FanPost

Improving in 2012. Special teams top priority.

 

If it's not obvious to everyone by now, the Avs were great last year but if it wasn't for being so unlucky they would have been a lot better.  Sources close to the situation have told me personally that Liles, Stewart, Shattenkirk, Foote, Budaj, Elliot, Hannan and Dupuis all got together for a night at the Denver Art Museum and were blackened with the curse of Tutankhamen.  Thankfully they are all gone and we can now get back to playing honest hockey.

 

I know most of you will scoff the idea, but let us pretend for a moment that luck played a minor factor.  Let's go with a real crazy theory that the ability to play hockey played a more prominent role in the Avalanche outcome. 

You know what killed the Avalanche last year besides the ladder someone left open over the lockeroom door all season?  Special teams.  That's not a big surprise considering how poorly the Avalanche did last year.  Most categories will not be all that favorable.  However, what you are about to see is rated H for HOLY FOPPA the Avs Special teams sucked were unlucky!

All credit goes to James O'Brien of Pro Hockey Talk.  Details of the 2010-11 NHL season and team's specialty team Plus/Minus can be seen here.

One of the most popular NHL statistics is powerplay and penalty kill %.  So if the Avalanche go 1 for 10 on the powerplay they have a powerplay percentage of 10%.  The same stat is produced for the other side of the fence on the penalty kill.  This statistic does a good job of measuring the various NHL teams relative efficiency on the man advantage or shortage.  It does not however, give a good measurement of how good a power play or penalty kill team they are.  A team that goes 1 for 3 has an efficient powerplay percentage of 33%.  But the opponent that went 2 for 7 is not only scoring more goals but is keeping the other team in their own end more and controlling the game to a greater degree. 

Here is the best and worst of the 2011 season in special teams plus/minus.

 Source

Stat categories: special teams plus/minus, power play plus/minus, PP opportunities, PP goals, shorthanded goals allowed, penalty kill plus/minus, times shorthanded, PP goals allowed and SH goals scored.

 

Team

ST +/-

PP+/-

PP Opp

PPG

SHGA

PK +/-

TS

PPGA

SHG

VAN

31

70

296

72

2

-39

312

45

6

COL

-29

38

265

49

11

-67

314

75

8

So, both teams were shorthanded at about the same rate (TS) but the Avalanche gave up 30 more goals.  OK then.  So clearly the Avalanche need to work on the X's and O's of special teams right?  Adam Deadmarsh will need to reinvent those areas for certain.  Goaltending will obviously have to improve (how could it not?).  The entire team will have to give plenty of attention to improving all facets of special teams in camp.

But unfortunately there's more.  Not only were the Avs extremely bad unlucky on special teams, but they were completely upside down in the game of being short-handed.  Here are the top five and bottom five speacial teams opportunities in the NHL in 2011.

Stat categories: special teams opportunity plus/minus, power play opportunities and time shorthanded.

Team

ST Opp +/-

PP Opp

TS

CAR

74

346

272

TOR

51

326

275

CGY

36

318

282

TBL

34

336

302

NYR

33

290

257

xxxxxxx

BUF

-21

279

300

WSH

-36

263

299

MTL

-37

290

327

OTT

-37

257

294

COL

-49

265

314

 

 

That wasn't even close.  So, not only do you have a team that frankly sucksis extremely unlucky on special teams, but they aren't even in the ballpark in getting those special teams opportunities.  What that kind of statistic leads to is a massive descrepancy in puck possession and lottery draft picks.  Even the worst team in the league isn't as upside down as the Avalanche are here.  If it were not for the even strength prowess of the Avalanche they would have smoked the Oilers for the first pick in the draft.  

With the acquisitions of O'Bryne, O'Brien to accompany O'Reilly the Avs have made clear moves go get more Irish players to improve their luck.  I suspect that may not be the silver bullet to next season but maybe I'm not totally up to speed with O'Corsi.  Will the remade defense, new goaltending or even new assistant coach help solve these horrific results? 

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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