There has been some debate recently about whether or not the Colorado Avalanche are still rebuilding. Most objective writers accurately predicted the Avalanche would be in the bottom of the Central Division, while many of us less objective writers thought (hoped, prayed, sacrificed goats) that they would be contenders.
I personally believe any roster with three top 3 picks from within the last 6 years, and a number 1 overall defenseman in his prime (Erik Johnson) should be able to at least compete. Especially when you add future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla and savvy veteran Alex Tanguay to the forward mix, and of course budding superstar Tyson Barrie to the defense. Also let’s not forget , regression or not, goaltender Semyon Varlamov nearly won a Vezina-and was in the talk for the Hart Trophy- two short seasons ago.
So yes personally I believe the Avalanche should be able to compete now, and I’m sure the players think they should be able to compete now. Heck when Iginla signed with the Avalanche he specifically stated:
"I think the team, being a great young team, playing against them, watching them and the players that they have and the goaltender that they have, the direction that they’re going … all the good things that I heard but also from playing against the guys and seeing how good they are and the direction that they’re going."
Obviously Iginla thought the Avalanche would be a competitive team last year, let alone a year later with all the players maturing.
Yet, here we are, and I’m starting to wonder, how long will the Avalanche players continue to buy into head coach Patrick Roy‘s systems? This is obviously speculation, but I see the signs of players frustrated with each other and with the coach. Lets take a look at why they may or may not start-or already be- tuning Roy out.
Why the Avalanche players will continue to trust
Obviously Patrick Roy is a legend in the Colorado Avalanche system. He won two Stanley Cups for the Avalanche and was named the playoff MVP three times. In addition he won the Vezina three times and led the league in shutouts twice. Obviously his playing career was about as illustrious as it comes, and that garners respect among current players.
Coaching-wise he won the Jack Adams for best coach in his first season behind the bench, while completely flipping the Avalanche’s fortunes from bottom dwellers to leading the division. At the same time many players have praised his player friendly attitude and positiveness. Lastly, almost all the players have commented on how much more fun his style is compared to the defense-first style they played under Sacco.
Even this year he has remained extremely positive and supported the players, and seems to genuinely believe in the team.
Why the Avalanche players might give up
Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Like I mentioned earlier, I believe this roster should be competitive and I think most the players do, too That leaves the coaching largely to blame. Just to get the counter point out of the way, yes it is possible that the players need to be more motivated on their own, but to a point it is Roy’s responsibility to motivate players.
First I just want to point out that, unfounded or not, goalies are often not coaches because they specialize in a part of the game completely separate from the rest of the ice. I’m not saying that goalies can’t learn, or that some don’t put the time into understanding all facets of the team game, but I guarantee there are very few — if any — goaltenders who are sitting in on their team’s forechecking video sessions.
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Also, even though Roy won the Jack Adam’s his first year, he is still new to coaching. He coached eight years in the Quebec Major Junior League, a far cry from coaching in the NHL, before immediately transitioning to a head coaching role in the NHL. Compare that to Jarome Iginla who has been guiding young players on the bench for at least 10 years himself.
Anyway, let’s think from newcomer Francois Beauchemin‘s point of view; he’s coming from a successful team that won the conference last year with a modest positive shot differential of positive 1.1/game (per sportingcharts.com) to a team that at times seemingly has no defensive structure and has a negative shot differential of -3.8/game this year.
Is it crazy to think that Beauchemin, who is a vocal leader on the team, may question some of the repeatedly bashed systems of the Avalanche? In addition, the only reason the Avalanche shot differential isn’t exponentially worse is because they are blocking so many shots, something I’m sure the defensemen don’t love.
And it’s not just the newcomers. These are smart, professional hockey players, and they might realize something is wrong when they’re consistently being outshot and out-possessed. And it has to make it even more frustrating when your coach is to an extent ignoring the problem. Iginla can’t be happy about not winning with this squad, and I guarantee Matt Duchene is tired of losing.
It’s getting to the point that after another loss where Roy stated his belief the Avalanche players played well Carl Soderberg openly contradicted him to the media. I can guarantee you that if players, no matter who it may be, are contradicting Roy to the media they are doing it even more in private.
Lastly, let’s not forget this is largely the same core that admitted they never bought in to Sacco’s systems. I know it’s a different coach, playing style, and there’s been some success, but all those things have a limit to how much players will trust a coach. And if a team isn’t winning or changing to win, the players will only blindly trust for so long.