Heading into the season, the Colorado Avalanche was expected to be one of seven teams battling for one of the Central Division playoff spots. At least that seemed to be the unanimous expectation among Avalanche fans, while most objective writers expected them to finish in last place. Still, a playoff-quality team could realistically finish last in this tough division, so expecting the team to do a decent job did not seem unrealistic. Now, 11 games and eight losses later, those expectations seem utterly exaggerated — and that would be totally acceptable, if only head coach Patrick Roy didn’t say the things he does after every game.
Roy usually prefers to focus on the very few positives after a loss. Just take last night’s 4-3 loss against the San José Sharks as an example. From the postgame presser:
"“You know what, I get it. We don’t have the results to support what we’re doing, and that’s all that’s missing right now. We played a great game. I mean, for 57 minutes, we were very solid. […] Both teams played hard, both teams played well. It’s just a frustrating situation right now. We do a lot of good things out there but we just can’t get rewarded, and it’s hard because the guys gave everything they had tonight."
As always, Roy mentioned a few points that did not go well in the game, just like Jack Skille’s bad line change that may have led to the Sharks’ game winner against. But, as you can see in the quote above, he is still 100 percent convinced that his team played a great game — like most of the time — and would have deserved a win. It was indeed one of Colorado’s better games this season, but was it really enough to walk up to the podium and say the losses are the result of bad luck? Is all that is missing for this team really the results, or are the results not coming because the team is not playing well?
Generally, confidence is extremely important in sports. If you do not believe in what you are doing, you might as well just quit. But yet, what Roy is doing this season seems like a perfect example of blind optimism, not healthy confidence. When your team has a Corsi-for percentage of 40.8 percent and has lost eight out of 11 contests, how can you go out and say your team is doing a great job and keep a straight face? How can Roy be happy with how his team is playing and think the reason why they are losing is nothing but bad luck? It is truly a mystery.
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As said many times before, the Central Division title in 2014 blew the team’s and the fans’ expectations out of proportion. This team is certainly not bad and has more potential than what they are showing right now. Once the new players have adjusted and the old ones find back into their game, this is a fairly decent hockey team. But honestly, would anyone say this is a playoff-caliber team if this was, say, the Toronto Maple Leafs and they had not won the division title last year? Nobody is saying the team is as bad as the Maple Leafs, but looked at objectively, the Colorado Avalanche is closer to Toronto than to the New York Rangers right now. Which is okay, but something that needs to be accepted — by the fans and the coach.
The Avalanche has Gabriel Landeskog, the Leafs have James van Riemsdyk. The Avalanche has Matt Duchene, the Leafs have Nazem Kadri. The Avalanche has Jarome Iginla, the Leafs have Tyler Bozak. The Avalanche has Nathan MacKinnon, the Leafs have Morgan Rielly. The Avalanche has Erik Johnson, the Leafs have Dion Phaneuf.
It is hard to argue that Colorado wins the majority, if not every one of the battles above. But, they are arguably closer to those players than to the likes of Derek Stepan, Rick Nash, Derick Brassard, Dan Girardi, Keith Yandle and Ryan McDonagh. That and Roy’s system are the main reasons why they are three points ahead of the Leafs (with one more game played) and nine points behind the Rangers.
On a side note, according to donttellmeaboutheart.blogspot.com, the Avalanche is leading the race for Auston Matthews, the likely No. 1 overall pick next year.
Now that the hardest part is over, and we have agreed that this team’s aspirations should in no way include the playoffs this year — although it would be amazing if they made them anyway — let us move on to the positives that are certainly there.
- Nathan MacKinnon has taken another step towards being a superstar.
- Gabriel Landeskog is one of the league’s best power forwards.
- Nikita Zadorov and Brandon Gormley look like legitimate D-options for the future.
- The Avalanche has bottom-six depth.
- Chris Bigras is having an outstanding start into his first full pro season.
Unfortunately, that is about everything. But, there is no reason to bash this team any more. Fact is, they are not playoff caliber right now and everybody should realize that. The focus should be on how to make this a better team that can win games in the future. Have a few good drafts along the way and aim for the playoffs in two or three years, when the core is more experienced and rookies had some time to develop.
The Colorado Avalanche has a lot of potential. However, after losing Paul Stastny and Ryan O’Reilly over the past two off seasons, the team needs time. Whether Roy does not realize it or wants to protect the team in front of the media is not even relevant right now. Fact is, he may want to make some fundamental changes to the team’s style and do his best to develop the team into one that can win games and be a Stanley Cup contender a few years down the road. Because that is the ultimate goal, and Roy knows how to get there.