Why Are Colorado So Bad?
It’s fair to say things have not gone to plan for Colorado this season thus far.
After a remarkable turn around saw them go from basement dwellers to divisional winners last season, the Avs have slumped to the foot of the Western Conference again, with just 1 win from their opening 7 games.
So what’s knocked Patrick Roy’s upstart Avalanche on their ass this season?
Many people expected a regression from Colorado this season; as opposing sides got wise to their game plan and some super human performances were, well, less super human.
By that token, perhaps it’s easy to point fingers at Semyon Varlamov early on. The Russian posted a ridiculous .927 save percentage last season whilst facing the highest number of shots in the league, but Varlamov has merely been ‘respectable’ so far this season.
Ordinarily that might not be a problem per say – but Colorado continues to give up shots by the bagful.
The clubs defence remains a major question mark, surrendering 48 shots in their season opener against Minnesota and 250 in the 7 games they have played thus far. Only Calgary and Buffalo have given up more.
As a result, taking aim at Varlamov, and partner Reto Berra, for the clubs slump is more than a little unfair. Both have provided what most would describe as league average goaltending – especially Berra, who has been outstanding at times – but they’re doing it whilst facing more than 35 shots per night on average.
Perhaps the greater concern should be the number of quality chances the team is allowing, while the Avs offence struggles to find its groove.
With a creaking defence and stuttering offence, perhaps it should come as little surprise the team is struggling this year.
Last year Colorado gave up 32.7 shots against per game on average, whilst generating 29.5, defying conventional logic (and advanced stats) in the process, producing a winning season in spite of this ‘deficit’ – so far they’ve given up more shots per game and produced less (averaging 28 shots per game at present).
Whether you think their luck has run out, or it’s simply a blip, a bad start can ruin a season – and the lack of offensive production on a team with a questionable defence is a recipe for disaster.
Darcy Kuemper picked up back-to-back shut outs as the Avs and Wild met in a home-and-home series to start the new season – with the young netminder facing just 16 shots in the first match up.
Now sans Paul Stastny, and with Jerome Iginla going through his traditional slow start to the season (0 goals thus far), a case could be made that Colorado got worse offensively – particularly with young guns like Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog also struggling to find their sparkle again early this season.
Is Danny Briere an improvement on PA Parenteau? Despite the former Buffalo and Philadelphia forwards late winner against Boston, many will argue Parenteau has the bigger upside of the two.
Colorado is ranked 23rd in goals for at present (and have played at least one game more than the teams around them) – by contrast they were the fourth highest scoring team last year.
Perhaps this sluggish start is simply a combination of things. The defence remains flakey, the offence is under performing, the goaltending is league average (or just above) rather than stellar.
Add in a shade of luck to perhaps? When the chips are down, it can seem like things are going against you. Pucks don’t roll to sticks and calls go the other way – see the soft penalty Brad Stuart took against Florida this week which led to the Panthers OT winner.
Coach Patrick Roy has accused the team of being ‘too fancy’ and ‘lacking mental focus’ over the past fortnight; and the former statement might be the most important of the two.
Sometimes a team needs a couple of ugly wins to get themselves back on track – and boy do Colorado need a couple of ugly wins right now.
Tomorrow night they welcome Vancouver to the Pepsi Centre before heading to Winnipeg to take on a struggling Jets side – if they can’t kick start something by Tuesday they face the prospect of San Jose, the upstart Islanders, St Louis and Anaheim to take them in to November.
It’s a stretch that could reboot their season – or one that might kill it entirely.