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My Musings...

Take em or leave em, hopefully it'll be food for thought.  Warning: critical nostalgia ahead...

 

32-44-5 with 69 points

In 2001-2002 we were 45-28-8-1 with 99 points and the fewest goals allowed (169 on the season, about 2 per game).  Roy was 1.94 & .925 on the year (career bests as far as I can tell), compared to the team 2.06.  We weren't known for our killer D: our D-men were Rick Berry, Rob Blake, Greg De Vries, Adam Foote, Todd Gill, Darius Kasparitus, Brayn Muir, Martin Skoula, and Pascal Trepanier.  Footer and Blake are obvs a great top two, but that leaves 50-70% of games' ice time without them...

My point here is that there have been major changes in key personnel and (importantly) in the system.  Budaj faced 27.3 shots per game this year.  The year we (Roy) allowed the league's fewest goals, he got 9 shutouts, but still faced an 25.9 sh/g.
Our 99 points in 2002 isn't that much of a standout, especially today.  45 wins however came with 8 ties.  This year, we'd probably be in the 105-110 point range with over 50 wins, putting us right there with the Bruins, Sharks, Ailes, and Caps (this year).
As bad as this year has been, the new NHL, our lack of goal scoring and our goalie sitch are as significant as anything.

One more thing.  We got 2.2 pts/win in 2002, and despite the new system, we've only managed 2.15.  Our 32 wins is in reality a generous stat...

 

Goalies, Past and Past(?) - Patrick Roy has a career NHL save % of .912 (since they started compiling shots, at least :p ).  In the mid-nineties, Roy had a handful of seasons that were awful statistically–around a .90x or .89x save percentage, and flirting with 3.0 GAA.  Budaj is not strong statistically, and Roy has had some staggering stats, but that's not what makes St. Patty the greatest.  It's his clutch ability, his leadership, and his presence off ice/in the heads of opponents.  Budaj has talent and is a really nice guy.  I like him, but he's lacking in the role he tried to play.

Budaj is a great person and I like him a lot as a player.  His rebounds and soft goals make him anything but relaxing to watch, but he can get crazy hot.  This April, he played four games, got one win, and averaged 63 minutes.  In those 63 minutes per game, he went 0.96 GAA and 0.968 SV%.  

Minnesota is a relevant example for goaltending here.  TSN statistically analyzed the league's D-men by things like ±, take-aways, GWG, penalty draw-take ratios, etc. and had Minnesota in the basement (26th?).  Somehow they've allowed 200 goals, only 4 more than Boston.  They play boring hockey and rarely win–a goalie who routinely does headstands doesn't mean salvation.

 

Playoffs - We've lost in the second round three times in the last 5 years.  The Sharks, Ducks, the Les Ailes were pretty strong teams to lose to in the semis but regardless, it's been a while since we started firing people and generally headhunting when we didn't play to the conference finals (it was a fun debate to see who thought it was going to be Detroit and who picked Dallas...).  The 'Blame Foppa/Calgary' year and this aside, we haven't been spectacular past 82 for a while.

 

Goal Differential - We have five players with positive differentials on the year, two of whom combined for 9 games...  Of those with more than 50 games, McCormick (55: -5), Salei (70: -4), Lappy (74: 0) and Guite (50: +2) are our leaders in producing on the ice with Tjarmin Ultra being a notable +1 after 37 games.  I'd love to blame our D-men for problems, using this stat as a nail in the e-coffin, BUT the standouts at the bad side of the ± stat are Chris Stewart (53: -18) and Tyler Arnason (71: -16).  They had an average of 12:19 and 13:18 a game respectively.

The others at the bad end (incl. the Duke) all put in about 20 mins a night so if you're on for a third of the game plus special teams, it's hard not to take a hard hit in the ±

We scored 199 goals and allowed 257 compared to the league average of 238.8 (both).  We're about 18 off of average on the D side but 40 short in goals scored, from average.

 

The Lower Lines - Something I think we're severely lacking in right now is a competent supporting cast.  That's partly because this year, out 3rd and 4th no- liners have moved up and had to play in greatly expanded roles (I was pretty impressed with the Lake Erie Avalanche, to be truthful).  Using the 01-02 season as a yardstick again, Foppa was out all year and our points leaders were Sakic (79), Blake (56), Tanguay (48), Reinprecht (46), Drury (46), Hedjuk (44), and Skoula (31).

This is a fair number of above 40 pt -ers, but this year's top ten Bruin point leaders ALL have 42 or more

This suggests that the top folks weren't leading as dramatically as you'd expect.  Despite this, we managed to tack on 21 playoff games.  In my opinion, the grind lines of Ricci & Co are what make the 90s Avs so successful–everybody was crapping themselves over 19 and 21 then the rest of team comes on and beats your top guys up and down the ice in effort, physically, and at the least, they eke out a good ± on the year.

We don't have that anymore.

 

The Top Guys - We've had a lack of leadership in most every piece of ice and concrete we've made our domain this year.  SoS is god, but lit neither himself nor his linemates on fire when he came back and I think that Smyth has still been a flop.  His 59 points are at best on par career wise and he was in a place to rake in a lion's share of the team's points and lead strongly in the locker room/on the rink.  I'm not convinced of that, despite the obvious effort he put in.  The Duke works best as a sniper someone who makes the passes, snipes, and gets open while teams are distracted by his linemates.  I think Milan did well this year and he's one of two players over 80 games.  That being said, asking a pair of wingers with the styles that Smyth and Hedjuk have to carry a team can't turn out that well...

 

 

To reel this back in, we've been hurt by the new system but what I see as our biggest deficits are in our team's structure–the type of top guys we have and the role of the grinders are off IMO.  Our goaltending is distinctly sub par, but Budaj does have talent, which brings us to leadership–we're hurting for it all over.  Injuries have been absolutely brutal, but how we appear to opponents and our (dubious) ability to score goals have been killer.  Developing the young guys we've seen so much of, making a good draft, and getting someone without a 19, 21, 23, 26, or 94 on em who can command attention form the opponent while producing are key.

Finally, we've been burdened by bad contracts and average draft picks.  This hole is harder to crawl out of, but PL and whoever follows him will hopefully be up to the job.  I expect us to be able to make the playoffs (bottom half of them...) next year and have FAR fewer boneheaded calls from the office/bench.  Optimism?

MileHighHockey.com is a fan community, allowing members to post their own thoughts and opinions on the Colorado Avalanche and hockey in general. These views and thoughts may not be shared by the editors of MileHighHockey.com.

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