A week ago today the Avs were coming off of an impressive 6-2 drubbing of the Vancouver Canucks. They were sitting comfortably in 5th place in the western conference. they were nipping at the Wild's heels and had games in hand against the Ducks, who were only a couple points ahead of the Avs in 4th and the Avs even had a chance to come even closer with a game against the Ducks. Coach Joel Quenneville was (ridiculously) getting talked up nationally as a Jack Adams candidate, and the Avs seemed to have righted the ship.
All was well after the first period of that Ducks game, with the Avs and Ducks trading chances the Avs racked up 18 shots on goal, one goal, and were generally dominating the Ducks. All was well... then....Coach Quenneville decided to play "dump and watch" against the Ducks. The Avs decided to try and hold a 1 goal game though 2 periods and coach Q made sure the Avs treated the rest of the game as a penalty kill, dumping the puck behind the Ducks net and sending one guy in to forecheck, instead of taking the play to the Ducks end. Predictably the Ducks got a little lucky (a BS call on Ian LaPerriere gave the ducks a long 5-vs-3, in which the Ducks scored). The Ducks continued to pressure the Avs, and the Avs decided that the solution was shorter shifts, so they generated only 6 shots in the third period. The Ducks got another goal and that was that.
The loss was significant, but the message Q sent to his players was even more significant. That message: "I don't trust you." Even with the S-trifecta out (as Smyth was still out) the Avs had been scoring a lot, with 18 goals in the previous 4 games. Despite playmakers such as Hejduk, Brunette, Wolski, Svatos, and Hensik, Quenneville showed how little confidence he has in his team by playing the type of hockey underdogs use when they are outmatched. Hope for a quick goal, then cling on for dear life.
Since Quenneville gave his team that vote of no-confidence the Avs have scored 2 goals in 8 periods and been outmatched by the Blues and Blackhawks, two teams below them in the standings (but not for long‼), with the league-leading (but slumping) Red Wings coming to town. Last time the Avs played the Beige Wings they went out and tried the same "dump and watch" strategy, got an unlucky bounce and lost 2-0.
The lesson, show some damned faith in your players. It breeds confidence, which is critical to scoring goals. When you show no confidence in your players, whether it's the goalies or the offense, it hurts the team. Instead of coaching with the attitude of: "We have an incredibly talented club here. Look how good we are without the S-trifecta, and when they get back we'll be even better" he has sheepishly coached the team with the attitude of "The only way we can beat teams without the S-trifecta is to hope for a lucky bounce and hold on". Players aren't dumb, they see that. The lack of confidence the Avs are showing right now, particularly on the powerplay, comes straight from the lack of confidence shown by the coach.
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