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Game 43: Capitals 2, Avalanche 1

When the defense is playing relatively well, Jose Theodore is playing capably and the only source of offense is Marek Svatos, you know something is seriously wrong with the Avalanche.

Last night's 2-1 loss to the Washington Capitals makes this all the more evident.

Now, bear with me as I share some of my thoughts on the team and how they now exemplify a much larger trend.

I have always believed that the reason goal-scoring has been much lower in the NHL starting in the mid-90s was due to league expansion.  As the number of teams increased, the number of star players per team decreased, spread thin across a greater number of clubs.  Forced to fill roster positions with lesser players, coaches shifted to a defense-first mindset.  You can't teach everybody how to score like Ilya Kovalchuk or how to pass like Joe Thornton, but you can teach them how to hit like Dion Phadouche and how to obstruct, clutch and grab like the entire Minnesota Wild.  That stuff's easy.  Just skate in the way of the opposing player and tangle him up.

Goal scoring, as we've seen over the years, has dropped considerably.  It's not because the goals are too small or the goalies are too fat.  It's because the superstar passer doesn't have anyone on his team who can score a goal, or because the goal-scorer with the great wrist shot doesn't have anyone that can get him the puck.  Combine this with the 6-3, 245-pound behemoth just called up from the ECHL slamming them into the boards the second they cross the blue line, and it's obvious that something is wrong.

Now, what the hell does this have to do with the Avalanche?

Coach Joel Quenneville has always been a defense-first kind of coach.  That's the way he played the Blues when he was in St. Louis and that's how he's tried to play the Avalanche for the past couple of seasons.  With the loss of Joe Sakic and Ryan Smyth, and a glut of gritty (yet offensively retarded) minor leaguers like Cody McCormick, Cody McLeod and Ben Guite filling out the roster, Coach Q can now focus on hitting and obstructing.  Over the past few games, the Avalanche defense has been noticeably better, and the hit totals are climbing each game.  But without a decent offensive strategy, and without a decent amount of experienced scorers and playmakers (Wolski, Stastny, Hlinka and Svatos are still pretty new to the league), the obvious result is a series of depressing losses.  

What's the point of all this?  The point is that the Avalanche need to get somebody with about ten years of league experience and a history of 25 or more goals a season on to their roster NOW.  Marek Svatos has 16 goals so far, and is improving his trade value every single game.  Throw in a young hitter like Johnny Boychuk and you have a decent trade package.  Will it happen?  Probably not.

But firing Coach Q should be a no-brainer and that's not going to happen, either.  So I guess we should just get used to losing streaks because the Avs will be suffering through them for the rest of the season.

Addendum:  This clever little banner has been showing up in various signatures on the Avalanche message board lately.  I suppose the Avs blogging circle-jerk isn't alone:

Stars of the Game:

  1. Three Capitals players