The Colorado Avalanche players are not happy about how leadership worked in the last couple games, both losses for the team.
The Colorado Avalanche players aren’t blaming captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s served the third game of a four-game suspension. I’m willing to bet Landeskog is cringing, though.
I’m not going to heap blame on Landeskog. A lack of leadership definitely played into the two home losses Colorado recently suffered, but he’s not the only leader in the room. When you don’t have your captain, other players must step up.
Defenseman Erik Johnson, who’s one of Landeskog’s alternates, was quick to look in the mirror about the recent couple of losses. He remarked during his post-game presser that the starts have been “lethargic” and “That’s on the leaders of the team to make sure we start the game off right, and we haven’t.” He continued:
"“The onus is on the leadership. You know, we’ll take responsibility for that because we have to make sure everyone is ready to play, and everybody wasn’t ready to play tonight, and that’s on us.”"
That’s certainly true, and part of what makes leadership such an elusive quality. It’s not enough for a player to just go out there and do his best job — he has to motivate everyone on the team to do their best.
Coach Jared Bednar gave a glimpse into what can help set the tone, especially early:
"“To me, I always feel like execution is you playing, getting prepared and the intensity level you play at. If you have the right intensity level in a game, you are going to talk, you’re going to get through the holes, you’re going to execute. If it’s too casual, then you are going to mis-execute and that is exactly what we did.”"
That’s an interesting observation about playing too casual. It’s hard to keep intensity up, but that’s what’s necessary when you want to win a hockey game in the NHL.
"“We need the energy. We need to come out and not wade into the game, even give teams a chance to stick around. We have a good enough team in here that if we come out with energy and play hard we can put teams away early.”"
The Colorado Avalanche are a young, fast team. We’ve all seen that electricity coming off of them when they’re playing their game. However, we’ve all also seen them come out flat — and that’s when leadership really has to play a big role.
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Everybody is pointing out that this time last year, during a five-game home-stand, is when the wheels came off the Colorado Avalanche’s season. The team went 0-4-1 in early December. Currently the team are 1-3-0 with one more game of an early-December, five-game homestand.
And now we come back to Gabriel Landeskog. Color analyst Peter McNab had an interesting observation during last night’s game. During last season’s homestand, Landeskog was out with an injury. This year, it’s a suspension, but the results are the same — the team falters.
I’ve already expressed my views on Landeskog’s suspension — while I agree he shouldn’t indulge in such reckless stick handling, there’s no way he deserved a four-game suspension. I also agree with McNab that he’s an integral aspect of this team’s leadership. They suffer when he’s not in the lineup.
However, there are plenty of leaders in the locker room, including Johnson and fellow alternate Nathan MacKinnon. It will be up to them, the other vets, and the future stars of the team to lead the way in the next game, the final one the Colorado Avalanche have to play without their captain.