Colorado Avalanche Finding a Balance Between Offense and Defense

Apr 3, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson (6) controls the puck against St. Louis Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson (6) in the second period at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 3, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson (6) controls the puck against St. Louis Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson (6) in the second period at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Avalanche have some of the best young offensive talent in the NHL, but they will need to be more balanced between offense and defense in order to find success this season.

The new head coach for the Colorado Avalanche — Jared Bednar — thinks the game from the defensive end of things, and new assistant Nolan Pratt is also defensively minded.

In the recent press conference that took place on Wednesday, Jared Bednar made it very clear that the Avalanche will be addressing their play style from a more defensive standpoint, according to the Denver Post.

"Nolan and I see the game on the defensive side of things, with the way we coach. We’ve been together for a long time and we see it the same way. The plan that we’re going to put in place can help elite defensemen or up-and-comers. … It’s all about support and knowing what you’re trying to do with the puck before you get there under different sets of circumstances."

However, the team itself is ripe with offensive talent, while somewhat lacking on the defensive side of things. Furthermore, the Avalanche have not been known for playing a very structured defense in recent years, but that will almost certainly change this year.

Thus, as the Avalanche — and coach — implement a more finely tuned defensive structure, the team itself figures to be more balanced between offense and defense this coming season.

What Will a More Balanced Approach Look Like for the Colorado Avalanche?

Under the tutelage of Patrick Roy, the Colorado Avalanche played a game entirely dependent upon the rush, which most would think leads to a very productive offense, and that’s not entirely untrue.

The only thing that you must keep in mind when thinking about the rush is that it is dependent upon quick and easy zone exits from the defensive zone, something the Avalanche couldn’t operate with any regularity in the last few years.

By the time the forwards got the puck they were so tired — a good amount of the time — from being trapped in their own zone that they just had to dump the puck and make a line change.

Obviously it’s impossible to do anything off the rush if you’re forwards don’t have the energy to commit to the rush.

More from Mile High Sticking

Don’t get me wrong, I think that Roy employed a very effective neutral zone trap which could lead to good rush opportunities if the puck was acquired in the neutral zone.

Unfortunately, his defensive zone structure is ultimately what hindered the Avalanche from employing a successful rush team in all circumstances.

Let’s get another thing straight: it’s impossible to determine if a rush style team is what Bednar plans on operating, but his desire for an aggressive and supportive system in all zones on the ice would lead to more successful rush opportunities for the Avalanche.

I’ve already detailed the nature of Bednar’s aggressive style, and what that might entail for the Colorado Avalanche and their fans in this post, but now it’s time to discuss the nature of an offensively and defensively balanced team.

An Aggressive and Supportive Defense Leads to an Aggressive Offense

In today’s NHL, teams place a lot of emphasis on possessing the puck; having the puck consistently obviously leads to more scoring chances.

In order to counteract this progressive style, teams must ensure that they are constantly pressuring the puck and making it difficult for other teams to hold onto it when playing on defense.

As such, it is becoming more necessary for teams to play aggressively both defensively and offensively; the more defensively aggressive your team is the more offensively aggressive you can be, in other words.

More From Mile High Sticking: Assessing Jared Bednar’s Training Camp Preparation

I can’t bring the quote to a link right now, but I remember when Roy took the helm he preached a structure dependent upon a five-man system where all the players are accountable for one another.

However, that structure — in my opinion — was predicated on the success of the forwards, not the success of the defense.

There’s an old adage that says defense wins championships, and the Denver Broncos proved that in their most recent Super Bowl victory, so perhaps this aggressive style must start on the defensive side of things in order to be successful.

Bednar also said that he’ll employ a five-man system based on support all over the ice, but his aggressive approach in the defensive zone might be the difference the Colorado Avalanche needed/will need to address.

Will Jared Bednar’s Approach be Successful?

Only time will tell if Bednar is going to be successful behind the Colorado Avalanche bench, but if he is able to employ a defensive system that relies upon pressuring the puck in all circumstances then the forwards figure to have more opportunities to be aggressive in their nature of success.

In the end, the players are going to have to implement his systems with regularity in order for them to be useful.

Still, a team that plays defensively — along with a group of talented young forwards like the Avalanche have — has a good chance to have a high ceiling offensively.

The only question that remains is how successful the Colorado Avalanche defensive group can be with an aggressive style defense.

The team does not have a big group of high-end talent — with Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson being the only ones that fall under that category — and young inexperienced players are going to play a large role this season on the defensive end of things.

Next: Jared Bednar is Going to Retain the Coaching Staff

If the defensive group is able to effectively employ an uptempo and aggressive defensive structure, then the sky is the limit for this young group of forwards.

Speed is going to be the name of the game for the Colorado Avalanche, as it has been since the arrival of Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon.

So, just take note of how that speed is utilized this season, especially in the defensive end, and how effectively the Avalanche are able to transition between defense and offense.

The season is nearing, and training camp is only a few short weeks away, so Avalanche fans will soon be able to answer these questions through the process of visual analysis.