude. This is Patrick Roy’s latest challenge. It was easy for this team to believe in themselves when they were winning. Roy needs to convince his players that they still have reasons to believe, even during tough stretches. A team can’t derail completely when they hit a bump or two on the tracks.

The future is still bright for the Avalanche. This team just needs time. Last season was all about the magic. This season, the team is paying its dues, and learning how to play the right way. If the players believe in that process, and continue to work hard and improve, the goals and wins will come. Eventually, those Landeskog pipe-pingers are going to turn into twine-ticklers.

It pains me to see the pain in the players eyes right now, but they need to remember one thing. This isn’t a team that is dying. It’s a team that was re-born last season, but is still learning how to to walk. Once they do, watch out… cause they have sprinter level talent.