Colorado Avalanche Problem 1: Jarome Iginla

That’s right, I said it. The venerated veteran Jarome Iginla is a problem for the Colorado Avalanche. Only it has nothing to do with his lack of goal production in the beginning of the season, or even his age.

It all goes back to psychology.

Root of the Problem

The main Colorado Avalanche problem is that the scoring lines cannot score. The energy line can energize and get the faceoff in the offensive zone. The F3 line can chip in. But the top 6 cannot score despite the awesome firepower on those two lines. Head coach Patrick Roy has tried every line combination possible, but nothing has worked for more than a couple games.

 

The problem is a lack of chemistry. Perhaps there is some underlying hostility as well — very underlying, but it’s there. The root of this problem is the opposite of a power vacuum — it’s a surplus of power, or leadership in this case.

Surplus Leadership

It’s been said frequently that the Colorado Avalanche lack leadership. That’s silly. They had it last year. Yes, they lost alternate captain Paul Stastny, but veteran and former Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla has taken his place. Plus, there’s veteran Alex Tanguay, who spent most of last season on injured reserve. Captain Gabriel Landeskog is a year older and that much more experienced and mature. Plus, both Matt Duchene and Erik Johnson are showing a lot of leadership skills, and there’s always alternate captain Cody McLeod

Get the picture? Coach Roy bragged that there’s a lot of leadership in the locker room, but at what point does “a lot” become “too much”?

At the point when a veteran brand new to the team takes over the alternate captaincy. Here’s how Jarome Iginla is the problem.

Jarome Iginla’s Leadership

No one questions how great a leader Jarome Iginla is. He seems an unflappable force, a veteran who’s seen it and done it all (except win a Stanley Cup). A man who can lead without trying.

 

So why on earth is he honored with the ‘A’? Iginla knows who he is and what he brings to a team. He knows he’s all but guaranteed a spot in the Hall of Fame. He’s breaking records almost as often as another veteran, Jaromir Jagr.

The ‘A’ on a team that will be a postscript in his career history — unless he finally wins a Cup — adds little to any of that. It can be a nice honor at best to him.

Indeed, coach Roy is said to have offered Iginla the ‘A’ out of respect. That’s just a little… old school. Sure, that’s what the Avalanche did when defensive great Ray Bourque was our rental player. But that was the 1990s, and teams didn’t name 19-year-olds captains. This is a different era, and the rules have changed off the ice as well as on.

Coach Roy apparently cares little for “letters.” That’s easy for him to say. He has honors upon honors. And what’s important to a 49-year-old man with honors in his past and even present is vastly different to what’s important to a 23-year-old man still trying to make a name for himself. The difference is great even between the 37-year-old and 23-year-old.

I’m talking about Matt Duchene here.

Duchene Needed the ‘A’

Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene has adjusted to Jarome Iginla — but maybe not his ‘A’. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Duchene is absolutely not pouting about not being named alternate captain. He probably felt a moment of disappointment that he immediately shoved down in his genuine respect for Iginla. Indeed, Duchene has performed best with Iginla as his wingman this season.

However, everyone remarks upon the fact that Duchene just isn’t himself this year. Some are even questioning if he’s truly an elite or franchise player.

Couldn’t it just be possible that the franchise’s lack of recognition for his importance to the team is gnawing on his confidence a bit? Maybe it’s just in the back of his mind, that split second hesitation that keeps him from shooting with confidence — or at all in some cases.

No disrespect to Iginla, but wouldn’t Duchene have appreciated wearing the ‘A’ more, considering the Avalanche is the only NHL team he’s ever known, and he grew up idolizing them? Might he not have found it within himself to dig a little deeper in every game to live up to that letter?

Motivation is a very fragile energy. And Duchene has ever been a man who gets into his own head.

There was talk, too, that defenseman Erik Johnson might be awarded the ‘A.’ Obviously, the lack of a letter hasn’t affected his motivation as he was on the way to a career — and even award-winning — year until a knee injury sidelined him. However, Johnson is a different personality. And he was rewarded for his contributions to the team — with increased responsibility and praise.

The Gabriel Landeskog Factor

“I knew from Day 1 I wasn’t going to be the perfect captain, but I was going to be myself.” Gabriel Landeskog
Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog does wear a letter, obviously — he’s the captain.

 

It’s well known that when he took over the captaincy at then-captain Milan Hejduk‘s suggestion that the 19-year-old relied on his older teammates to advise him. Goalie J.S. Giguere stepped in on more than one occasion, and Stastny was something of a leadership mentor.

That was 2 1/2 years ago, though. Landeskog has grown since then. He’s preternaturally mature by nature, and he’s become more experienced with his leadership role. He even served as an alternate captain on Team Sweden in last year’s Olympic Games.

Now, here comes Jarome Iginla, and some say everyone just listens to him now. Iginla isn’t even an Avalanche player — he’s a rental. He bleeds orange and black, not burgundy and blue. At this stage in his career, he should be a teacher not a main leader.

In this NHL, the young guys are the leaders, and that’s Landeskog. He was our captain before Iginla, and it’s looks good he’ll be our captain after.

And Landeskog likely doesn’t need as much advising any more. He’s got the leadership figured out.

Again, Landeskog has tremendous respect for the veteran Iginla. I doubt he feels truly threatened by the older man — they are teammates, after all. However, just like with Duchene, it might just be something that preys on the back of his mind. It might be affecting his confidence around the net, which shows in his lack of goal production.

 

A lot of people aren’t comfortable with the psychology argument. They want it to be about the stats or the playing. However, they’re willing to concede players seem to be performing with little heart without wanting to delve into why that is so. Why wouldn’t a professional hockey player want to perform?

What might be eroding a player’s confidence that wasn’t present last year?

Jarome Iginla with the ‘A’ on his sweater — that’s what.