The Colorado Avalanche are a team missing their heartbeat. It’s obvious.
And unfortunately, no one knows when that heartbeat is coming back.
The list of issues with the Avalanche has grown longer by the day. Poor attention to details. Lack of communication on the ice. Complaining about the referees. In-game tailspins. Non-existent depth. Fatigue. I could probably keep going.
A healthy Gabriel Landeskog would not be an automatic fix for all of the Avalanche’s problems.
But it’s painfully obvious this team is missing its leader, and not just on the ice.
Three goals against in 4:40 against Florida. Three goals against in 3:33 against Vancouver. Two goals against in 24 seconds against Toronto. Second periods have been a nightmare since the Holiday break. They’ve now lost seven of eight, including two to teams actively trying to lose.
When this team hits some adversity in a game, the wheels start to come off.
These in game meltdowns were not a characteristic of the Stanley Cup winning team. And if it did happen, it didn’t bleed into the next game. They had short-term memories.
That Stanley Cup team also had their leader.
Lose game five to St. Louis at home? No problem. Regroup, outplay them in game six and finish off the series. The same thing happened against Tampa Bay.
They miss their heart and soul. The guy who can get everyone to just take a breath if something goes wrong. Mistakes will happen. No team plays a perfect game. But when one mistake happens, it can’t spiral out of control. You cannot come unglued for extended periods of time in games. Even bad teams will take advantage of that.
“We miss him for sure,” Bednar said after practice on Wednesday about Landeskog. “Being outspoken in the room and knowing when he needs to speak up and kind of calm things down or rev things up.”
That calming influence has been noticeably absent of late.
“But we’ve had some other guys step up too.”
“I think Mikko is one,” Bednar said.
Rantanen has stepped up as a leader. But the last two games have not been some of his finest moments.
After a missed call against Florida, he got angry and took a penalty himself. Was there a missed high sticking call? Absolutely. And was the call on him a little soft? I think so. But in the midst of a slump, and as a leader on the team, you have to keep your composure.
After the game, he was upset with the reffing and made it known. Sure, that’s fine, move past it, and don’t let it happen again.
Against Chicago, just two days later, he lost his cool again after what he thought was a missed high hit (it was a little high). Instead of moving past it, he spends the rest of the shift angry and running around. The Blackhawks scored the eventual game winner, and the first thing he does? Head straight to the ref to yell at him.
Look, Rantanen is this teams MVP. Quite frankly, he’s the biggest reason they’re still in the playoff race. But when he starts losing his cool, you know the frustration has really crept in. And the zen master Captain isn’t there to calm him down.
The on-ice loss of Landeskog is obvious. When your most consistent all-around forward hasn’t been able to play a game, you will feel the effects of it. He’s everyone’s safety blanket on the ice.
However, the off-ice leadership, especially in times of adversity like this, looks like it might missed more than anything.
There are plenty of leaders on this team. You don’t win a Stanley Cup with just one guy steering the ship when things get tough. And this team has played without Landeskog before. But they’ve never been without their Captain for this long, and it’s starting to show.
Every team needs a leader, especially when times get tough. Unfortunately, no one knows when that leader will be back. Time for the rest of the group to step up.
The Avalanche are missing their heartbeat. And if they can’t figure out a solution soon, their season might just flatline.