Avalanche Commentary: IIHF Worlds Domination


Colorado Avalanche players are dominating the world — well, they’re representing well at IIHF Worlds. Specifically, the Canadians are doing an excellent job of helping Team Canada get and maintain leads.

Wait, the Avs are getting and maintaining leads? Isn’t that part of what their problem was during the 2014-15 season? Why are Avalanche players dominating the offensive action at the IIHF World Championship?

Quality of Opponents

There’s a certain level of unfairness that NHL players are allowed to compete in the IIHF championships. Granted those still occupied with the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs are not involved in the international competition. However, that still frees up a lot of top-end talent.

And no question but that talent is concentrated in certain teams — Russia, Sweden, USA, Finland and Canada.

Thus far, Team Canada has played Latvia and Germany. Neither of those teams is exactly stacked with NHL-level talent, much less elite talent. At times it looked as if an NHL team was playing against an AHL team because, essentially, that’s what was going on.

For instance, the Latvian national team is made up of players mostly from the KHL, especially the Dinamo Riga. The KHL would like to think it has the same level of talent the NHL has, but… it does not consistently. There are players who are talented and skilled enough to play in either league — including former St. Louis Blues defenseman Vadimir Sobotka. There are also those who couldn’t really make it in the NHL and now play for the KHL, such as left wing Kaspars Daugavin, who spent one season as a reguler on the Ottawa Senators but eventually washed out.

The Germans were even less stacked with talent than the Latvians. Let’s just say Germany seems to concentrate more on soccer, dominating in that world sport. Because Team Canada spanked them with a 10-0 victory, with the Canadians almost certainly reining in their skill in the third period in mercy.

Quality of Players

On the other end of that spectrum is the quality of players concentrated in Team Canada. There are players who don’t get selected to play for Canada that would be a top star for another country.

That means there is no such thing as a third or fourth line. For instance, Matt Duchene centering Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle was the line Canada rolled out in third place. Hall was one of the Edmonton Oiler’s many first-overall draft picks in recent years, was third on the team for scoring and serves as the alternate captain. Eberle was another first-round pick by the Oilers who led the team in scoring last year and also serves as alternate capain. And we all know who Matt Duchene is — and that he’s not a third line center.

Nathan MacKinnon is currently on the top line with Dallas Star Jason Spezza and superstar Sidney Crosby. Ryan O’Reilly gets to play with Dallas’ Cody Eakin (fourth on his NHL team for scoring) and Stanley Cup champion Tyler Toffoli. Barrie is paired with Stanley Cup champion Jake Muzzin.

While putting MacKinnon with Crosby and, especially, Spezza worked extraordinarily well against the Latvians, it was Duchene’s line that dominated against the Germans. Indeed, Duchene helped Hall to a hat trick and also scored a penalty shot goal:

Ramifications for NHL

Could the Duchene line do the same in an NHL competition? Hall and Eberle are teammates in Edmonton, typically playing on a line together with Benoit Pouliot. That didn’t seem to help them any this season as the Oilers finished with an impressive -85 goal differential. (Impressive in a bad way, obviously.)

And it’s not like Duchene was slouching around with unskilled players, being paired with future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla and seeing time with Worlds teammate Ryan O’Reilly. Avs finished -8 in goal differential.

Team Canada hasn’t been tested yet. Today they’ll play against a decent team in the Czechs, including against teammate Jan Hejda and future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr. Their first real test will be against Team Sweden on Wednesday. After those two games we’ll have a better idea of how much Team Canada dominates at Worlds.

Until then, we shouldn’t fret that the Avalanche players didn’t dominate in burgundy and blue — they were playing against NHL talent every night, which they haven’t done yet in the Czech Republic.

Next: Can Avs Players Capitalize on Worlds Success?

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