Good morning, Avs fans! It's Thursday, which means Roy was on 104.3 the Fan this morning giving another excellent interview. As always, the replay is available here, and it's absolutely worth the listen if you get the chance. However, for anyone who missed out and can't listen at work, hopefully this brings you back up to speed.
Resiliency and Details
Right off the bat, Roy was asked about the mindset of the team, and even though playoffs are slipping out of reach, he's very proud of the way they've been playing. He's trying to use the rest of this season to prepare for the future, so he likes that they put up 44 shots against Edmonton and dominated in the Calgary game.
However, Roy thinks that they still have room to grow when it comes to finding ways to win key matchups. Our one goal game record this year has drastically hurt us, as has our bad start and lack of depth due to injury. A power play goal here, a better defensive play there, and this season could have gone a lot differently. Later in the interview, he also mentioned that learning when to push and hold back, offensive zone penalties, and overall game management are other details the team is still working on.
Roy is absolutely right - our one-goal game winning percentage has fallen off the cliff this year. We're at .439%, 20th overall in the league. It's a far cry from our league-leading .700 record from last season. Even if it's a stat that will rapidly swing from year to year, it's really hard to make the playoffs if you're not at least at .500 coin-flip territory when it comes to close games. This stat has also gone up for us as the season's progressed, which just further emphasizes how many winnable contests we dropped at the beginning. The details have just killed us, and it's interesting that Roy singled out both the power play and defensive miscues as the biggest culprits. Hopefully changes are coming to both.
O'Reilly, Centers, and Depth
The play of the week was O'Reilly's tying goal from last night, which sparked a discussion about his role on the team. Long term, they'd like to see him as a center. His two-way play has earned a ton of trust - no other forward plays more minutes - and Roy appreciates the fact that he wants to be a difference maker every night and gets pissed when he isn't. He dominates games when paired with Landeskog, and the addition of Tanguay has made that line "fun to watch". There was some readjustment time, but O'Reilly's play down the middle has been so strong that Roy/Sakic are considering going with the 3 line set-up again next year with MacKinnon on the 3rd.
That brought up the fact that the depth of the team - when not decimated by injures - provides some options. Unfortunately, with McGinn and Winchester especially out, Cliche, who was signed to be the 13th forward, has played in every game. Roy was displeased that the hard work he and Sakic put in last summer hasn't shown.
Even though it's a bit of an unpopular opinion, I think starting Mac on the 3rd line at center is the way to go. He's made strides this year, but if he's shifting back to the middle, he needs to be able to do so without having to worry about top competition. Ideally, he's a guy you want getting Top 6 minutes, but if this team wants him as a center, perhaps putting the training wheels back on for a bit isn't such a bad plan. Let O'Reilly handle the Crosbys and Toews of the world until Mac starts to feel more comfortable in that role.
Drafting and Rick Pracey
Rick Pracey always used to draft the best player available, which Roy believes is no longer applicable in the salary cap era. Instead, the team is looking to draft for need. When you lose a top forward, you need to replace him, and since so few free agents hit the market, the best way to do it is through the draft. Pracey's insistence on drafting multiples of the same type of player - Barrie/Elliott in '09, Pickard/Aittokallio in '10 - and not diversifying the drafts by position has hurt the overall depth of the team, which lead to the decision to let him go earlier this year. Roy also mentioned that someone named Allen is in charge of scouting at the moment, but after this year, he and Sakic will consider what to do moving forward.
After a bit of research, the Allen referenced is actually Alan Hepple, our Assistant Director of Amateur Scouting. I would imagine that both Sakic/Roy have a strong hand in in scouting meetings right now as well, trying to fill the void left by Pracey. As far as the draft is concerned, by reading between the lines and looking at the overall setup of the team - especially with Iginla and Tanguay close to retirement - it wouldn't surprise me to see the Avs take a forward in the 1st round. It also wouldn't surprise me if every player we pick this year is over 6'-0".
Hishon and Everberg
Roy strongly stressed that he's still coaching to win games. He'll still be giving our top players top minutes, and he won't play Hishon 20 minutes a night just to see him play. Everberg has been getting around 12-15 minutes a night, and Hishon has been getting steadily increasing minutes and some power play time. Roy will be keeping both to the end of the year, and he does want to see how Joey continues to adapt to the NHL game, but he'll be keeping them in the roles they'll play long-term on this team.
So much for the "Hish to the First Line!" campaign. Still, if Hishon ends up as Everberg's linemate while logging some PP time, there are worse things out there. As stated before in the interview, Roy is using these last few games to build for the future. If he sees Hishon as a 3rd liner next season, then getting experience in that role is only a good thing. However, if Mitchell falters with Duchene down the stretch, I think Roy may consider playing Hishon there. There is an opportunity, but Hish really has to impress over the next few games to get that shot. He's small, and that's going to work against him. Yet if there was ever a time to earn his spot, it's right now.
Duchene and Slumps
There's no denying that Matt Duchene has had a down year, but Roy was careful not to single him out. The entire team, especially our young forwards, has struggled to score, and Dutchy's work ethic has been high all year. Roy also cited Duchene's positive +/- (twitch) and 18 goals as a sign that he's still doing the right things. This season has been a learning process for everyone involved, and the team has stuck together through it.
All I can add to this is that it'd be super nice if Duchene had a winger that he could jam with again. His best stretches have come when he's playing with someone he has chemistry with - Mueller, Fleischmann, Parenteau, O'Reilly - and he's just not had that this year. I hope it's something the team looks into over the summer.
Iggy/Tangs and Leadership
Roy believes that Iginla and Tanguay's play hasn't been wasted this year. They still have some left in the tanks, but the young forwards are still learning how to play in the big games. The details just aren't quite there yet. However, Roy sounds happy with his leadership group and talks with Landy after every game. It seems that the team has their heads on straight and want to be difference-makers in the community. They're not happy with how this season has gone, but they want to keep getting better.
I just hope he's right. Iggy and Tangs have both had spectacular years, and time is not exactly working in their favor. As we saw with Hejduk, Father Time can strike quickly, and we're in trouble if those vets start to become anchors. However, I do think they've had a positive impact on the team, and veteran leadership was one of the things missing from last year. After the crappy start this year, I think they've helped keep the team even keel and taken some of the pressure off Roy. It's good to know that the overall mindset of the team is still positive and in the right place.
At the very end, Roy mentioned that he hadn't talked to the goalies about the game tonight. He wasn't sure who he was going to play.
Honestly, I hope it's Berra. Give him some playing time. He did well last game and only allowed one goal, and Varly could probably use the break. I know Roy still wants to win games, but hey, at this point, why not use the ready-made excuse and give Reto the nod.