Colorado Avalanche Players Already Have ‘Winning Attitude’

Feb 27, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene (9) controls the puck against the Detroit Red Wings in the third period during a Stadium Series hockey game at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 27, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene (9) controls the puck against the Detroit Red Wings in the third period during a Stadium Series hockey game at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

While some may criticize players on the Colorado Avalanche for not having a ‘Winning Attitude’, the right attitude got these players to the NHL in the first place.

Disclaimer: Baseless, opinionated rant ahead.  Proceed with caution.

Hi.  Let’s talk about professional athletes  and their ‘attitudes’.

From news outlets to blog posts to comments sections…. to former coaches, you will always find people disparaging the attitudes and commitment of Colorado Avalanche players, especially their stars.  How they need to ‘learn how to win’, ‘step up’, or any other mantra that puts the responsibility on individual players, not the system.

Before we begin, there are certainly merits to that way of thinking.  Some players can be locker room issues, some can be off-ice distractions, and others can have too massive of egos to coexist with a coach.

While myself and many Montreal fans have marked Michel Therrien as the true cancer of the the Canadiens, management saw the personality of P.K. Subban as the issue, and dealt him away this summer.

For the Avalanche, however, it’s hard- if not impossible- to find a single player to blame.  Colorado is a team full of class-acts, both on and off the ice, with the closest thing to an issue being Varlamov’s court case.

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But even with any on-ice or off-ice issues, I outright refuse the notion that any NHL player, let alone the Avalanche core, doesn’t have a “winning attitude”.  Once everyone is the problem, the system is the problem.

The Journey of an NHL-level hockey player

I think something often lost on fans is just how difficult the road to the NHL truly it.  It’s not something anyone can casually stroll along, no matter how talented.  It takes hard work and sacrifice beyond measure to earn any spot in the best league in the world.

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Players begin skating at the age of four or five, and after that, enter a life of cold, early mornings, little “normal” socialization, and a physically taxing day-to-day existence.

Potential NHL stars can- and do- hop off the wagon at any given time along the long path to the NHL.  They forego a normal high school or college life to wake up at 5am or earlier for Major Juniors, a professional European league,  or NCAA hockey.  Teenagers leave their original families to live with billet families during a chaotic time in their human development.

As someone who has lived through both the high school and college age groups, I can tell you that teenage- and early-twenties Mark Kinz would have given up based on time of day alone.  No human should wake before at least 12pm or 1pm, truly.

But those who want to be the best do it anyway.  They wake up, they skate before the sun rises, and they do anything they can to propel their team to victory.

John Scott’s article in the Player’s Tribune brought this to light for a lot of folks, but I feel it’s worth revisiting here: NHL players are the best in the world, and they’re not here by accident.  They do anything to win.  It’s all they know.

The Avs have a winning attitude

Matt Duchene. Nathan Mackinnon.  Erik Johnson.  Tyson Barrie.  Semyon Varlamov.  Gabriel Landeskog.  These players are not part of the “core” based on talent alone.  They are here because they sacrificed their early lives to get to the NHL, and to even have a chance of sniffing the Stanley Cup.  They also happen to be blessed with more talent than others, who have worked just as hard.

I find it impossible to believe that Memorial Cup champion Nathan Mackinnon doesn’t “want to win”.  I find it impossible to believe that Matt Duchene, who worshiped and adored Joe Sakic, Patrick Roy, and the Colorado Avalanche as a kid, doesn’t want to take his favorite team to the Stanley Cup.

I refuse to believe that any member of the “core”, or indeed anyone in the NHL at all is here for a “quick payday”, because the payday is not quick, nor is it easy.  The “payday” involves the sacrifice of childhood, the risk of both physical and mental injury, and working harder than many people will ever work in their lives.

The Avalanche have the will to win.  They are finely-tuned hockey-playing processors.  But even the best processor in the world is useless without the correct software.

Winners never quit, and quitters never win

Patrick Roy, as a player, was a winner in every sense of the word.  All will forever acknowledge him as one of if not THE greatest goaltender to play the game.  Patrick Roy the player knows of the struggle and sacrifice in getting to the NHL.  Patrick Roy the player is a winner.

Unfortunately, Patrick Roy the coach is a quitter.  Without even finishing his contract, he quit because he didn’t get his way.  This is not the attitude of a winner, and quitting on your team is obviously not the way to win a Stanley Cup.

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These players players have committed their lives to winning.  It’s a shame Roy the coach couldn’t commit to them.