Colorado Avalanche: 5 Moves the Franchise Could Make To Help Save the Season
There is trouble in Colorado, plain and simple.
After a great start that set them atop the Western Conference for most of the month of October, the Colorado Avalanche have fallen to earth with a giant, large, emphatic thud.
The team is 2-7-1 in their last 10 games, they have yet to win a divisional game and they are 3-8-0 on home ice where the team seems to be completely unable to score.
Though the power play has been a point of success for the Avalanche, the penalty kill has hurt the team greatly and is once again beneath the 80 percent mark.
There are a lot of things that this team might consider doing to try and right the ship, and here are a few options.
Call Up Stefan Elliott or Tyson Barrie
Thanks to a couple of trades towards the end of last season and over the offseason, the Avalanche now find themselves without something they were once rich with—a puck-moving defenseman.
Both John-Michael Liles and Kevin Shattenkirk had great success from the blue line and helped make their teammates better not only because of their ability to make solid passes that lead to great scoring chances, but also because of their ability to get low, hard shots on goal that create rebounds in high scoring areas.
Calling up either Stefan Elliott or Tyson Barrie, more likely the former, would add that unpredictability to the Avalanche offense that used to be there.
Right now the defense is active offensively, but not in the same way that Shattenkirk and Liles was. Elliott would bring that element back.
Not only would that help the team's forwards, but Elliott would also help Erik Johnson out as well.
Johnson doesn't really have anybody to help feed him those smooth passes to set up his big one-timers. With that back, EJ's effectiveness in the offensive zone would go up a great deal.
Make a Trade
The Avalanche have some holes in their lineup and no real way to fix them within their system.
The team is small up front and some extra size definitely needs to be added, along with a more veteran presence.
A guy that I think would be great for the Avalanche to add is Jason Spezza.
The Avalanche dealt with Ottawa before, so both sides should be willing to listen to each other.
Spezza brings a lot more size, a physical feature few Avalanche forwards have, which would help the Avalanche at five-on-five situations and on the power play.
He's also a veteran player that could bring a lot more leadership to this young team.
The Avalanche might have to give up a big name in order to land Spezza, but it might be worth it in order to shake the lineup up and get things going.
Hire a Full-Time Goalie Coach for Varlamov
Semyon Varlamov is an incredibly talented young goalie who is absolutely loaded with potential.
The only issue is that, at 23 years of age, his youth can occasionally get in his way.
A friend of mine, Justin Goldman, scouts goalies throughout the leagues and has made one particularly important observation of Varlamov.
Varlamov is so active that he overplays things in his head when he should be more focused on things like positioning and rebound control.
He wants to stop the puck so badly that it almost seems like he's jumping out of his pads in order to do so when he really doesn't need to.
Varlamov needs the presence of a full-time goalie coach to help him settle down his game a bit more.
The Avalanche are the only team in the NHL that has not employed a full-time goalie coach. They currently have Kirk McLean as a goaltending consultant who only shows up from time to time.
Varlamov has room to develop into a truly elite goalie, but he needs guidance that is greater than just a solid veteran backup in order for him to get there.
Jussi Parkkila is the one with whom Varlamov has found the most success. He currently works in the KHL, but the Avalanche should make every effort possible to bring him over.
Stop Shuffling the Lines
One thing that the Avalanche have not been able to do at all this year is keep any type of consistency on their lines.
For a while the O'Reilly, Winnik, Landeskog line was kept together and was clearly the best on the team, but even that one has been broken up right now.
Perhaps there is no one player for whom this has a larger effect than Matt Duchene, who seems to find himself on a new line every single game.
For a while he was centering a line with Hejduk and Mueller. Then Mueller got hurt and Lindstrom was in. Then he wasn't scoring for a bit so he was sent down to center a line between Cody McLeod and Jay McClement. Then he was put on left wing with Stastny and Hejduk where he found some good success. Then he was back to centering a different line, then back on the wing and so on and so forth.
Duchene is the most obvious example of this, but lines seem to be in constant motion, making it absolutely impossible for anybody to find any kind of chemistry.
It feels like Joe Sacco is just playing Yahtzee with all of his lines in hopes that there will be an immediate spark, which there hasn't been.
This leads directly to my last thing the Avalanche could do to help save the season.
Clean Out the Coaching Staff
I recently attended an Avalanche game where they were shut out by the Vancouver Canucks by a score of 3-0.
Throughout this game there were a lot of issues with the Avalanche.
They looked absolutely lost on the ice quite frequently. Players running into other players, people not knowing who to pick up in the defensive zone or players just skating away from a loose puck figuring that somebody else was going to get it.
All of this is a direct reflection, in my opinion, of the coaching staff.
The Avalanche seem to not have an identity as a team, something that Joe Sacco has mentioned a lot lately, and has been able to do nothing about.
Joe Sacco's doghouse seems to be his only way of telling players to play better where he will either take them out of the lineup or send them to the fourth line and expect them to play their way out.
Players stopped responding to that a long time ago.
Then there is Sylvain Lefebvre, who is in charge of defensive pairing and the penalty kill.
The numbers of the penalty kill speak for themselves, and it seems that the defenders have no idea what Lefebvre wants them to do as they are constantly out of position.
Some of the onus definitely needs to be placed on the players for not performing well, but the fact is that the coaching staff is completely incapable of fixing it.
This coaching staff has run its course. The Avalanche need a coach that is capable of giving the team an identity and making it stick.
Sacco and crew have this team lost. Somebody needs to help them find themselves before the season is a completely lost cause.
Kevin Goff is a Featured Columnist for the Colorado Avalanche and NHL on Bleacher Report. For more NHL news and discussion,
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