The 2013 Colorado Avalanche are beginning to remind me of a previous version of this team, and not one that draws a favorable comparison. This Avalanche team is beginning to remind me, very clearly, of the 2010-2011 Avalanche team. If you are an Avalanche fan and don’t remember this team then chances are good you suppressed the memory of that squad, and for good reason. About the only real positive thing that came out of that season was the memorable last shift of Adam Foote before he retired.
The 2010-2011 season was a lost season for the Avalanche. One that started off very well and saw the Avalanche fighting for the division lead into December, but also one that saw the team become decimated by injury. During that season, the Avalanche went through 17 different defensemen, lost Tomas Fleischmann and Peter Mueller. Peter Forsberg briefly tried to make another comeback but called it quits after two games. It was a season to be remembered for all of the injuries that the team sustained, and for all of the games that the team lost.
It wasn’t just that the team lost some games, it was how the team was losing the games. This was the beginning of Joe Sacco’s constant refrain of: “We didn’t start the game on time.” Where every single night the Avalanche came out flat and dug themselves a hole. Then there were the few times the Avalanche actually came out with some spunk but just couldn’t bury the puck no matter what they did. Then a small breakdown would occur and the puck would end up in the back of the net and immediately the team seemed to quit. This parallel was also drawn by Avalanche beat writer for The Denver Post, Adrian Dater, after last night’s embarrassing performance in Vancouver. Things were going great in the first period, Avs playing a strong game and taking the action to the Canucks. Boom, silly giveaway by Erik Johnson, puck in the back of the net, team stops all the things they were doing well.
When the Tide Began to Turn
It’s hard to think that I’m writing this about the Avalanche now when just a few days ago they were coming off impressive victories over the Los Angeles Kings and Columbus Blue Jackets. The Avalanche allowed only one goal in those two games and were rolling as they started their road trip. The Avalanche even came out flying against San Jose, looking like they might finally have a chance to break through against a Sharks team that has had their number. Then Gabriel Landeskog got demolished, and he took the confidence and apparently all the leadership of this team with him.
Since Landeskog’s injury, the Avalanche have scored one goal in the three games that they have played, been shut out twice and look to be in complete and total disarray. They can’t score no matter how open the net seems to be and their special teams look as if there were a bunch of beer league players out there trying to figure out where to go with things.
How to Avoid the Repeat of 2010-2011
Leadership is the key for this team. It’s already quite clear to me that there is no leadership coming from the coaching staff. Reading Dater’s post, Joe Sacco seems to think that everything is just peachy and that things will somehow just get fixed. A real coach that saw the effort the Avalanche put forward the last few games wouldn’t be trying to make anything rosy, he’d call it like it is and demand his team improve. This is one of the most important reasons that Joe Sacco needs to go.
Other players need to step up in the room and say the hard things. When the Avalanche saw that things were going wrong, or that certain people weren’t carrying their load on the team, they’d shut the doors and call each other out. That is what a team that expects to win does, the refuse to accept it when people aren’t doing their jobs. Right now we’re just seeing a team that, like the one in 2010-2011, continues to make the same mistakes and doesn’t have anybody to pick the team up. This has to change. When the team has this leadership in place, the team starts to function better. You need look no further than a season ago when guys like Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly, J.S. Giguere and Shane O’Brien all stepped up and became leaders for the team. Suddenly guys started putting forth a more consistent effort and the Avalanche made a solid run at the playoffs.
Right now the Avalanche are staring at the possibility of being left behind in the Western Conference. They are a ship that has begun to spring a leak, miles from shore and with a broken radio that they desperately need to fix if there is any hope of salvation; and if they don’t want their record to end up looking like the one from 2010-2011, which saw them win a total of five games from the month of February to the end of the year, then they need to do something fast.