Colorado Avalanche: Alexander Kerfoot’s Ideas for the Faceoff Problem

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 23: Alexander Kerfoot
GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 23: Alexander Kerfoot /

Colorado Avalanche center Alexander Kerfoot talks about the faceoff problem the team has and how they might fix it.

The Colorado Avalanche aren’t very good at taking faceoffs this season. In fact, they’re at dead last in the NHL with a win percentage of 43.9%. Now, winning faceoffs isn’t necessarily an indicator of success. Colorado was second in the NHL in faceoff win percentage with 53.6% but dead last by 21 points in the NHL standings.

The reason Colorado has seen such a marked decline in their faceoff win percentage is obvious — they lost their best faceoff player when they traded Matt Duchene. Say what you will of Duchene, he wins more faceoffs than he loses. Currently, he sits at 53.1%

No one on the team has that good of a faceoff win percentage. The only player with a winning faceoff win percentage is Mikko Rantanen — barely. He’s at 51.3%. Colorado’s top center, Nathan MacKinnon, is at 42.3%.

So, the Colorado Avalanche have a faceoff problem in that they can’t win very many. While winning faceoffs isn’t an indicator of success, it does help lead to puck possession.

Indeed, one of the Avs regular faceoff takers, Alexander Kerfoot, spoke with Avs insider Adrian Dater of BSN. (Sorry, you need a subscription to hear the audio.)

Kerfoot starts out by ruefully admitting, “I don’t think our numbers are very good.” Kerfoot’s faceoff win percentage is 39.8 — no, not great. He acknowledges the importance of faceoff wins, especially in specialty situations. He goes on to elaborate:

"“I think some of the guys have looked at the numbers, and when we win a faceoff on the power play and keep the puck in the zone, we’re a lot better. We see it works the same way when we’re killing penalties.”"

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Alexander also thinks faceoff wins can be difference-makers just in even-strength offensive zone and defensive zone situations as well as icings. 

Losing the faceoff just makes the Avalanche players’ jobs harder. They have to chase around trying to regain possession. Colorado’s possession numbers have improved, but losing faceoffs isn’t helpful.

Dater remarked that one of the open secrets in the NHL — veterans are going to get the benefit of the doubt. Indeed, players will talk about their younger days and trying to get away with the same shenanigans as veterans and getting called out by officials — and getting a further tongue-lashing if they protest.

Kerfoot acknowledges at least that that might be a small factor if there were any draws in question. The veteran would get more of the benefit of the doubt. However, he’s not looking for excuses:

"“I think more than that it’s just experience and being in the league a long time. You know guys’ tendencies. You play in the league for 15 years, you can learn a thing or two about how to win a faceoff. You’ve got to learn as you go and learn as fast as you can because they’re very important.”"

Faceoffs are not something that Colorado Avalanche players work on officially in practices, at least not the ones I attend. Not with a coach and working on plays for when you win the faceoff. Indeed, they tend to look like this:

Except without a coach involved. Kerfoot maybe would like to see that change, saying, “We obviously want to practice them and work on them as much as we can.”

In the end, while Kerfoot acknowledges that cheating on the faceoffs helps, he points out that the new emphasis on enforcing the faceoff rule makes it harder to cheat. “You’ve still got to find ways [to win].”

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Personally, I don’t think it’s necessary to dedicate large stretches of time to faceoffs in practice. However, I think it wouldn’t hurt to work some faceoff drills into the rotation. It’s not just the winning of the faceoff — it’s the positioning that allows you to make best use of the puck possession after the faceoff win that could use some work for the Colorado Avalanche.