Brandon Gormley Needs Time To Learn Avalanche Game

Jan 2, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Calgary Flames center Matt Stajan (18) falls to the ice in pursuit of the puck against Colorado Avalanche defenseman Brandon Gormley (46) during the third period at Pepsi Center. The Flames won 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 2, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Calgary Flames center Matt Stajan (18) falls to the ice in pursuit of the puck against Colorado Avalanche defenseman Brandon Gormley (46) during the third period at Pepsi Center. The Flames won 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports /

Brandon Gormley was recently waived by the Colorado Avalanche despite the fact that Nate Guenin still occupies a roster spot. However Gormley just needs time to learn the Avs game.

When teams do tryout evaluations, most of them use a 7 or 10 point scale. For example, on the 10 point scale a good play earns a player an 8, 9, or, 10, while bad plays earn them lower numbers. However, at the end of every session I have ever evaluated there are always players with no numbers, players who never stood out for good or bad. These players get a single 5; they didn’t make a difference one way or another.

My editor suggested the idea of evaluating Brandon Gormley’s play to me, and I was flabbergasted at first. Despite Gormley playing in 26 games (I had no idea he had even played that many until this post) I had never really noticed him one way or another. So I went back and watched all his shifts from his last game against Calgary on January 2nd.

I chose this game for two reasons. First, it was his last game before being waived so I figured he must have done something to confirm head coach Patrick Roy and GM Joe Sakic’s decision to waive him — and risk losing a decent prospect in the process. And secondly his 13 minutes and 27 seconds was the most ice time he’d received since November 14th, suggesting to me that the front office and Roy wanted a last look at him.

After rewatching his shifts, I realized why he had the metaphorical “5” in my book — he looked lost out there most the time. However, I picked up on a couple of notes on both sides of the ice.

Brandon Gormley Offensively

We all know the Colorado Avalanche have very aggressive defense. Besides Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson, it’s common to see Nick Holden jump down low. While watching the Calgary game I even saw Zach Redmond lead a couple rushes.

During the entire game I didn’t see Brandon Gormley carry the puck out of the D zone once. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing — he made several nice break out passes into the neutral zone. However, for lack of opportunity, skill, or awareness he failed to push the play himself even once.

By the end of the game when Calgary was dominating and Gormley was semi-responsible for the last Flames’ goal, he seemed to be really gripping the stick tightly. He also made several bad passes in the D zone. That’s understandable for a player who probably sensed he was close to the chopping block.

In the offensive zone it was more of the same. He held the blue line nicely a couple times, making good passes down low to the forwards. But he never got a shot to the net, and I didn’t even see him pinch once. This is a big deal for a team that often has its defenseman pinch down to the bottom of the circles.

Quite simply, he was playing safe, almost timid. And by the end of the game you could see him trying to force passes as the pressure mounted.

Lastly, and this plays into his lack of carrying the puck, I noticed Brandon Gormley struggled at supporting the puck carrier while the team was moving through the defensive and neutral zone. He often looked lost as to where he should be so the other Colorado Avalanche players would know he was an option.

Brandon Gormley and The D Zone

In the defensive zone it was more of the same from Brandon Gormley. He stayed in front of the net a lot and didn’t look confident as to when he was supposed to be the player pressing the puck. When he did engage the Flames player, he played very safely — which I like — often going for the pin and letting the Avs center or other D come to pick the puck up.

He tied up the front and was  very cautious when taking any kind of rush, not engaging the puck carrier until low in the zone. Basically he was a standard, passive 6 defenseman the majority of the game. He didn’t take any chances and didn’t make any huge mistakes or great plays.

Yet the last goal by Mikael Backlund seemed to be the final straw for Roy, both in terms of the game — Gormley got considerably less and shorter shifts after — but also in terms of his position with the team.

Before I even embed the video I’m going to tell you, this goal was not Brandon Gormley’s fault. It was completely Tyson Barrie’s guy who scored (while Gormley picked up ex-Avalanche David Jones), and Tyson Barrie who failed to hustle to get into position.

But Brandon

Gormley was in perfect position to save the day when Tyson Barrie got caught and simply didn’t.

Why Brandon Gormley is Gone

At the end of the day that goal is why Brandon Gormley got waived. He’s not bad defensively, he can move the puck, but he just doesn’t make an impact on the game — even when standing an inch away from the play. In a league where every player is supposed to contribute at both ends all the time, average just isn’t good enough.

Next: Roy in Goal Again!

Rewatching the games I truly hope Gormley comes back. God know he has the potential to be a much more solid player than Brad Stuart or Nate Guenin. But for right now Brandon Gormley just isn’t making an impact. I think it’s because Gormley doesn’t know where anyone — including himself — is supposed to be on the ice at any given point. He needs to learn the systems, build some confidence, and come back ready to play hockey.