There’s something to be said about a player who always looks for the pass first. It’s that selfless mentality that is the makeup of both a great teammate and an elite playmaker. There’s even more to be said about a player who is always critical of their game, despite how well they may be doing statistically.
One of those players is first-year Colorado Eagles forward T.J. Tynan.
Tynan was one of the top offensive weapons in the AHL last season. The 27 year old led the entire American League in assists with 59, while finishing the season with 71 points in 71 games, tied for the third-best in the league last season. In the early months of his first year here in Colorado, it seems he’s picking up right where he’s left off. Tynan currently leads all Eagles in assists (10) and points (12) and is currently tied for third in the AHL for most helpers.
His impressive resume earned him the ‘A’ on his chest this season for the Eagles, as he hopes to impart some of his wisdom and success on a young Colorado roster.
“I’ve been around for a while, I’ve been a captain on other teams and I’m just trying to bring the experience that I’ve had,” said Tynan. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be on some pretty good teams, so I’m just trying to take some the good that I’ve learned and spread that, especially to some of the younger guys who haven’t been here before. It’s something I’m very proud of, to be one of the captains.”
As successful as he’s been as a player in this league, even he is always looking to better himself. There’s one aspect of his game that he is hoping to hone in on this season. While his penchant for passing has earned him a good amount of points throughout his career, still, Tynan is critical of his “lack” of offensive output — believe it or not. He says he wants to round out his overall game in another way. That is, he wants to shoot the puck a little more and maybe score a few more goals along the way.
I asked the first-year Eagle about whether he has that pass-first mentality to his game, to which he answered in agreement: “Probably, unfortunately,” he said with a smile and a chuckle. Adding, “It’s just kind of worked out that way for sure.”
Tynan’s use of the adjective “unfortunately” to describe his selfless pass-first mentality is not really unfortunate, per se, and that’s not really what he means. His use of the word is simply a nod to his wishes that he’d shoot the puck more. It’s something he’s also talked about with his coach, who too wishes Tynan would shoot at the net a little more, although, he appreciates his forward’s play-making abilities as well.
“He’s a dynamic player and he’s got great vision…he’s always going to have those, he’s a natural playmaker, he’s a dynamic player,” said head coach Greg Cronin before opening up his dossier of assessment on Tynan. “But can we get him to score more? Can we get him to shoot more? Can we get him to put more pucks to the net?...That’s his challenge.”
It’s a challenge that Tynan has accepted and is actively working towards developing. He’s aware of his adeptness at play making and his stat line over the past few seasons is a testament to that. He’s also very self-aware of his lack of goal-scoring so far throughout his professional career.
Tynan has never scored more than 15 goals in a season since he turned pro at the tail end of the 2013-14 season. His 15-goal career-high was set during the 2017-18 season with the Chicago Wolves. And the 27 year old hasn’t tallied more than 20 goals since his freshman season at Notre Dame during the 2010-11 campaign.
Tynan has always been an offensive weapon since turning pro and joining the AHL. He hasn’t scored fewer than 41 points in a full season in the AHL yet. He averages 53 points per season, 42 of which are assists, leaving roughly just nine goals-scored on average each year.
“I definitely look to produce offensively, that’s what I try to do every night,” said Tynan. “As far as play making goes, I’m always looking to get my teammates in good spots and just try to find that open guy, that’s something I always try to work on and I’ve been pretty good at.
“But I got to shoot the puck more,” he admitted.
From his coach’s point of view, he thinks Tynan just needs to simplify his game. As is often the case with play-making players, flash and pizzazz are placed at a premium, often overlooking the simpler and more efficient play.
“You don’t want to take away the creativity from talented players, but at the same time he’s got to prioritize when to make plays the moment in the game, the moment in the shift, the time on the ice, all those things,” added Cronin. “He’s a six-year veteran so he knows it. But we just got to keep reminding him of it.”
The game of hockey is often compared to a chess match of sorts, where strategy and skill are required. For Cronin, he thinks decision-making is more akin to a game of poker or blackjack. Think of the five players on the ice like the five cards in your hand. You’re playing against your opponent, or the dealer’s five cards. Sometimes you have to know when you’re matched up nicely to the opponent’s five guys out there and sometimes you have to know when to fold.
“Sometimes he makes plays trying to do too much as opposed to thinking ‘I’ve got a 3, a 4, 7, 9 and a 2, I got to fold my hand.’ Just let it go. That to me is going to be his challenge,” said Cronin. “I think it’s affecting the power play, too. They’re trying to make the fanciest play instead of just shooting the puck.”
On that note, yes, as Cronin pointed out, the Eagles power-play unit is struggling thus far this season. Not necessarily related to Tynan, although he does play plenty of special-teams minutes, but to the overall man-advantage group, which is often caught trying to make the strategic plays rather than just “folding their hand” and just firing pucks at the net. The Eagles power-play unit is dead-last in the Pacific Division with an 11.5 percent success rate. That number also puts Colorado at 26th out of 31 teams in the league.
Again, Tynan knows it too. The play-making, pass-first mentality is hard-wired into his brain. That’s the type of player he’s always been. Like Isaac Newton’s first law of motion states: “An object at motion tends to stay at motion, and an object at rest will remain at rest.” This is Tynan’s case, too. Like laws in physics, it’s not easy to just simply change the way it works. It’ll take a re-wiring effort of sorts to change the Eagles playmaker’s game.
“I think it’s just a mentality,” added Tynan. “When you get the puck, look to shoot first instead of pass. You don’t always have to look for the open guy. Especially if you shoot a couple pucks, obviously some things open up because [opponents] think ‘oh look, he’s not just passing, he’s shooting the puck, too.’ It’s just a mentality thing I’ve been trying to work on for a while now, just trying to grind every day and shoot some more pucks and work on the mentality to shoot first.”
Either way, scoring goals or not, his efforts on the ice has garnered much attention within the Avalanche organization. On Nov. 6, Tynan earned his first call-up of the season to the NHL and skated for the Avs the following night against Nashville, his first NHL game action since March 7, 2017. It’s an opportunity he may not have had elsewhere if it weren’t for the Avalanche organization, of which Tynan had nothing but great things to say about.
“It’s been great. It’s a great spot, great people, great coaches, great staff, great teammates,” said Tynan of playing in Colorado. “Nothing but great things to say about training camp with the Avalanche and being here, everyone’s been first-class so it’s been awesome. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Tynan would probably agree that he may have a little more fun if he scored a few more goals. As the great legend Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” Tynan knows that, and he’s certainly been working on it.