In 2013-14, Patrick Roy’s first season behind Colorado’s bench, the Avalanche players couldn’t gush enough about their new coach’s philosophy– especially when it was compared to their old coach’s system, one in which they never really believed.
“In the past, we played a lot of D-to-D, chip-it-up-the-wall kind of hockey,” said Erik Johnson. “Now, there’s a lot of flow to our game, where we come out of the zone with speed. We’re really utilizing our best asset, which is our speed.”
The Avs went on to win the Central Division and, for that, Roy was named the NHL’s coach of the year.
Then 2014-15 happened. As we all know, things didn’t go so well for Colorado last season. The Avs finished tied with the Flyers for the 21st-ranked defense and missed the playoffs by a considerable margin.
So, time to tighten things up? Maybe play a bit more conservatively?
Not a chance.
“That does not mean we cannot play well defensively,” Roy told ESPN.com. “But if you look at our training camp this year, the first thing we did is work on our offense, we didn’t work on our defense. We worked on our offense first. We want to make everyone accountable, but at the same time, we believe that that is our identity, this is who we are, and this is how we want to play. We want to have entertaining hockey here night after night.”
“Look at the Chicago Blackhawks,” added GM Joe Sakic. “It’s speed, that’s what we want.”
Of course, the ‘Hawks, when they’ve won their Stanley Cups, have been among the best defensive teams in the NHL (5th in 2010, 1st in 2013, 2nd in 2015). Not so much because they played a boring, conservative style, but, rather, because it’s hard to score on a team that has the puck all the time.
That will be the challenge for the Avs.
“When you’re an offensive team, where we like to go on the rush, then you’re not going to possess the puck as long as you’d like to,” said Roy. “We’re not a team that’s going to cycle and eat time in the O-zone.”
Time will tell if that strategy pays off.
With five home games in their first seven, the Avs have a good opportunity to start the 2015-16 campaign on a strong note.
That’s something they didn’t do last year, and were never able to recover.