Matt Duchene (Karl Gehring/The Denver Post)
They went from Central Division champs to chumps in one summer and the early returns this season aren't too promising. Is Patrick Roy learning from his mistakes or plugging his ears at the wrong time?
This past spring was pretty good for a couple members of the Colorado Avalanche. They weren't wearing burgundy at the time, but still…a championship is a championship.
Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, Tyson Barrie and the since-traded Ryan O'Reilly helped Canada win gold at the World Championship in the Czech Republic. They were all available, of course, because the Avs missed the playoffs, one year after winning the Central Division.
So after two seasons, we had a pretty incomplete picture of what kind of coach Patrick Roy is at the NHL level. Does he have another Jack Adams Award in him, or is he closer to losing his bench gig altogether?
So far in 2015-16, Roy's team is in trouble once again and looking more like dead-bloat than world beaters.
After Tuesday night's loss to Florida, the Avs find themselves firmly ensconced in the basement of the Central; the same place they finished last year. Colorado is currently 2-5-1, with a road date in Tampa Bay next up. Not only are the Avs the worst possession team in the NHL (they were 29th last season, beating only the Sabres), but it's not really close. Colorado is giving up about 68 shot attempts per game (ie Corsi against), which is five more per game than the Islanders – but at least New York is one of the best teams in the league in Corsi for.
Needless to say, it's not a topic the Avalanche have been too keen on lately. This summer, I asked Duchene about his team's statistical deficiencies:
“I don’t know what the place for those stats is in hockey," he said. "Obviously the team that has the puck the most usually wins and when we play our best, we do have the puck more. A good team is a good team, no matter how you do it. You have to find your own way to play and be a good team.”
Both Roy and GM Joe Sakic have cast a suspicious eye at advanced stats before and you'd have to think there's a panic button about to be hit somewhere in Denver. After all, the Avs have seen this story before – just last year – and it didn't end well.
“We just had a bad start and we’ll be more ready for this season," Duchene said. "It’s a good learning experience. We’re better off having the year we had than if we had squeaked into the playoffs.”
Which is true – but management has to back up what the players already know. The Avs were quite active in the off-season, so inertia is not the problem. And the logic in the moves was sound, from a possession point of view: new Avs Carl Soderberg and Blake Comeau were both positive possession players last year. Now that they're in Colorado, that has changed for the worse.
Overall, the Avs are hurtin' when it comes to possession and with Semyon Varlamov not able to bail them out this time, the results are kinda predictable. Roy insists that mistakes are dooming his squad and that he believes their record could be much better.
But how long can this go on for? It's incredible to think that Roy could be on the hot seat already, but with the talent available to him, something needs to change fast.