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What in the world is wrong with the Avalanche?

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We already know the team is bad. Now let’s try to figure out why.

Anaheim Ducks v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

There seems to be no ONE thing that’s scuttling this ship for the Avalanche, which makes the season even more frustrating for fans looking for solutions. If it were just one thing—goaltending, youth, injuries or whatever—that would be something tangible. Instead it’s confusing and depressing—and I hate that. That’s because you can’t fix things if you can’t figure out what in the hell is wrong. So, this is an exercise. I got no proof positive of anything, but for my own sanity let’s lay it out.

The team is an analytics and standings bottom feeder. Advanced stats indicate that are bad and the standings support how bad they are. In the previous two seasons the analytics indicated they were really bad but not so much in the standings. This season, analytically, they showed some improvement before the bottom fell out. It wasn’t showing up in wins all the time but advanced stats showed some traction.

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The team was on a good analytic run—they were putting as many, if not more, shots at the net at even strength than their competition. This peaked with a Nov 19th 3-2 win over Minnesota and took a big dive in the loss to Edmonton on Nov. 23rd. They rebounded slightly but were still a sub-50% Corsi club for a couple of games. Then, all the sudden, the bottom fell out with the 3-2 loss to Columbus and it’s been horrific since. Based on just shot metrics, what in the world happened? They had a good run Nov. 3rd to Nov. 21st. Up to Nov. 1st they were trending in the right direction like you would expect for a team under a new coach learning new systems.

Let’s look at the roster:

On November 1st the lines were:

25-29-96
92-9-12
17-34-14
27-8-7
6-16
4-28
32-44

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On December 1st (3-2 Columbus loss and 1st loss of down hill CF% plummet):

17-29-96
14-25-9
12-7-57*
42*-34-27
6-51
4-28
16-32

*57=G Bourque *42=Henley

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First, these are just snapshots. There’s no CSI DNA to be discovered here that will point to the murderer of the season, but here are some general observations:

  • The Eric Johnson–Nikita Zadorov pairing was split on 11/15 and Fedor Tyutin took over. 6-16 were paired on the Nov. 13th 2-0 loss to Boston
  • Johnson’s ice time was reduced, Francois Beauchemin’s was increased
  • Mikko Rantanen’s TOI was increased significantly
  • Mikhail Grigorenko’s TOI was increased significantly
  • Carl Soderberg lost TOI

The individual shot rates of Rantanen and Grigs are, frankly, quite bad. They choose, or are not capable, of directing shots at the net. Landeskog—up until the last couple of games—has done the same. Three names getting top six minutes that aren’t carrying the shot-generating water they should be.

Individual shot rates of the core

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So, first thing that’s obvious is that, during the brief analytic success in November, it was Nathan Mackinnon doing a massive amount of heavy lifting—he simply put the team on his back. When he slumped, the entire team slumped. This is WAY too much dependence on one (very young) forward driving all the underlying production. This is a five-game rolling average from Corsica, so don’t worry too much about Landeskog showing that he was playing when he was hurt—his average didn’t change when he wasn’t playing so it’s flat—but the key fact, and this is true of the last couple of years, is that his individual shot attempts suck. Rantanen has also been reluctant to shoot. You just can’t have core players in the top six sucking up big minutes (including Grigorenko) that are all deferring to other forwards to shoot the puck. Rantanen needs to be more selfish and shoot more often. Landeskog needs to do the same. Duchene does better with his shot generation when at center and he and Mack need to lead the way there.

Defensively the shot suppression is better and I think that’s largely system-based. The coaches shuffle defensive pairings quite a bit. It would be nice to see them stable with (preferably) younger core guys getting the big minutes instead of Tyutin and Beauchemin, who will not be part of any future success.

Also, the great equalizer goaltending. If could stop sucking ass and do so with some consistency that would be great.

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Yeah, no big revelations. The shooting mentality is poor and probably hasn’t been any kind of emphasis for the coaches in training camp or to start the season. My guess is that it’s been very focused on the D zone structure. The Avs tried a cycle game in the offensive zone and it’s failed—horrifically.

Bednar needs to adjust the offensive part of this team to his personnel.