Nathan MacKinnon and Alex Tanguay: Their Anger is Good


Center Nathan MacKinnon and winger Alex Tanguay are getting angry about the Colorado Avalanche.

I attended the Colorado Avalanche game when they hosted the then-winless Columbus Blue Jackets. I spent the majority of the third period angry. I silently watched the action rather than cheering or commenting as I had been the previous two periods. I was angry because I knew I was watching the Colorado Avalanche blow a third-period lead to lose the game even before the 4-3 score reflected it.

I’ve been watching the Colorado Avalanche going on 20 years. I’ve been watching this inception of the team since each core player was drafted or traded for. In other words, I’ve got a feel for how the play is going.

Well, turns out I’m not the only one who’s angry after the 4-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Avalanche now have a 2-4-1 record. That’s not sitting real well with center Nathan MacKinnon or Alex Tanguay.

Nathan MacKinnon’s Frustration

“We’re going to need close to 100 points to make the playoffs, so we’re going to have to look ourselves in the mirror and be better.” ~Nathan MacKinnon

Nathan MacKinnon is a winner. He got used to winning all the time as he came up the system of amateur hockey. He got selected first overall by the Colorado Avalanche. He participated in the first Avalanche winning season in years during his rookie campaign. He won the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year.

Then last year happened. Everyone in life has to experience setbacks.

Well, winner MacKinnon is done with that. Already in the preseason he expressed, “I’m sick of losing.” Now it’s seven games in, the Avalanche have a losing record, and MacKinnon is being even more expressive.

During the post-game presser, MacKinnon said:

"“What we’ve been doing in the third period has been embarrassing.”"

It’s pretty clear to MacKinnon what’s going on. He thinks the Avalanche’s defensive awareness isn’t up to par. Indeed, it was defensive mistakes that led to goals 3 and 4 by the Blue Jackets.

MacKinnon also doesn’t like the way the Colorado Avalanche is finishing out games:

"“Minny, our third period against L.A., I mean Carolina — we have to be better in our thirds. Especially we’re up 3-2, we know [the Columbus Blue Jackets] haven’t won a game this season, we know they’re going to be hungry.”"

Nathan MacKinnon takes on the blame himself. He acknowledges his second period power play goal, which put the Colorado Avalanche up 3-2, whould have been the game winner. However, on Columbus’ actual game winner, he says, “I’ve got to know it’s a 4-on-3.”

All of this could be explained as parroting what he’s hearing in the locker room, from older players, from coach Roy. However for me, it’s the way he’s speaking as Altitude TV’s Julie Browman poses questions. It’s clear he’s digging deep for answers. And his snorts of frustration indicate what he thinks of those answers.

Further indication of his frustration:

"“There’s not a lot to say. I guess we’ve got to go over some things. It starts with myself, with everybody… We’re playing better hockey [than last season], I can feel that. We need to be able to play a sound games in every situation. We need to be a mature team, to finish out games… Maybe I’m talking too much, but it’s definitely a tough loss.”"

Why MacKinnon’s Anger is Good

Nathan MacKinnon has it in him to be a game changer. He came into training camp looking bigger and stronger — and a little meaner with that haircut and facial hair configuration. He’s living up to that potential. Not only is he playing a grittier game on the ice, he’s showing flashes of that offensive excitement that won him the Calder Trophy.

MacKinnon got switched to his natural center position this season, and currently his is the starting line. (His linemates are Gabriel Landeskog and Alex Tanguay — at least as of the Blue Jackets game.) He’s second only to Matt Duchene in faceoff percentages with 50.4%. (Duchene is 52.4%.)

MacKinnon also leads the team in points with seven, which might stem from the fact he leads the team in shots with 24. So when Nathan MacKinnon says he needs to “look in the mirror” for the answer to the Colorado Avalanche’s season, he’s on to something.

Alex Tanguay’s Exasperation

“We have to win. It’s as simple as that.” ~Alex Tanguay

Winger Alex Tanguay is the only current player who remembers the Colorado Avalanche’s glory days. Drafted in 1998 about midway between the two Stanley Cups, Tanguay was also responsible for getting the Cup-winning goal against the New Jersey Devils.

So, while other players may have Stanley Cup rings, Tanguay’s is the only one with an Avalanche logo on it. He well knows the history of this team.

He’s not liking what he’s seeing. In the same post-game presser, he expressed to Julie Browman:

"“We keep finding ways to lose. It’s unacceptable. We’re up one goal heading into the third, all we have to do is play hard, play smart, not give them an odd-man rush. We gave them two odd-man rushes, and they took advantage of it. This should never be the result of tonight’s game.”"

Not only is Tanguay somber during this interview, at times he’s downright biting:

"“We keep finding ways to shoot ourselves in the foot. It’s very frustrating.”"

Why Tanguay’s Anger is Good
While it’s true Alex Tanguay himself doesn’t have stellar numbers — just three points, all assists, and only five shots on net — his role isn’t meant to be as a scoring leader. His role is as a team leader.

Alex Tanguay isn’t pulling any punches with the media, so I doubt he’s doing so in the locker room. And you can’t ignore guy who scored the Cup-winning goal for this very team, no matter his current numbers.

Besides, it’s not like Tanguay is telling them anything they don’t know — they dug themselves in a hole last year and couldn’t make the playoffs not matter how well they played after Christmas. The young Avalanche players surely can’t fail to listen to that message from a man who should know.

The Colorado Avalanche are going to get a chance to redeem themselves during a three-game road trip that starts Tuesday against the Florida Panthers. Here’s to the youngster and the veteran leading the way with their fiery passion.

More from Mile High Sticking