Welcome to Avalanche at a Glance, a column by THW dedicated to anything and everything Colorado Avalanche. Kevin Goff and I will discuss two topics every edition and add our favorite moments(video) at the end. We hope you enjoy the read and look forward to more Avalanche at a Glance posts.
Credit Where Credit Is Due
Kevin Goff: I want to take the time in this particular edition of Avalanche at a Glance to give a lot of credit where it is due. The Avalanche have been through a lot this season but have grown, substantially, to the team that we see today fighting for a playoff spot. The players certainly deserve credit for getting their act together, but there are definitely people who deserve even more credit. Most specifically, I want to give Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic a ton of much deserved credit.
Listen to the national media and all you hear about Patrick Roy is how bad of a coach he is. He never adjusts, he can’t get the best out of his team and he never will until he embraces the magic soup that is enhanced stats. This is just factually inaccurate. Patrick Roy has had issues trying to make a team that has been a loser for essentially the past decade into a winner, but this is hardly unusual. The most difficult thing in all of professional sports is getting that transition to take place. It takes time and it takes a team that is given the opportunity to grow together and finding the right mix. Patrick Roy has done an excellent job tinkering with his lineups to find the one that works the best, and he has found some great combinations throughout the year. The current lineup may be his best combination yet, as all four lines have shown the ability to get things done in all ends of the ice.
Joe Sakic has been getting repeated heat from the national media any time Ryan O’Reilly does anything remotely positive. You and I have been over this a million times, but it’s clear that far too many in the national media either don’t get how to assess a trade of that magnitude, or don’t care to do it right because it’s easy to kick the Avalanche. Sakic has been doing an exceptional job this entire off-season. Acquiring Soderberg, making a very positive deal for Ryan O’Reilly, good drafts, not making any panic trades with the slow start and really making some savvy trades at the deadline that benefit the team immediately without really giving up much in return. I’m sure he won’t get much consideration, but Joe Sakic should definitely be looked at for GM of the Year.
Sebastian Hedley-Noble: You make a solid point when it comes to the outside perception by media or other fan-bases of Patrick Roy as a person and coach. People still think he’s incapable of coaching at this level, though he’s proving them wrong, no doubt. He was very successful not only coaching, but also managing the Quebec Remparts in the QMJHL for about eight years. He won the Memorial Cup and gained the necessary experience for his current job as head coach and Vice President of Hockey Operations for the Colorado Avalanche.
The one great thing for me about Roy is his ability to adapt and listen to his players. One thing you love to have as a player is a coach who will listen to you at any time. That’s what the Avalanche players have in Roy. He has on more than one occasion changed his system after listening to what his players had to say, it’s all about being a team with Roy, he won’t shut anyone out. There are tons of coaches who take on the “my way or the highway” philosophy, but not Roy. He’s not a raging mad man after defeats and is never smug after a victory, and is constantly looking to learn even more, so I don’t understand some of the reasoning behind some media, fans, etc. throwing him under the bus any time they get a chance.
His famous passion for hockey is still there as it always will be, but this Roy is a different, more mature, laid back person than the one who played the game at the highest level many years ago now. The Avalanche as an organization have gone through a ton of change when it comes to personnel, especially the new additions to the first team, which equals out to about eleven new players. That’s just about half of the team. I’d say coach Roy is doing a damn good job all things considered.
As for Super Joe, you just knew he would fit the GM mold quite well. I agree with the bulk of his work and that’s a great thing. He will only improve as well, studying under Pierre Lacroix didn’t hurt Sakic either! I’m glad that they are in charge of the team, both are doing well in their respective positions, and have brought new life and excitement to a team that was going nowhere.
Speaking of New Additions…
Sebastian Hedley-Noble: Speaking of new additions, there are, as I mentioned a lot of them. I want to give Mikhail Grigorenko and Carl Soderberg some love as they’ve both steadily increased their play as they’ve gotten more comfortable with the team. They also both stand to be big parts of Colorado’s foreseeable future.
Soderberg came in and has done a great job at center, in a third line role, essentially replacing the hole left by Paul Stastny. The big Swede has reached a career high in assists playing for the Avalanche with 34, and only needs five more goals to do the same in that category. He’s very solid in every zone and provides the Avalanche with depth they just haven’t had in a long time. He’s another big man with good possession skills, something management targeted to improve, and it’s worked.
Grigorenko who started the year on the 4th line, has crept his way up into the top-six alongside Matt Duchene and Jarome Iginla. Grigorenko also has reached a career high with the Avs, having put up 22 points with his new club thus far. The incredibly skilled Russian is gaining more and more responsibility from his old junior coach, now getting in on the PK and PP units. Remember, he is 21 years old, watch this kid grow into a scoring monster. Grigorenko dominated junior hockey, and has everything he needs when it comes to talent and size to establish his game at the NHL level. I am betting next year will be his coming out party.
Which new additions(let’s say maximun 2) have caught your eye more so than others? And here’s a bonus question, how high do you believe Grigorenko’s ceiling is?
Kevin Goff: The additions that I have noticed throughout the year are Blake Comeau and Francois Beauchemin. Beauchemin has had some struggles of late but, by and large, has been an outstanding addition to the team. He is already having a fantastic year from an offensive perspective, putting up the second most points of his career to this point. He only needs three more to match his total of 34 points from the 2005-2006 season. He’s also been a calming influence on the defense.
As for Comeau, what isn’t there to like about his game? It’s 200 feet long and he adds a very physical element. He has logged some PP time, and kills penalties and is excellent 5-on-5 and he obliterates anybody that gets in his way. He’s already surpassed his point totals from his time in Pittsburgh. There just isn’t anything I dislike about his game.
Now to Grigorenko. He was the X-factor in that whole O’Reilly trade. I looked at that deal and thought, “If Grigorenko pans out, this is what will make this trade a clear win for the Avalanche.” Well, he’s starting to show signs of what people saw of him when he was taken 12th overall by Buffalo in the 2012 NHL Draft. He fits so well with Matt Duchene, and I am wondering if next season we might see one Mikko Rantanen playing on this line, as well. Talk about a skilled, fast and incredibly terrifying line for opponents to try and shut down. Grigorenko has definitely earned another contract from the Avalanche, and I now want to see what he can do playing at this level for a full season. His ceiling has gone way up in the past 30 games.
Kevin Goff: There’s an obvious one to go with, but I’m going a different direction. It’s from that Anaheim Ducks game and features one big, strong, ferocious Norwegian kid! Andreas Martinsen’s effort to outmuscle Ryan Getzlaf, a feat in and of itself, force the puck out of the zone through three Ducks players and over to Matt Duchene. Then the presence of mind to not quit on the play, as every other Ducks player did, to keep the numbers advantage going. You could see that not a single Duck player expected Martinsen to be where he was when he got the pass back from Duchene. Then a nice little move to the backhand and a roof-job to give the Avalanche a two-goal lead in the game. It was a beautiful play and highlighted everything that the Avalanche hope Andreas Martinsen can become in the NHL.
Sebastian Hedley-Noble: For this issue of Avalanche at a Glace, I am going with Duchene’s goal versus the Florida Panthers. Not only did Duchene pull off a beautiful spin move around Brian Campbell(who is still wondering what happened by the way), he then proceeded to protect the puck against three other Panthers players, finishing it off with a snap shot by one of the best goalies in the NHL in Roberto Luongo.
We’re going to cheat here and include one more highlight, we call it the MacKJohnson!
Thanks for the read, you can follow us on Twitter @SebastianHNoble and @BrgBrigadeKevin –
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Sebastian Noble is currently in his third year with The Hockey Writers covering the Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers. Liverpool, England, and of course Colorado Avalanche & Florida Panthers supporter. You can follow him on Twitter @SebastianHNoble