Colorado Avalanche Fans Can Expect an Uptempo and Active Team

Apr 9, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche fans cheer in stands of the Pepsi Center during the first period against the Anaheim Ducks. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 9, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche fans cheer in stands of the Pepsi Center during the first period against the Anaheim Ducks. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

The two main voices behind the Cleveland (Lake Erie) Monsters Calder Cup run, are now the two main voices behind the Colorado Avalanche bench.

When the Colorado Avalanche hired Nolan Pratt on July 15, no one thought that just under a month later Patrick Roy, a Colorado Avalanche legend, would step down.

Certainly not more unexpected than Roy’s resignation, but surprising nonetheless was that just two weeks after Roy’s resignation, Jared Bednar would be named the head coach, the same head coach that Nolan Pratt left only a month prior.

And that’s how it all went down — in rapid fire fashion — and now there will at least be some continuity in philosophy behind the Colorado Avalanche bench, but will that translate to success?

The Necessity of Playing Possession Hockey

Over Roy’s tenure the Colorado Avalanche were consistently in the bottom five for possession metrics and shot generation. It’s really been a problem since the Joe Sacco years, but Roy definitely didn’t do anything to help those numbers, or at least his perceived systems were no help.

The fact of the matter is when your team has the puck you have more chances to score, it’s easier to wear down the other team’s defenses and it’s easier to generate quality scoring chances.

However, possessing the puck takes a very active support system where all five players on the ice are in close support with one another.

This is caused by breakout passes that are more dependent upon short precision passes to the neutral zone when you have the puck in your own zone, defensemen who are constantly pressuring the puck and watching the passing lanes and forwards who support their defensemen by staying in the zone until the puck is cleared or possessed.

As analytics become a larger part of the game it’s helpful to have a coach who is willing to pay mind to the analytics, here’s what Jared Bednar had to say about advanced stats according to Yahoo Sports:

"The information that’s out there, you have to look at it. It’s information that can help your team build on its strengths, and improve its weaknesses. So I think you have to pay attention to it. It can help decipher some of the areas you can improve on but also build on the strengths of your team. So I like to have that information, and look at it, and apply it to our system and how we play. It helps reinforce what we do on the ice."

The thing that I like about his quote there is that he’s paying attention to how the Avalanche can improve upon their strengths as much as their weaknesses. Furthermore, he’s also saying that the stats only help to reinforce what the team is doing on the ice.

He must have noticed by now that speed is the main strength of this team, so an active an aggressive approach from both the forwards and defensemen is going to translate into success, and good five-on-five play.

But, is Bednar really ready for this job, or is his signing more of an interim maneuver meant to staunch the bleeding while a real candidate for the stitches is sought after?

Related Story: Jared Bednar is an Interim Coach

What Bednar’s Playing Style will do for the Colorado Avalanche Defensively

I know everyone is harping on the inexperience of Jared Bednar as an NHL head coach, but all coaching careers start from the ranks of novice bench-masters in one way or another.

Nolan Pratt is also lacking any NHL coaching experience, but his familiar voice on the bench is going to be very beneficial for Bednar and the Avalanche as both coaches are very defensively minded.

Indeed, here’s what Bednar had to say in a conference call, as cited by BSN Denver:

"You have to attack and that’s not just offensively but defensively as well. The league’s getting faster every day and we have to find a way to put a structure in place to get these guys playing an up-tempo style so they have support all over the ice."

Those have to be words that instill a breath of fresh air for Colorado Avalanche fans who are used to seeing a collapsing style of defense dependent upon shot blocking rather than pressuring the man with the puck.

With an attacking style that is dependent upon the defense attacking the man with the puck, and forwards who are willing to support that attack and be ready for the puck up the boards, the Avalanche figure to be a more persistent threat on the ice.

Nolan Pratt is also widely regarded as the reason the Monsters had such a mobile and effective defensive system last year during the playoffs.

Sure, the addition of Zach Werenski to that team late in the season is probably one of the reasons the Monster were able to put a cap on the Calder Cup — Werenski put up 14 points in 17 playoff games and absolutely dominated — but Bednar’s and Pratt’s voices in the development of those defensemen cannot be undermined.

Personally, I’m interested in Tyson Barrie this year as I think he’s been primed for a huge breakout year since his 53 point season, and I think that a more mobile defensive system will accommodate the appearance of that breakout season this year.

What Bednar’s Playing Style will do for the Colorado Avalanche Offensively

With two defensively minded head coaches behind the bench (Bednar and Pratt) Avalanche fans may think that the production of the forwards will suffer.

However, how could it get much worse than a 59 point season from Matt Duchene (team lead), a dismal 20th overall in goals for and a sixth worst showing in shots for per game?

I think we’ll see a big offensive season from the Colorado Avalanche this coming year because the forwards will be getting the puck faster from the defensemen, and the support in our own zone should translate to more offensive opportunities for the forwards.

Point production for Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, and Nathan MacKinnon has gone down since that amazing 2013-14 season, and no player has exceeded the 60 point mark in the past two seasons, and it’s only be done three times since the 2008-09 season (lockout included in those stats).

It’s obvious that all three of those players, plus individuals like Carl Soderberg, Joe Colborne, and Mikko Rantanen will have to step up individually, but a more supportive and structured system could help them elevate their play with more ease and success.


Ultimately, Bednar doesn’t have much time to adjust, but according to BSN Denver, he’s hitting the ground sprinting, and he’s excited by what he sees:

"I’ve had a chance to look over some of the games from last year and pick through some things going through this process and this is an exciting group. I think there is a group of forwards there especially that can be dynamic guys and play fast."

He’s already looking over video, he’s already identified the forwards that will play well in his system and he’s already taken steps to implement systems capable of maximizing the speed and skill of the Avalanche players.

Bednar is very enthusiastic about his “aggressive” and “uptempo” style of play, and he’s prepared to ensure that his style becomes the new doctrine for the Colorado Avalanche as soon as possible, according to BSN Denver:

"The tempo and the pace that we play with and the aggressive style that I would like to play with is something you start from day one of camp."

Welcome to camp boys, here’s how it’s going to be. That’s what I like in my coaches, and I’m not saying that Patrick Roy wasn’t demanding, but perhaps someone who is a bit closer to the pro game than Patrick Roy (AHL Vs QMJHL) will be a good fit for the Colorado Avalanche.

Next: The Bargain Basement Foes: Arizona Coyotes

No matter if you’re of the ilk that says Patrick Roy’s departure was the end of an era, that Jared Bednar is too young and incapable of leading an NHL club, or if you believe that Bednar paired with Pratt is going to save this franchise, there is still a lot to be excited about this season, as any new beginning always brings excitement.

Cheers to the coming season folks, and if I’m a betting man — which I sometimes can be because we have “casinos” in Montana — I’m betting that there are some exciting developments in Colorado Avalanche country this season.

So here’s to looking forward to a different club next season, and let’s raise the giant magnifying glass that is to become the roof of Bednar’s scrutiny.