Colorado Avalanche Captain Gabriel Landeskog Living up to Expectations

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 24: Gabriel Landeskog
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 24: Gabriel Landeskog /

Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog is definitely living up to the expectations of a power forward and a captain.

“Gabe, you know what you’re getting with him every night.” ~Nathan MacKinnon

gabriel landeskog
gabriel landeskog /

Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel  Landeskog has sometimes been a controversial player. When he was named captain of the team, he was the youngest-ever player to take on that role at the time. That seems to have haunted him somewhat because people have been known to question his leadership capabilities.

Another thing that has caused questioning is his offensive production. Landeskog was selected second-overall in 2011. He won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 2012 after a 52-point season (22 goals, 30 assists). He’s had a 65-point season (2013-14) and 59-point season (2014-15). However, he’s dropped in offensive production every season since 2013-14.

Finally, Landeskog has been known as a controversial player because of his “wild ways” — he’s a true power forward who’s been fined by the NHL for punching Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu from the bench. He also got suspended for crosschecking Anaheim Ducks defenseman Simon Depres. He has 16 official fights to his name plus many tussles that went down as “roughing.” (There was even that time he fought Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk.)

Well, all of that is Gabriel Landeskog. He’s never going to lead the NHL — or even the team — in points, but he is going to lead by letting his teammates know he’ll do the dirty work. That includes defending them or making the occasional mistake in the heat of passion.

In other words, I consider he’d delivering what’s been advertised. And this season is a perfect example.

Here’s how Aarif Deen of Daily NHL Grind puts it:

Let’s start with the relatively easy point, Landeskog is “pitching in offensively.” Indeed, he has seven points (3 goals, 4 assists) so far this season. That’s sixth on the team, which isn’t that bad considering he started out the season on the de facto third line with J.T. Compher and Colin Wilson/Tyson Jost.

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It wasn’t until three games ago that Landeskog got moved up to top-six. That’s not to say he wasn’t getting top-six minutes — his average ice time has been right around 19 minutes thanks to time on both the power play and penalty kill.

In his first game on a line with Matt Duchene and Nail Yakupov, he scored a goal (assisted by Duchene) and an assist (on Matthew Nieto‘s first of the night.) That’s not a natural line for Landeskog to skate on, though, with both Duchene and Yakupov having such radically different styles.

I also don’t think it’s an accident that Landeskog provided the spark for the top line when he joined them against the Chicago Blackhawks. Though Landeskog himself only earned an assist on one of MacKinnon’s goals, he opened up the space enough for MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen to score four of the team’s six goals.

Here’s a funny observation from after the game:

Here’s what MacKinnon said of adding Landeskog to his line:

"“Gabe, you know what you’re getting with him every night. He’s playing the same way. He’s playing a physical, fast game, and he has a ton of skill as well. Me and him don’t always play together, but when we do I think the results speak for themselves. We always seem to have good numbers, and the team seems to get some wins. “"

To be clear, he was not joking.

What’s more, his current statistics put him on pace to score 22 goals and record 52 points over an 82-game season. That’s normal production for Landeskog, who averages around 53 points a season (taking out his lockout- and injury-shortened 2012-13 season.)

Being an advantage on defense is a little harder to prove. His advanced stats are pretty decent. His CorsiFor is 47.3% and CorsiFor Relative 0.1, both of which could be better. That puts him middle of the pack for the Colorado Avalanche at #9 and #10 respectively. (In case you’re wondering, Matt Duchene is #1 for both.)

An interesting statistic for me is that Landeskog starts in the defensive zone 62% of the time — right behind cornerstone defenseman Erik Johnson. That definitely suggests the coaching staff trusts him to prevent the puck from going in the net.

Another interesting stat is his on-ice save percentage — 93.4%. That relates to the team’s save percentage while Landeskog was on the ice.

The third point, Landeskog’s leadership capabilities, is something we’ve talked about a lot on this site:

I’m going to guess pundits and stats lovers will try, but the truth is you can’t use analytics to measure leadership — and you certainly can’t do it from outside the locker room for a hockey team. All you can do is use available information and deductive reasoning.

Something that stands out for me regarding that is how Landeskog has seen three separate coaches — all with very different philosophies — praise his leadership. Joe Sacco, Patrick Roy and Jared Bednar all at different times praised Landeskog specifically for what he does as a hockey captain.

While media personnel occasionally indulge in questioning Landeskog’s leadership, the truth is he’s never shied away from answering their questions specifically, even in the hard times. Scratch that — especially in the hard times.

For example, here’s Landeskog after the embarrassing 7-0 loss against the Vegas Golden Knights:

A comment that I appreciate from this interview is, “I’ve said it before, I don’t think a lot of people know what offside is anymore.” He’s referring to the two calls that have gone against the Avalanche concerning offsides goals — one of which the NHL actually admitted was the wrong call. (We can also infer that the “a lot of people” might refer to the officials, which is an astute jab at the people responsible.)

Here he is after the even more embarrassing loss (10-1) to the Montreal Canadiens last year:

A comment that stands out for me is his calling out Alexei Emelin not only for the clipping hit in a 10-1 game but for his refusal to “answer to it when [Jarome Iginla] comes over.”

What’s more, he has the respect from his teammates. A refrain all season long has been that this is not the same (48-point) team as last season, and that mantra has been coming from Landeskog. In fact, here’s what MacKinnon said after the Blackhawks game:

"“It wasn’t going to be like it was last year, here we go again. Gabe relayed that to us [in a pregame meeting].”"

Next: Avs Fans Should Enjoy the Little Things

Gabriel Landeskog is now poised to lead the team in uncharted territory — games in Sweden. The Colorado Avalanche will face the Ottawa Senators in back to back games at Globe Arena in Stockholm. That’s Landeskog’s hometown, and I somehow doubt that went unnoticed when the NHL scheduled the Avs to play the Sens, who are also led by a Swedish captain (Erik Karlsson).

In the Great Minds Think Alike category, Mile High Hockey also threw some love Landeskog’s way.

Gabriel Landeskog and his wild ways may always be a point of contention for media and fans. However, he’s a prototypical power forward who’s delivering exactly as promised. You really can’t ask for more than that.