21 October 2008
One such explanation comes from the change behind the bench. Granato brings a more offensive philosophy to the Avs, which has been fun to watch, but that was going to come at the price of giving up a few more goals, but that philosophy change shouldn't effect the PK at all. Besides, the penalty kill last season, under a more defensive coach and solid goaltending, finished at a measly 81.4%. This suggests there's certainly more to it.
On defense, both Jordan Leopold (34s /game) and John-Michael Liles (4s total) are seeing very limited short-handed ice time, meaning the bulk of the penalty killing is going to Adam Foote, Brett Clark, Scott Hannan and Ruslan Salei. Last season there were 6-7 defenders that averaged over 2:00 of SH-ice time per game played. Sure Salei and Foote got most of those minutes elsewhere, but Karlis Skrastins logged minutes on the PK as well. A PK unit should be 5 guys deep, and the Avs are exhausting their 4 defensemen by not putting any PK pressure on Leopold and Liles, and tired defenders make mistakes. (This could also partially explain the 3rd period near-collapses this season). Avs management went with Liles instead of Sauer and Finger this offseason, part of that decision should have been including more penalty killing responsibilities. FYI: Liles has been great this season and it looks like he could handle it.
On the forward side, with Guite benched, Lappy is the top penalty killing forward. He is a good forward, but he isn't a good enough PKer to be on the top unit for an elite club. He really should be on the 2nd PK unit. The fact that he's currently the top PKing forward says a lot about how much Avs management has ignored that hole the last few years.
However the most egregious error seems to be keeping the Avs best PKing forward, Ben Guite, out of the lineup. He's leading the forwards in SH Ice time per game, when he gets to play. Guite has been benched in favor of Cody McCormick, who to his credit has played extremely well. It would be tough to bench McCormick or McLeod at this point. If only the Avs had a forward that has been playing poorly on offense and doesn't help them out, at all, defensively. Which brings us to the one and only, much reviled, Tyler Arnason. He has played exactly 1 second shorthanded. His offensive contributions six games into the season has been: 1 point from one goal (same as Guite). He has only 5 shots on goal and is last on the team with 1 hit.
Arnason gets ragged on a lot by me, and other Avs bloggers, but frankly his play deserves it. He's not productive on offense, and he's a liability on defense. Guite may be ineffective on offense, but he's certainly an asset on the penalty kill and in the defensive end. Sure he'd be an awkward fit on the third line with Tucker and Jones/Wolski, but no more Awkward than Arnason. (Let me take a brief moment to toot my own horn and say that a guy like Brendan Morrison, Sergei Federov or Michael Peca would not be an awkward fit there, would help with face-offs and be an asset on the penalty kill.) Arnason has become a liability to the team by keeping the Avs best penalty killer on the bench.
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