Colorado Avalanche: Foundation of the Team Structure

Mar 5, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche left wing Mikkel Boedker (89) celebrates his goal with left wing Gabriel Landeskog (92) and defenseman Erik Johnson (6) in the second period against the Nashville Predators at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 5, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche left wing Mikkel Boedker (89) celebrates his goal with left wing Gabriel Landeskog (92) and defenseman Erik Johnson (6) in the second period against the Nashville Predators at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Avalanche is slowly evolving into a speedy, tenacious, gritty team in the hopes of becoming legitimate contenders again.

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The Colorado Avalanche aren’t heading to the playoffs.

This is a painful reality. Last season, we could console ourselves with the reality that the Colorado Avalanche had suffered a lot of injuries. They had the second-most man-games lost due to injury. Plus, everyone had predicted a regression, and the fanbase had to concede the reality of it.

This season… Colorado seemed poised to take another step forward. Management made important moves in the off-season, especially in trades and free agency. The team also managed to stay healthy for the most part.

Unfortunately, the season started out slowly.Players seemed to have difficulty finding chemistry with each other, and they certainly had problems finding the back of the net. However, the players seemed to self-correct, and they went on an epic-mid-season run that made the playoffs look like a distinct possibility.

That progress started to fall apart around the All Star Break and became acute around the Stadium Series game. By the time the team suffered its late-March collapse, we could see which way the wind was blowing.

We’ll examine what went wrong with the 2015-16 season during the long off-season. For now, though, let’s take a look at what the foundation of the team’s structure has become as a hint of what we can expect to see moving forward.


One thing that hasn’t changed in the Colorado Avalanche’s team structure is the commitment to being a speedy team.

This commitment is evident in the core players — of the group, Gabriel Landeskog is probably the slowest, and he’s not exactly a turtle. Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene are renowned for being fast. Tyson Barrie is a dynamic skater, and Erik Johnson eats up ice with his long, powerful strides.

The Avalanche’s game is also based on the team’s speed, at least when it comes to the top lines. Colorado prefers a rush game, capitalizing on turnovers. This aspect of their identity does make for exciting hockey.

What’s more, over the summer the organization brought in a skating coach, Tracy Tutton, to work with the prospects and rookies. She worked with them on strong and explosive skating.

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Because speed is such an integral aspect of the Colorado Avalanche’s team identity, I expect that to be a factor in on-going personnel decisions. I could see the management committing to paying a player like Mikkel Boedker all the way up to Matt Duchene’s $6 million salary. Boekder’s worth that to the Avalanche because he can facilitate both Duchene and MacKinnon.

I’d also see speed being something Colorado looks for in the upcoming draft. Last season it was all about size, and the Avalanche did get some big players. However, I think explosive skating is going to be a byword for this year’s draft.


Another quality that coach Roy has been emphasizing a lot lately is persistence. After the loss to the St. Louis Blues, he nonetheless praised the group for never giving up. He added, “These guys gave me everything they had.”

Coach Roy prizes effort — that’s why we saw the likes of Nate Guenin. More happily, that’s why Jack Skille made the team on a professional tryout. “When you acknowledge your players are working, there’s hope.”

The quality of tenacity is going to be just as integral to the Colorado Avalanche’s success as speed, if not more so. There’s no question that they’re a talented and skilled group. Play breaks down when players give up because of adversity.

Throughout the year, coach Roy has praised players for finishing their checks, winning their battles in the corner and driving the net. He’s also benched players and even sent them down to the minors when they’ve stopped working that hard.

I think we’re going to see Patrick Roy applying that pressure to the core even more distinctly. If even core players take their foot off the gas next season, I think they could find themselves with reduced ice time. Brace yourselves — that could mean less talented players getting key ice time over stars if the needs be.

That’s how it should be, though. Every team has supremely talented players. The teams that succeed are the ones that come together and keep working no matter what adversity they face.

I think that’s also why the Colorado Avalanche might reward forward Shawn Matthias with a nice contract. He’s an unrestricted free agent this summer, but I think Colorado might just lock him up because of his tenacity.


Ever since the summer of 2014, size has been a focus for the Colorado Avalanche roster. Management made moves to secure bigger players. The team signed Jarome Iginla, Francois Beauchemin and Blake Comeau in free agency. All three are also known for their gritty play.

The team also selected big players in the 2015 NHL draft — Mikko Rantanen and his 6-foot-4, 212-pound frame is about average for what they picked up. Colorado also traded for Carl Soderberg and his 6-foot-3, 216 pounds. The acquisition of Andreas Martinsen, Shawn Matthias and Eric Gelinas during the 2016 trade deadline added further size and grit to the team.

The Colorado Avalanche play in one of the toughest divisions in all of sports and certainly the most brutal in the NHL. While some of the focus may be shifting away from size and grit, the truth is that speed and tenacity alone aren’t going to take the team far.

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So, what we’re probably going to see moving forward is team management focusing on all those aspects as they select and even keep players moving forward. I’d say draft, trade and free agent players will have to display at least two of the above characteristics to be considered by the Colorado Avalanche. Any speedy, tenacious players with size and grit may find themselves right in the core of the team.