From the outside, last season for the Avs looks like a relatively successful one. A year after missing the playoffs, the Avs climbed to sixth in a tough conference and took out their division rivals in the first round before falling to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions. They were able to accomplish this while battling through a pretty big string of injuries.But on the inside the season was one of frustration and unrealized potential. The Avs had the talent to compete for the cup, but they could never get into a rhythm all season. Free agent pickups Scott Hannan and Ryan Smyth had difficulty adjusting to the Avs and whenever the avs did seem to find a rhythm, it seemed like coah Q would knock them out of it with some bizarre decision.
No player personified this frustration like Tyler Arnason. He stepped into a 1st line center role and carried the water when Stastny, Smyth and Sakic, were hurt in the December time frame. He stays relatively healthy, chips in points and has a salary-cap friendly number.
So why is this seemingly innocuous guy the most hated man in an Avs uniform?
Part of it really isn't his fault. Arnason, through no fault of his own, came to be a symbol of Coach Quenneville's bizarre favoritism policy. Much like the guy in the cube next to you who does marginal work, but is always getting sent on the trips to the conference in Vegas, while you get asked to cover the Friday through Monday trip to Tullahoma Tennessee (not during Bonaroo), Arnason breeds contempt by just being liked more. Coach Quenneville's doghouse was legendary for the inexplicableness of it's inhabitants. Wolski and Hlinka were frequent residents in the doghouse last season both picking up healthy scratches for playing lousy and not being a physical force on the ice. Arnason is 5-11 204lbs and yet had only 6 hits last season. Wolski (6-3, 200lbs) had 54 and Hlinka (5' 10") , who was basically run off the team for not being physical enough, still had 16 hits. Arnason was the clear beneficiary of a double-standard that made it easy to dislike...
Quenneville didn't hlp Arny out by pairing him with inexplicable linemates at times too. At one point this season Arny was centering a line between Cody McCormick and McLeod. If there was ever a mismatch of center and wingers, this was it. The Cody Mc's are tough grinding hitting players and Arnason looked like a wimp out there on the ice with them as his linemates. He was constantly being outfitted with other wingers that didn't fit his style of play and at times looked as comfortable as a teenager heading for second base for the first time.
The venom for Arny isn't just a result of resentment because of favoritism. He has earned it on his own too. the biggest complaint is that when he isn't chipping in on offense, he is doing nothing at all. He is easily the worst defender on the team, and that mainly has to do with him being out of position because he isn't trying to get into position. As mentioned before he doesn't hit (He's tied for 730th in the NHL for hits, but no one else has even close to his 70 games played). He is terrible at face-offs. The biggest complaint is that when he's slumping, as everyone does, he doesn't do any of the little things necessary to make his teammates better. He is a one tool player in a game that has 9 degrees of freedom.
I turned on Arny, for good, at the end of last season. Players like TJ Hensik, Jaroslav Hlinka, and even Wojtek Wolski, were getting scratched while Arnason was allowed to continue playing. Arny ended up scoring 4 points in his final 22 games of the season (more than 1/4 of the season) 3 of which were against his arch-enemy, the Edmonton Oilers. In his best point-production game over the last 1/4 of the season he was -3.
That performance has turned Arnason into the player the fans love to hate. If the Avs struggle next season (and some think they could win as few as 25 games) Arnason will be the primary fan whipping boy. His contract runs out at the end of the season, so it will more than likely be his last one here, and most fans welcome that.
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