The Colorado Avalanche is on a four-game slide. The Avs haven’t scored a goal in over 120 minutes of play, and are making it seem like they have retired their skates for golf clubs.
The Avalanche seems to be missing a necessary component to hockey…physicality. The Avalanche has amassed 1,080 hits in its 52 games, excluding the recent 3-0 loss to the Coyotes. The current first-place Vancouver Canucks, prior to today’s games, have 1,200 hits, while the second-place Philadelphia Flyers have 1,160.
The Avalanche and Canucks have both dressed 30 players this season (excluding goalies) and the Flyers have dressed 22. For those who like statistics, the Avalanche roster has amassed an average of 21 hits a game.
The Canucks, on the other hand, have played 53 games and average 23 hits a game, while the Flyers have 53 games under their belt and 22 hits a game.
It doesn't seem like a lot, but that extra hit or two a game could be the difference between scoring a goal and returning to the bench with your head down.
The Avalanche is also ranked 22nd in the league with 22 fights (http://www.hockeyfights.com/leaders/teams/1/reg2011), while the Canucks rank 18th (25 fights) and the Flyers are 13th (32 fights).
Fighting does not equate to wins and points, but it does contribute to a team’s reputation. Numerous Avalanche players have missed many games due to injury.
Players like Peter Mueller and Kyle Quincy are expected to miss the season due to hits that could have been avoided by a physical presence. Mueller’s first concussion in an Avalanche sweater was result of a questionable hit by Rob Blake. The most Blake received was a strong booing from the fans.
Let’s not kid ourselves, players still go after another in retribution for prior hits, legal or not. Pittsburgh’s Tim Wallace fought Washington’s Dave Steckel in the teams' first meeting since the Winter Classic, retribution for what many feel caused Sidney Crosby’s concussion.
Avalanche enforcer David Koci has a whopping two fights in his minute 15 games this season.
Fighting has its place in the game, and it is to produce a physical presence and to protect the team’s stars. Numerous times Avalanche center Matt Duchene has been questionably hit, and the offending player has gotten nothing but a clear path to his bench.
One more comparison figure is the 2000-01 Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche. The Cup-winning team had 46 fights and 2,161 hits.
The Avalanche need to increase its physicality, and fight (literally and figuratively) for its position in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, or it’ll spend this April enjoying a few rounds on the golf course.