Colorado Avalanche: Dissecting a Winning Formula (Pt. 4)


The Colorado Avalanche are poised to return to greatness this season. Will they?

Welcome back, Colorado Avalanche fans. The regular season of hockey is nearly here and after a busy summer of off-season tinkering and transactions — it’s time to see where the Avalanche are preparing to stand in the NHL crowd. It’s also time to pontificate over what sort of team head coach Patrick Roy and GM Joe Sakic are assembling, and potentially; who they’re building similar to.

MORE FROM MILE HIGH STICKING: What is Tyson Barrie Worth?

During our last post, we took a look at the idea that the Colorado Avalanche could be trying to work out a “formula” for returning to success in 2015-2016. The pieces of that formula went like this:

Okay, full steam ahead. Today, we’re talking X’s and O’s, voices in the locker room and keeping a long bench.

Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Must-Have Variable #6: Being difficult to play against

It’s not all about individual players or pairings and lines. Winning at the top level takes a broader style of play that means other teams can’t do what they want to do when they play against you.

In football, this is often referred to as “imposing your will” on another team. Some systems are very open and blatant, like the propensity of some teams to “run the ball down their throats”. Others require more finesse. For Roy’s Avalanche, it could be a little bit of both.

As Mile High Sticking pointed out recently, the roster has gotten quite a bit heavier going into new season. That’s terrific news, in my opinion. Here’s why:

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Heavy guys are hard to knock off the puck. Heavy guys can muscle and maneuver into high-traffic scoring areas and dig pucks out of the corners. As long as overall speed isn’t comprised, playing a “heavy” style of hockey can be awfully effective. Just look at the San Jose Sharks or L.A. Kings.

Being big is important to dominating the opposition, especially in the bruising Western Conference. While this certainly doesn’t preclude more physically diminutive players on the roster, like Tyson Barrie, the added size in the roster certainly complements it.

The heavy style of hockey is probably most recently highlighted in the post-season by the Daryl Sutter L.A. Kings and the Barry Trotz Washington Capitals. Both have among the heaviest average weight of players in the league and both have used their size and strength to wear teams out in the post-season.

The playoffs are a long grind for most teams, and if you can make the other teams’ players flinch a little when they hear your teams’ skates behind them; you’ve already succeeded in getting them off of their game some.

I recently got a chance to talk about the Kings’ heavy style of play and the importance of having a big team with the Los Angeles Kings’ Fansided site Rink Royalty. When I asked him about why this seems to work out so well for the Kings, Editor Gary Hale told me this:

"The short answer is their size. The Kings are a big team and everyone else knows it. Watch interviews and the first thing a player will say about the Kings is they’re big and fast. This works well for a few reasons:Size means it’s harder for the defense to strip you of the puck. That’s why the Kings are atop the league in puck possession. What this also leads to is a lot of shots. The Kings outshoot teams on a consistent basis. They’re shots aren’t always high %, but they do get lots of pucks to the net and create some annoying traffic in front of netminders."

Definitely some food for thought, I think. I’d like to see the Avalanche become school yard bullies on the puck this season.

Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Must-Have Variable #7: Veteran Play and Veteran Voices

Veteran guys bring in lots of intangibles into a locker room – especially in a locker room as young as the Avalanche have. While Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay have certainly helped the team in the scoring department during their tenure here, what they do for the team off the ice is just as vital.

If Roy and Sakic are steering the ship this season, Iginla, Tangay and Beauchemin will help keep everyone rowing at the same pace.

Whenever I begin to doubt how much difference having those veteran presences actually make, I take a nice, long look at one of the guys that has helped lead some of the best to victory.

You can’t tell me that Ray Bourque didn’t mean more to the 2000-2001 Avalanche than you and I will ever truly appreciate.

Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Must-Have Variable #8: Smart drafting and player acquisition

Any team will eventually stagnate if they only rely on what’s currently on their roster (cough cough New York Rangers cough) for success. Well, I’m kind of joking about the Rangers (who haven’t had a 1st Round draft pick since 2012), but the point remains that the pipeline of talent needs to keep running if the team’s fortunes expect to be wetted.

Case in point: the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks were found in an uncomfortable position this off-season caused by an extremely pleasant problem to have: They had acquired more great players through the draft and free agency than they could keep under the salary cap.

If the cupboards are always stocked, then you never have to rebuild. Not only that, but the battles for positions in training camp take on a much more intense scrutiny as there is simply more to work with and more options for the coaches to explore in regards to Must-Have Variable #6.

The Avalanche have a young team with lots of promising prospects to choose from. Most of the league is enviable of the teams that can manage to pull that off. The Avalanche certainly have.

Stay tuned to Mile High Sticking for the latest news and editorials on the Colorado Avalanche as well as our conclusion on what kind of roster Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic have assembled for the 2015-2016 season.

Next time: Calculating the Variables

(Previous “Dissecting the Winning Formula” posts)

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Next: Will Jack Skille Make the Team?

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