Colorado Avalanche Still Have Issues

Nov 3, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) pokes the puck away from Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) and defenseman Gustav Forsling (42) defends during the third period at the United Center. The Hawks won 4-0. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 3, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) pokes the puck away from Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) and defenseman Gustav Forsling (42) defends during the third period at the United Center. The Hawks won 4-0. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /

Despite decent possession numbers, the Colorado Avalanche have had a lukewarm start to the season.

The Colorado Avalanche dipped below .500 last night, after being shut out by the Chicago Blackhawks 4-0. While the score was extremely lopsided in favor of Chicago, it might surprise some to know that the Avs out-shot and out-possessed the Hawks in this game.

With the Avs excelling at shot suppression, their core weakness last year, what exactly is causing the slow start? I have a few theories, so let’s take a look.

That Awful Powerplay

If we’re looking for a common failure between this season and last year, it’s the powerplay. While it’s true the team is slightly above the league average for powerplay percentage, a slight improvement from last year, only converting on six out of thirty one opportunities has not helped their cause.

The Avs have had no problem setting up and sustaining offensive-zone pressure at even-strength, but are for some reason struggling with it on the power play. Both against the Hawks and the Preds, the puck was cleared shortly after they entered the zone, if they were allowed in at all.

This is a departure from last season, where the team would gain the zone, set up, but refuse to shoot the puck. The “power cycle” strategy that failed last year doesn’t seem to have a chance to exist this year.

Avalanche Assistant Coach Tim Army has been with the team since 2011, and has been in charge of the powerplay for at least the past two years. While I don’t think the blame rests exclusively on his shoulders, he seems to be a common factor in determining how our powerplay works.

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Army has proven himself as a capable coach through his career, and has established himself as one of the favorites of the players. However, it may be time for him to take a fresh approach to how the powerplay functions.


I have a rule when identifying issues with the Colorado Avalanche, and for the past few years it has been easy to apply: always blame the goalies last.

After nearly every loss for the past two seasons, one of my Facebook friends would post a status about how “Varly dropped the ball” and “needs to be traded” because he “can’t handle the pressure”.

By the end of the season, I had a bruise on my head from face-palming so many times because of him. What goalie could honestly be expected to maintain their composure when facing 40+ shots on goal every night? Did this guy seriously think Pickard would be able to survive better than Varly under that much pressure?

However, it is obvious that this season, Semyon Varlamov is not playing like an elite goaltender. With the team playing better defense than we’ve seen in a while, and keeping shot attempts lower than most of the league, one logically looks to the goaltending stats next.

After playing seven games, Varly has posted a 2-5 record with a 3.30 Goals Against Average and a .891 save percentage, while only seeing 26.86 shots per game, on average.

This is, to put it plainly, not good. In a season where the rest of the team is doing a lot of good things, it can be hard to get in a rhythm if your goaltender can’t keep you in games. It seems the Varly of the 2013-14 season is dead.

Colorado Avalanche
Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

Is Pickard the answer? While I do like the cut of his jib, I honestly don’t know. What I do know, however, is that he already has just as many wins as Varly this year: two.

Let us hope Varly finds his groove, but if not, it may be time to give Captain Jean Luc Pickard a chance at the com (Hi, my name is Mark, and I’m a nerd).


No, not the apple kind. At least by my observation, many of the goals against the Avs haven’t come from sustained pressure, gross tip-ins, or being lit up with massive quantities of shots. No, they’ve come from turnovers in the offensive or neutral zone that turn into breakaways or odd-man rushes.

Tyson Barrie and Francois Beauchemin are two defensemen who seem to have a lot of issues receiving passes.

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There have been too many occasions where the Avs have a solid cycle going in the offensive zone, only to have one of our top-4 defensemen turn the puck over.

This just can’t happen. Making and receiving passes is a basic hockey skill, and these guys are getting paid millions of dollars to do it. I don’t really know what else to say, but these unnecessary turnovers need to stop.


I never, EVER thought I’d have to write this, but here it is, people:

The Colorado Avalanche have one of the lowest PDOs in the league at a dismal 97.1 rating.

This means that when we shoot the puck, nothing is going in, and when other teams shoot, everything is going in.

Unusual PDO ratings are usually attributed to one of two things: skill or luck. Being as the Avs’ PDO rank has been near the top of the league the past few years, I’m much more inclined to lean towards luck, which honestly, every fiber of my being hates. 

Luck can’t be fixed, luck can’t be dissected, and luck cannot be reasoned with. All you can do is keep trying and hope it changes. Our boys are posting decent possession numbers, so let’s hope Lady Luck changes her tune soon.

Next: Avs Should Give Gelinas Another Chance

Overall, the team has been very entertaining to watch so far. Let’s hope they’re able to work out the kinks and put together some wins.