Colorado Avalanche Need to Fix Faceoff Woes.

DENVER, CO - MARCH 9: Colorado Avalanche center Carl Soderberg (34) licks his lips before a face-off with Anaheim Ducks center Nate Thompson (44) during the third period at the Pepsi Center on March 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. Colorado Avalanche defeated the Anaheim Ducks 3-0. (Photo by Brent Lewis/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - MARCH 9: Colorado Avalanche center Carl Soderberg (34) licks his lips before a face-off with Anaheim Ducks center Nate Thompson (44) during the third period at the Pepsi Center on March 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. Colorado Avalanche defeated the Anaheim Ducks 3-0. (Photo by Brent Lewis/The Denver Post via Getty Images) /
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Faceoffs are a critical part of any teams success but in that category, the Colorado Avalanche stink. Why is that and how can they fix it?

The Colorado Avalanche are doing a lot of things well this season. They have good team speed, they seem to have good chemistry with each other and are much more competitive than last season. As a result, they are right in the thick of the playoff race in the Western Conference.

According to hockeyreference.com, the Avalanche are either middle of the road of above average in almost every category. They are 8th in goals for and 11th in goals against. They are above league average in penalty kill, shooting percentage and goals against average. Their power play was above average until last Thursday’s game against St. Louis. However, there is one category they aren’t very good at.

The Colorado Avalanche stink at faceoffs.

I’m not exaggerating, the Avs are absolutely atrocious in the circle. They are dead last in the NHL in faceoff percentage at 43.9 percent. This number three percentage points lower than the next team, the New Jersey Devils at 47.3 percent. The Avs are a better puck possession team this season than last season, but that doesn’t matter in a lot of shifts when they don’t start with the puck.

There may be a couple reasons the Avalanche are really bad at faceoffs.

#1: Losing Matt Duchene

I’m not exaggerating, the Avs are absolutely atrocious in the circle. They are dead last in the NHL in faceoff percentage at 43.9 percent. This number three percentage points lower than the next team, the New Jersey Devils at 47.3 percent. The Avs are a better puck possession team this season than last season, but that doesn’t matter in a lot of shifts when they don’t start with the puck.

Why is this Happening?

There may be a couple reasons the Avalanche are really bad at faceoffs.

#1: Losing Matt Duchene

While the Avalanche were in the midst of the “where will Matt Duchene” saga, many members of the hockey media were convinced Matt Duchene should play on the wing. It absolutely baffled me. The guy has a career percentage of 53.0 and over the last three seasons his totals go like this:

2015-2016: 57.9

2016-2017: 62.6

2017-2018: 55.0

Why in the world are you putting him anywhere but the center position. Those aren’t just good numbers, Duchene has been top 10 each of those years in faceoff percentage.

I understand it takes more than winning draws to be a great center. If Duchene had decent wingers in Colorado, who knows how everything would have turned out. I don’t mean to say I have seller’s remorse because I certainly do not.

Losing Duchene really hurt the Avs in the circle. He could be depended on to win key draws, and now they don’t have that crutch.

#2: Personnel

The Avalanche have 4 players who have taken more than 300 faceoffs this season in Nathan MacKinnon, Alexander Kerfoot, J.T. Compher and Carl Soderberg. Here are their percentages:

Nathan MacKinnon – FOW: 349        FOL: 456        Percentage: 43.4%

Carl Soderberg – FOW: 254           FOL: 332                   Percentage: 43.3%

J.T. Compher – FOW: 189                FOL: 195                   Percentage: 49.2%

Alexander Kerfoot – FOW: 113           FOL: 188              Percentage: 37.5%

Compher is the only player of those four to have a decent percentage. MacKinnon and Soderberg’s percentages are certainly below league average and Kerfoot’s is simply horrific.

Colorado Avalanche
Colorado Avalanche /

Colorado Avalanche

One major contributor to this is age and experience. Younger players tend to have trouble with faceoffs. Kerfoot and Compher are both 23, and coincidentally both rookies. MacKinnon is still 22 so he still has some growing to do. They may get better, but that will more than likely come with time.

Carl Soderberg is having a little bit of a down year in the dot. He’s usually around the high 40% range and he needs to be better, especially if he’s the center on the “shutdown” line between Matt Nieto and Blake Comeau.

If this team is going to make the playoffs or do any damage once they’re there, they have to be better in the faceoff circle. In last Saturday’s game against Buffalo, Ryan O’Reilly took 39 faceoffs and won 29 of them. That’s over 74%.

If they were to make the playoffs, there is no way they can make it out of 1st round if they lose this many faceoffs. As it stands, the most likely matchups for the Avalanche in the 1st round would be the Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets, or the Vegas Golden Knights. Each one of those teams has at least two players who consistently take faceoffs with a winning percentage above 50.

How Can the Colorado Avalanche Improve in the Circle?

It’s hard to look at this problem and not want a quick fix. Unfortunately, this is one of the many growing pains of a young team. Faceoffs are something these young centers need to work on, and it will not happen overnight.

The other option is going after a center at the deadline. I don’t necessarily think they should go this route, especially if the player will only be a rental. The trade deadline market isn’t necessarily loaded with good faceoff centers.

One team they could look to for players centers is the New York Rangers. In a letter to their fans, the Rangers’ front office told them they would not be adding at the deadline and all players are available.

Kevin Hayes could be a player the Avalanche are looking for. He’s winning over 50% of his draws, and he’s a big body at 6-5, 217 pounds. Even though the game seems to be trending more and more speed based, a player like Hayes down the middle in the big and heavy Western Conference could be just the ticket for the Avs.

Next: Avs Dream Deadline Move

If the Colorado Avalanche don’t go after a center at the deadline, the solution will have to come from our current centers. As the season begins to wind down, the Avs will need to be better in the dot. Not doing so will be quite detrimental towards their playoff hopes.