For the returning players on the Colorado Avalanche, the goal of the 2017-18 NHL season is redemption. This year is all about proving the team isn’t as bad as they showed last season and they’re looking to regain respect across the league. There is no better example of this than the team’s Captain.
Gabriel Landeskog is coming off of the worst season of his career. His 33 points were twenty lower than his previous career low and a repeat of that performance would be unacceptable from a player that is supposed to be a leader on this young Avalanche team. Luckily for the Avs, it looks like last year was an aberration.
Landeskog has come out of the gates flying this season and it’s not hard to build an argument that he has been the team’s best forward through the early part of the season.
Through 11 games, Landeskog has 7 points, including 3 goals, putting him on pace for 52 points over an 82 game season - matching his offensive output as a rookie. That’s fine and a huge step up from last season - the thing is, based on his play, a little luck would put that point total a lot higher.
Landeskog is currently shooting 9% and while that’s not terrible, it's lower than his career average by a good amount. When his shooting regresses to the average, it will give his pace a bit of a boost.
What’s more impressive than his raw numbers is the way Landeskog is generating offense. He currently leads all Avalanche players in 5v5 shots/60, iCF/60 (individual corsi-for) and high-danger scoring chances. Landy has been moved up and down the lineup and is creating offense regardless of who he is playing with.
The most amazing part of his possession numbers is that he’s doing it all with a 62.0 dZs% - meaning he is starting nearly two-thirds of his shifts in the defensive zone. The coaches have been deploying Landeskog in a defensive role and he is still finding a way to drive offense for his team.
When moved into the top-6, Landeskog has improved the game of his best teammates. Each of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Matt Duchene and Nail Yakupov have a drastically improved 5v5 CF% when they are on the ice with the captain. Each one has had their play elevated by Landeskog and that’s something that this Avalanche team needs.
For a player that had his name swirling around the rumor mill for large chunks of last season, seeing the way he has bounced back so far this year has to be encouraging for everyone involved with the Avs. He’s showing fans he can be the high-end power forward they want him to be, he’s showing the front office that he can be a part of the team's foundation and he’s showing his teammates that he can lead by example.
He has been one of, if not the best forward on the Avalanche this season, and that’s exactly what you want to see from your captain - especially on a team that is looking to regain some respect.