Colorado Avalanche: We’re Not Spoilers


“You play for each other, for the organization and for the fans.” ~Gabriel Landeskog

Teams who have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs have their own inspiration for getting through the last few games of the season. The Colorado Avalanche, from head coach Patrick Roy to captain Gabriel Landeskog to veteran Alex Tanguay, have said a prime motivator to do well in the final three games is they are home games. As Matt Duchene said, people have paid their money, so the players “have to be loyal to the fans and play for them.”

Teams also play for each other and for pride in their own abilities — they are professional athletes, after all. Teams have even talked about playing for pride in the team– coach Roy, center Ryan O’Reilly and Landeskog have all talked about playing for the logo.

One rationale for going all out in the final games that, as veteran Jarome Iginla put it are “meaningless to the playoffs,” is to affect the teams who are going to the playoffs. Some teams want to control as best they can the standings and match ups by winning late in the season.

I must admit, if the Colorado Avalanche could somehow affect the standings so that the Minnesota Wild had to face — and likely be eliminated by — the Anaheim Ducks, I’d be down with that.

The Avs don’t roll like that, though. In a post-practice presser, Tanguay talked about how it’s more that the players want to enforce good habits and put a good taste in their own mouths for the end of the season.

Indeed, when asked after morning skate if part of the team’s motivation to win was to be spoilers, veteran defenseman Jan Hejda replied:

"“No, this is about us. My feeling is that this is all about us because definitely nobody’s happy with this season, and we have to have a better season next year. This is a chance for us to learn, and that’s what we’re going to do.”"

Defenseman Tyson Barrie concurred, adding, “We’ve got some thing we’re focusing on going into this next three games.”

Hejda added:

"“We want to play [these last games] like we want to play next season, too. It’s part of the learning process, too.”"

It’s funny — or notable is probably the better word — how the same catch phrases keep coming up from different people. “Learning process” — that’s a coach Roy remark.

In any case, we’ve all heard that old adage, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. It’s tough to make lemonade out of the waning days of a season when you know you’re not playoff bound. You don’t get to NHL-level hockey because you love hockey — you get to NHL-level hockey because you love winning at hockey.

Barrie specified with what coach Roy has mentioned repeatedly  — game management. As in, the Avalanche haven’t had enough.

From my perspective, another key element the players, especially the young ones, can learn to manage in these last three games is emotion. Veteran forward Daniel Briere remarked just before the season started that the team that controls its emotions better in the big games is more likely to win. Briere was referring to opening night, but it holds true for these games that are meaningless to the playoffs.

If the Avalanche players can develop tricks to stay focused and manage their emotions, that is absolutely a skill that can carry into next season.

Next: Captian Landeskog Leading the Way Down the Stretch

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