Avalanche Defense: It’s Even Worse than It Seems


The Colorado Avalanche defense is absolutely terrible, that’s nothing new. But who would have thought that it’s this terrible?!

It’s something we’ve known for quite some time now, the Colorado Avalanche tends to be terrible defensively. Not only the defensemen often don’t know what they’re doing, but the forwards are contributing equally. They do their best to keep the puck away from the net — 41 blocked shots against the Anaheim Ducks — but that can’t be the way to go. However, even after the Ducks game, I had no idea how bad the Avalanche’s D-state really is.

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Looking at the standings, the Avs are last in the Central Division. That’s not at all surprising, as the Central Division is arguably the strongest in the entire NHL. What is slightly surprising is the fact that the Avalanche has a goal differential of -1, despite playing visibly bad defense. It’s quite the achievement to have a goal differential that good when you get 50+ shots directed at your net every single game. So, what’s so terrible about the defense?

Well, obviously the fact that your opponent shouldn’t even be spending enough time in your zone to shoot 50 or 75 times in 60 minutes. Seriously, how is that even possible? Still, it clearly looks bad — and we all know it does — but so far this season, it’s worked quite well. In case you forgot, that 76-shot game against Anaheim was a 3-0 win, just to name an example. When analyzing advanced stats, the situation looks worse immediately.

The Colorado Avalanche’s best Corsi-for percentage player is Brandon Gormley (60.00). He’s only played in one game, though, so he doesn’t count. Mikhail Grigorenko (50.00) is also in the top-three and I don’t want to acknowledge that yet either, as he has only appeared in three games thus far. But did you notice the important part here? Grigorenko’s 50.00 is third-best among Avalanche skaters — and it’s not very good.

Out of the players that have appeared in all six games, Cody McLeod has the best Corsi-for percentage at 53.33. Next up is Blake Comeau at 47.25. It does sound bad already, but you don’t realize how super, unbelievably bad it is, until you compare the Avs to other NHL teams.

Let’s put it this way. Who is the player with the worst Corsi-For percentage when having played at least five games this season? It’s Avalanche defenseman Nate Guenin at 29.37. Second-worst? Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen at 30.47. Edmonton’s Anton Lander (32.26) and Boston’s Ryan Spooner (32.46) follow, but the next three are Avalanche forwards Gabriel Landeskog (33.33), Carl Soderberg (34.31) and Nathan MacKinnon (34.52). Therefore, five of the NHL’s worst Corsi players are members of the Colorado Avalanche.

That was only the Corsi-For percentage, though, and we know that at least Landeskog and MacKinnon always get a few shots away, too. Do you even want to know what it looks like when we look at Corsi Against per 60? Probably not. I’ll just tell you this much: out of the NHL’s 10 worst Corsi Against per 60 players with at least five games played, 10 are members of the Avalanche. That’s how bad it is.

Micah Blake McCurdy, a mathematician from Halifax who focuses on numbers in his hockey analysis, has put that into a nice (at least for fans of all other 29 teams) chart.

As you can see, the chart is divided in four categories: “dull” (few shots for, few shots against), “good” (many shots for, few shots against), “fun” (many shots for, many shots against) and “bad” (few shots for, many shots against). The closer a team is to a given corner, the better it fits that category. Unfortunately, no team fits the category “bad” as well as the Avalanche. In fact, no team is even close to how bad the Avs are.

Colorado Head Coach Patrick Roy has acknowledged that and said he wants to change something about it. But looking at the chart, it seems unrealistic without a completely overhauled system or roster. Whatever Roy’s plan may be, it must be a good one.

Luckily, it already looked much better last night against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Avs had a Corsi For of 44 while limiting their opponents to 33. That results in a Corsi Differential of 11 — much better than what we are used. Whether that was due to Colorado’s game or the fact that Carolina is currently one of the worst teams in the league remains to be seen. However, it was good to see some improvement.

The Colorado Avalanche defense — or rather the whole team’s defensive play — is terrible. But the chart above just destroyed every little thought I wasted thinking the Avs could compete for a playoff spot the way they’re playing right now.

(All stats from War-On-Ice.com)

Next: No Time for Passengers on Avs Defense!

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