Editor's Note: When you, the fine members of MHH take the time out of your tiny lives to post a meaningful, well-written, FanPost we will, from time to time, promote it to the front page. I'm not sure if the following is meaningful, or well-written, but it made me smile inside, and if that makes me a bad person, then I'll happily take my stocking full of coal - Mike.
Let me say first and foremost that Tyler Arnason isn't the only thing wrong with the Avalanche. Arnason doesn't lose games single-handedly for this team. In fact Arnason may be a great guy who's well liked in the locker room. He probably calls his mom every week and is a cool all around dude. However, Tyler Arnason represents everything that is wrong with this hockey club on the ice.
Look, it's not as simple as just saying Arnason in 31 games has 2 goals, 7 assists and is -1. It's not enough to say that Arny is six years in to his NHL career and is 29 years old, ergo his "prime".
Great teams in this game are strong up the middle. Detroit shifts Datsyuk, Hudler and Filppula. San Jose shifts Thorton, Marleau and Roenick. Chicago shifts Toews, Sharp and Bollard. Boston can shift Kessel, Savard, Kjreci and for grins they can shift out Yelle OR Bergeron. The Avalanche with no Joe Sakic are shifting out Stastny and then Arnason followed by Hensick, Guite or now Lappy is playing the position for the first time in 12 years. The Avs are horrendously weak up the middle and it's killing them. Without the miracle of Sakic or Forsberg the Avs have to get a better second line center to possess the puck and cash in on taxed defensemen after the Stastny shift. Tyler Arnason is simply not good enough to be your teams second line center and his game is ill suited for 3rd or 4th line duty. Again, he's not the only issue but Arny is a fundamental weakness of this team and instead of just groaning about lacking effort I'm determined to disect this team down to its fundamental problems and as is my God given right as a fan, bitch endlessly about it.
Here is my breakdown of Tyler Arnason's game as I see it. First let me point out what makes Arny an intriguing asset. His positives, if you will:
· Arny uses a really long stick. His reach with that stick allows him to poke check effectively and it seems to confound defensemen on their spacing when Arnason is on the rush.
· He has good defensive positioning for the most part. He's in the right spot on the ice. If the Avs don't possess the puck he simply won't get out of position, he's text book.
· Arny has really good hands. He has to with a stick like that. The puck is very sticky for him because his stick handling is better than average.
· He's willing to cut in to the scoring lane on the rush with the puck. Not a lot of forward make this move without the puck getting deflected and leading to interesting odd man rushes going the other way.
Arny's numerous problem areas:
· He's soft. He's not 180 lbs of skilled speed. He's 204 lbs of "please God, not the face!" To quote Inthecheapseats.com from last year's report card, "Obviously, physical play is not a part of his game; he has 8 hits in 2 seasons in Denver. 709 NHL players had more than that this season alone. For crying out loud, little Kyle Cumiskey had 7 in 38 games." He has four so far this year. Sakic has more hits in 15 games than Arny. Even Hejduk seals guys off the puck with his body. But even at 204 lbs Arnason can't even do that. He's a pure poke check guy. His aversion to contact is so great that he's surprising guys because he doesn't touch them. No one and I mean no one gets fatigued playing against Arny.
· I gave myself the challenge of trying to catch Arny skate backwards against Florida. I couldn't do it. He turned his back to the rush on defense and had to twist his entire body back and forth to interrupt passing lanes. What good is a long stick if you can't put your body in position to use it? Dave Andreychuk developed a HOF career with no ability to skate backwards. Arnason, you are no Andreychuk. I'm sure he can skate backwards but he doesn't through the neutral zone on defense. Another tough shift against Arny for the opposing offense.
· He's one dimensional. Arny is good at one thing, taking the zone on the rush down the right side, going outside in on his move to the slot and taking the shot. Unfortunately, any team that plays him more than once figures that out pretty quickly and takes the body. Have I mentioned out averse Arny is to bodily contact? Even if he can trick some teams with this he's going to be absolutely worthless in the playoffs when predictability kills you. Arny won't kick the puck around in the corners to keep a shift alive. Arny won't curl off the rush. Arny won't chip and chase. Arny does one thing and only one thing. Prove me wrong.
· Arny skates one speed. He doesn't accelerate well. He doesn't have a top end speed to challenge defensemen. And again, I'm not sure he can skate backwards or at least transition skate reliably well. I'm watching this (because I'm bitter, or pissed. Most likely both).
· Arny shows no emotion. He's a freeking Ben Stein. No anger, no elation, just nothing.
· Arny doesn't talk. He's not shouting on the ice that I can tell. He's not putting his head next to Wolski to talk about the last shift. He's not calling Phenaufs mom a fat ass. He's silent Bob.
· Denver fans love one thing in a professional athlete above all else. We love players that look like they are doing their best and holding nothing back. With Arny's lack of emotion, inability or willingness to hit, monotonous pace of play combined with his utter lack of creativity pisses us off. I don't know Tyler Arnason from Adam but I dislike watching him play hockey.
· In the faceoff circle he's a one and done kind of face-off guy. By that I mean he wins the draw clean or not at all. This goes hand in hand with Arny's Stay Puft Marshmallow Man approach to hockey. He won't tie up a stick and muscle his guy off the circle so his winger can come in and help. This also makes him predictable in the circle and late game draws are...um predictable.
· There's a guy who does the hockey hour talk show on the new Mile HIgh Radio station here to says fans need to lay off Arnson. He claims that most fans just don't appreciate what Arny does on the ice. He says Arnason is playing "great defense". Let me tell you something, Arny IS good positionally on defense. He's so god damn good with his positioning that he's got zero empowerment to his game. If there's a loose puck he can dive in to the corner and get because his line is on a long shift and they need some moxy to puck out. He's not going anywhere. He's going to float in his position until somehow that puck deflects to his stick by magic. He's the equivalent of Ken Klee on the offensive blue line. His ass isn't going below the circles for all the tea in China. Oh, by the way which of the Avalanche centermen don't play on PK? Which cat with some of the longest reach on the team isn't entrusted within a country mile of playing the PK. Let me give you a hint., his name starts with A and ends with rnason.
For the love of Pete, Arnason can't be the best option for the 2nd line center. The plan going in to the season if Sakic were to retire was to shift in Wolski as the second line center. Now that Sakic is out, why is Wolski not the second line center!? Put in Hensick or even Lappy as the second line center at this point. Arnason can't even do what he's got marginal talent at, and that's score goals. His shooting percentage is at a dismal 4.3%. Lappy has 8 goals and 12 assists with less talented linemates. He's shooting at over 13% and he's got way less even strength time on ice.
Arny should never play another shift at second line center if this team is going to develop anything but a very high draft pick in '09.