Frozen Forensics: Avalanche Power (less) Play

Derek Gibson

2015-09-11

USA Today Sports Images

 

What to make of the Colorado Avalanche's 2014-15 power-play woes heading into this year's fantasy season …

 

This week, rather than focus in on one particular player, I thought it would be a great idea to research a special teams unit that could have a tremendous fantasy impact for the upcoming season. The problem is, last year this “special” team was in a word, anemic, ranking 29th in power-play percentage out of 30 teams. The 30th-ranked power play was the Buffalo Sabres….that means that the Arizona Coyotes, Carolina Hurricanes, and the Florida Panthers were better on the man advantage than this team.

The team?

The Colorado Avalanche.

 

Before we go forward, we have to go back and see what exactly went wrong with the Patrick Roy-led unit. Let’s first take a look at how they rolled out their PP using the Dobber Sports Line Combinations:

 

6.92%

PP

12 IGINLA,JAROME – 92 LANDESKOG,GABRIEL – 90 O'REILLY,RYAN – 40 TANGUAY,ALEX

6.86%

PP

92 LANDESKOG,GABRIEL – 29 MACKINNON,NATHAN – 90 O'REILLY,RYAN

6.65%

PP

12 IGINLA,JAROME – 92 LANDESKOG,GABRIEL – 29 MACKINNON,NATHAN – 90 O'REILLY,RYAN

4.82%

PP

9 DUCHENE,MATT – 12 IGINLA,JAROME – 11 MCGINN,JAMIE – 40 TANGUAY,ALEX

4.21%

PP

9 DUCHENE,MATT – 7 MITCHELL,JOHN – 40 TANGUAY,ALEX

3.94%

PP

9 DUCHENE,MATT – 92 LANDESKOG,GABRIEL – 29 MACKINNON,NATHAN

 

 

 

3.8%

PP

24 CLICHE,MARC-ANDRE – 25 TALBOT,MAXIME

2.85%

PP

12 IGINLA,JAROME – 92 LANDESKOG,GABRIEL – 29 MACKINNON,NATHAN

2.24%

PP

9 DUCHENE,MATT – 38 HISHON,JOEY – 7 MITCHELL,JOHN

2.17%

PP

48 BRIERE,DANIEL – 9 DUCHENE,MATT – 90 O'REILLY,RYAN

2.17%

PP

9 DUCHENE,MATT – 12 IGINLA,JAROME – 90 O'REILLY,RYAN

 

So when you see that, and see names like Jarome Iginla (177 career PPG’s), Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly, Alex Tanguay, Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, and throw in Power Play Quarterback stud Tyson Barrie, you really have to ask the question: What went wrong?

It literally was unsightly, as Colorado’s power-play effectiveness plummeted from the 2013-14 season’s percentage of 19.8% (tied for 5th best), to last year’s effort of 15% and again the 29th ranking.

Their special teams’ ineffectiveness may have officially bottomed out in early February, as the Avalanche endured a 0-for-26 skid with the man advantage. Despite having excellent personnel, it just didn’t click.

In doing the research, the aforementioned O’Reilly was indeed a valuable member of the Colorado power play, having registered 22 power-play points during the 2013-14 seas, but saw that number drop to 12 last season (including a drop in the all-important fantasy power-play goal, which went from nine to two).

So with him moving on to Buffalo, who takes his place? Is the answer Jesus?

When a team starts going cold on the power play, they start tinkering, and using all sorts of different line combos. You would expect the above names to log heavy PP time, but when you see names like Joey Hishon, Max Talbot, and Marc-Andre Cliché, you know Roy was reaching at various points last season.

Will newcomers Carl Soderberg and Mikhail Grigorenko have any significant impact on the Colorado power play?

Most likely not as much as O’Reilly did, but again, there is still plenty of remaining talent to once again return to above-average efficiency.

So as a fantasy owner, how do you quantify a team chock full of top-level talent that is coming off of a subpar season on the mad advantage? Do you become hesitant to draft an Avalanche player due to poor special teams’ numbers, which can sometimes make the difference in a head-to-head league?

I may have found something to suggest that the Avalanche jump back among the league’s elite 5-on-4 teams, and provide you with plenty of PPP’s……

For a superb skating team like Colorado, they should be among the league leaders in power-play time, as they were in 2013-14 (their 400:51 was ranked 5th overall in the NHL). In 2014-15, that number sunk to 383:39 (ranked 20th), which was middle of the pack. Conversely, the Dallas Stars led the league with 463:59 of total power play time; there is no reason not to expect Colorado being somewhere in the 400 minute range, and with more time, comes more opportunity, more scoring chances, you get the idea.

There is NO WAY a team like Colorado should finish second to last in the NHL with 31 total power-play goals, down nearly 30% from the previous year; things can only go up in 2015-16. Looking at their personnel, their top two PP units could look something like this:

 

MacKinnon — Duchene — Landeskog
Barrie — Mitchell/Soderberg

MacKinnon, Duchene and Landeskog all know how to pass, as well as to finish. Add to that the same skills of Tyson Barrie and John Mitchell, and you’ve got yourself an extremely good power play unit.

Barrie is one of the league’s best offensive defensemen, and Mitchell may come as a surprise in the midst of top-six talent, as he is currently projecting to be the Avalanche’s third-line center. However, he is a very good puck mover and passer, which is why he has played alongside Duchene and Iginla on the first line and on the power play before. In today’s NHL, it is more common to use four forwards and only one D-man on the power play. New acquisition Francois Beauchemin is an option as well.

 

And unit No. 2 should shake out like this:

Iginla — Grigorenko/Soderberg — Tanguay
Barrie — Zadorov

Grigorenko has very good chance at pushing Mitchell for the team’s No. 3 center on the depth chart, behind Duchene and Carl Soderberg. Time on the power play would give him some extra ice time, and help his development (remember his relationship with Roy) — especially when sandwiched between veterans Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay. Just like the first unit, this second one would have a lot of fire power. All three forwards know how to move the puck around in the offensive zone, and how to put it in the net.

All changes in mind, the Colorado Avalanche should have a good chance to make it back to the desirable 20 percent success rate that teams should target. The loss of O’Reilly may hurt, but there are enough talented players that know what they are doing anyway. Draft Colorado’s top, young offensive studs accordingly, and don’t worry about their power-play ineffectiveness killing your fantasy power play, better man advantage days are ahead in Denver.

 

 

UPCOMING GAMES

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STARTING GOALIES

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HOT PLAYERS

  Players Team GP G A P
PAUL STASTNY VGK 6 2 4 6
ALEXANDER RADULOV DAL 4 1 3 4
JAMIE BENN DAL 19 8 10 18
BLAKE COLEMAN T.B 4 1 2 3
SHEA THEODORE VGK 4 1 2 3

LINE COMBOS

  Frequency VAN Players
17.5% JAY BEAGLE TYLER MOTTE JAKE VIRTANEN
13.2% BO HORVAT TANNER PEARSON TYLER TOFFOLI
13.2% BROCK BOESER BO HORVAT TANNER PEARSON

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