Colorado Avalanche and the State of the Team

Nov 5, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog (92) and Minnesota Wild center Eric Staal (12) get caught up with each other in the first period at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 5, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog (92) and Minnesota Wild center Eric Staal (12) get caught up with each other in the first period at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

At the quarter-season mark, the Colorado Avalanche are not playing as well as you might hope.

The Colorado Avalanche have played 20 games this season. That’s nearly a quarter of their season done. The team has a 9-10-1 record, which is “good” for dead last in the Central Division and second to last in the Western Conference.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that we gave up our player hero, Patrick Roy, for this season. Giving up a hockey genius was a high price to pay for dead last in Central a quarter of the way through the season.

Colorado Avalanche Hockey

Believe it or not, despite my widely-touted allegiance to Patrick Roy, I’m not crowing about the state of the team right now. I didn’t even expect them to be in such dire straits by this point in the season.

I expected the core players to come out a lot stronger. They should have been embarrassed by how they finished last season, losing eight of the last nine to sink right out of playoff contention. That was part of the reason a man who’s a sports hero in this town left the team.

I thought the Colorado Avalanche might match the start they got during the golden Why Not Us season when they went 12-1. I thought they might even do like the Montreal Canadiens and win eight straight to start the season.

Indeed, I surmised that the players, trying to shine under a new coach, wouldn’t show vulnerability until at least mid-November. I even went so far as to say it was the pre- and post-Thanksgiving games that would show us what’s what with this team.

However, from opening night on we’ve seen a team that’s still struggling with consistency. I mean, as delightful as it was to see Joe Colborne get a hat trick in his Avalanche debut, it hasn’t been fun watching him get no more goals and only one point since.

And watching 11 goals get scored was a blast, especially since Colorado came out on top, but periods of shaky goal tending broken up with periods of shaky scoring haven’t been a joy.

November Play

The first two weeks of November, the Colorado Avalanche were all over the place. They dropped two games to division rivals the first week (and only scored a single goal while giving up nine) before finally beating the hated Minnesota Wild 1-0.

The second week Colorado dropped another embarrassing game to a division foe — 5-1 vs the St. Louis Blues — before getting embarrassed at home by the only team in the Western Conference with a worse record, the Arizona Coyotes. Yet they fought to beat the Winnipeg Jets at home, though the game-winner was an own-goal fluke in overtime.

The third week of November started with Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov getting shellacked with 46 shots yet only allowing one to get past him. He got no support from the skaters, though, and the Avs got shut out by the Boston Bruins.

Then they beat the LA Kings, lost to the Dallas Stars and — hallelujah! — came back from a deficit to beat the Wild in Minnesota! Moral victories don’t count for much, but, man, that one felt awesome.

Unfortunately, the Avs reverted to their old ways. Remember when they used to blow third period leads all the time? They did so again against the Columbus Blue Jackets, though Matt Duchene saved their bacon on OT with a goal.

Not so much against the Edmonton Oilers when the Avalanche allowed Edmonton to score four unanswered goals in the third period to go from 3-2 Colorado to 6-3 Edmonton.

That was one of the two games I predicted would tell the tale for the Avs, and it was same old crap, different season. And different coach.

The game against the Vancouver Canucks — the second predictive game — might give us a little more hope. The Colorado Avalanche fell behind twice but fought back twice to tie the game. They lost in the shootout, but at least their play was tight.

New Coach

More from Mile High Sticking

For the three seasons when Patrick Roy was the head coach, I could see what the team was doing. I understood the goals. The vision was pretty clear to me.

I don’t get this new Colorado Avalanche. It started with the draft and continued with the off-season moves, including both player and staff acquisitions.

I’m not a big fan of the new coach. It’s like Joe Sakic and Josh Kroenke wanted to find the polar opposite of Patrick Roy. So, instead of a eloquent, arrogant hockey genius we have a humble, hokey plodder.

Well, last season, Roy’s detractors wanted to see the team utilize analytics and puck-moving defensemen. This season we not only have the new coach with the new systems, but we have a stats analyst on the staff. And the new system is all about moving the puck out of the defensive zone and supporting the forecheck.

And the Colorado Avalanche have a 10-9-1 record to show for the change. Like I said above, that was a high price to pay for no improvement.

I understand that change takes time. That’s the thing I don’t think a lot of Avs fans have wanted to acknowledge. Like it or not, with Patrick Roy the team had a definite direction. He spent his three years working in that direction.

Now, the Colorado Avalanche have taken a 90-degree turn. Guess what that means — a new direction means they’re starting all over. So, not only did the Avs give up their brilliant coach, they took several steps back in overall progress.

Looking at the standings and the team that Colorado has, I think it would be optimistic to even call them a bubble team. I think they’d be better off joining the race for whomever is this year’s Auston Matthews or Connor McDavid.

I realize that’s not going to be a popular opinion. You’re going to say there’s plenty of hockey left to play. You are correct. However, as I said in some previous posts, I’ve been saying that for the last several years, barring the Why Not Us season.

I will say this about Jared Bednar. While I don’t think he’s a brilliant coach, I also don’t think the main problems with the team are his fault.

Next: MacK Making his Presence Known

The bottom line is this — I don’t think the Colorado Avalanche core has what it takes to lead this team even into the playoffs, much less into contention. I don’t know if they don’t fit well, or if they don’t have adequate support on the ice.

I guess if I could figure that out, I’d have a job with the team, and I’d get to watch all the games live for free.