The Avs could stand to learn a few lessons from the Broncos. (Sketch by Katie Martinez)
In other news, the world is ending. Prepare accordingly.
Tuesday night the Avs lost in excruciating fashion to the Pittsburgh Penguins. In my opinion any loss to a Pittsburgh team is excruciating, but Tuesday really was special. The Avs had a 3 – 1 lead going into the second period and still managed to lose 3 – 6. I was lucky enough not to be watching this debacle as I was tutoring kids instead, but just checking my text messages was enough to send me on an emotional rollercoaster.
ESPN NHL – COL Goal COL 1 PIT 0 – Goal scored by Jay McClement
ESPN NHL – COL Goal COL 2 PIT 0 – Goal scored by Matt Duchene
ESPN NHL – PIT Goal COL 2 PIT 1 – Goal scored by Jordan Staal
ESPN NHL – COL Goal COL 3 PIT 1 – Goal scored by David Jones
ESPN NHL – PIT Goal COL 3 PIT 2 – Goal scored by Pascal Dupuis
ESPN NHL – PIT Goal COL3 PIT 3 – Goal scored by Brooks Orpik
ESPN NHL – PIT Goal PIT 4 COL 3 – Goal scored by Evgeni Malkin
ESPN NHL – PIT Goal PIT 5 COL 3 – Goal scored by James Neal
ESPN NHL – PIT Goal PIT 6 COL 3 – Goal scored by Kris Letang
See? It’s soul crushing to see the goals laid out like that. I’m sure it was even worse to watch. On the bright side, the team showed up to play the first period. On the less bright side, they neglected to play the third period.
At the end of October the Avs were 7 – 4. They had gone on a rampage through the Northeast, sweeping 5 teams on the road and starting out with 6 wins in 8 games. While some underlying fundamental issues were clear (offense wasn’t really clicking, big holes on defense), good goaltending and luck were enough to help the Avs find success. They were even somewhat entertaining.
So far in November the Avs have lost 6 of their last 7. “We need to play a full 60 minutes” is heard every night from fans on Twitter and message boards as well as from the coaches and players in postgame interviews. Goaltending has pretty much fallen apart, as Semyon Varlamov has started in the lion’s share of the games and has a 5 – 8 – 1 record. J.S. Giguere is 3 – 1. The defense has gotten lackadaisical in front of the goalie (seriously, only three players have non-negative plus/minus stats: Gabriel Landeskog, Shane O’Brien, and Ryan Wilson). The offense has been inconsistent to say the least, and though the movement of Matt Duchene to the wing seems to have mostly solved the first line scoring problems, there are three other offensive lines that still need some tweaking.
The Avs have become downright depressing to watch. Maybe it’s because we are fresh off of the 2010 – 11 season, but every time they have a lead (which is rare) I find myself wondering how they will manage to blow it. I take games far more seriously than I should, and as a result, each game is an emotional rollercoaster. It is not good for my psyche.
By way of contrast, the Denver Broncos have become a source of (dare I say) joy. Love him or hate him, Tim Tebow and the goofy offensive scheme have managed to do what neither Kyle Orton’s Broncos nor the Avs have been able to do: win. The whole team looks energized. The offensive line is playing like a group of studs, protecting their QB and opening up running lanes seemingly at will. The defense is playing well enough to limit their opponents’ ability to score. And Tebow has been able to lead a team to victory in spite of completing only 2 of 8 passes in an entire game.
Now that’s leadership. True leaders make everyone around them better, playing and standing up for the team first and foremost. They lead by example in the locker room and on the field/ice. Tim Tebow has leadership skills in spades. I can only hope newly crowned Milan Hejduk can be a fraction as effective in his captainship as Tebow has been as starting QB.
At the beginning of the fall I never would have imagined that the Broncos would be the more uplifting team to watch this season. I completely believed that the Avs would pull together and play as more than the sum of their parts, getting a few more wins than losses in spite of persisting issues and holes. I also completely believed that the Broncos would be a royal mess all season long, that they would be incapable of finding a workable solution to the quarterback controversy or overcoming their positional difficulties. Clearly I was wrong on both counts. The Broncos are actually a terrific example of a team that has come together and through effort, scheme, and play calling become better than the talent of individual players should dictate.
As a Denver native I am a Denver Broncos fan and I am thrilled that they are no longer the laughingstock of the NFL. They have been an exciting team to watch over the past few weeks. As a relatively recent hockey convert, however, I really would like the Avs to stop delivering gut-wrenchingly lame performances and (gulp) learn something from the Broncos:
- Never quit. Never, ever, ever. A game is 60 minutes long. If you give 100% in every second of that 60 minutes, miracles can happen.
- Play to cover each other’s weaknesses and exploit each other’s strengths.
- Find what works and stick with it until it stops working.
- If players refuse to buy into the scheme or are cancerous, get rid of them.
- If accepted methods aren’t working, try something unorthodox. Worst case scenario, you continue to lose. Best case scenario, you get some wins, look like a genius, and lessen the blow of trading the first round draft pick to Washington..
So Avs, get it together. Figure out how to put together a team that cares enough to play hard for the entire game. Capture my faith and my trust again as the Broncos have managed to do. I know it’s possible; I see glimmers of it every game. I’m not asking for a serious Cup run this season or anything crazy. All I ask for is hope. I want you to play well enough to renew my hope that all is not lost and that this team will win again in the not-too-distant future.
After all, that’s what each of us wants: a bright spot in a largely mundane existance that serves to remind us that hope and joy still exist. Sports teams hold incredible power over us because they consistently bring hope and joy into our lives. There have been weeks where an Avs or Broncos win is one of the only really good things that happens in my little world. Currently the Avs are using this power for evil while their counterparts across I-25 are using it for good. How cool would it be if the Avs could learn a few lessons from the Broncos and go back to being a beacon of light in our dull little worlds?