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Johnson credits Roy for ditching ‘chip-it-up-the-wall’ hockey

Nov 14, 2013, 12:14 PM EDT

erikjohnsongetty Getty Images

At 14-3-0, the Colorado Avalanche continue to be the surprise of the season, finding success with a mix of speed and aggression that was absent in previous seasons.

One of the biggest benefactors from this change — defenseman Erik Johnson — says his new head coach is the guy to thank.

“A lot of it has to do with Patrick [Roy],” Johnson told the Denver Post. “You know, I’m a player that can make plays. You go out there and make a mistake and go back to the bench and he’s like, ‘Don’t worry about it. That’s a great try. Go out and do it again next shift.’

“In the past, we played a lot of D-to-D, chip-it-up-the-wall kind of hockey. Now, there’s a lot of flow to our game, where we come out of the zone with speed. We’re really utilizing our best asset, which is our speed.”

If this change in philosophy/strategy sounds familiar, it should. The Minnesota Wild — who have won eight of 10 — loosened the reigns from their conservative approach this season and have achieved great success.

“We weren’t going to take the next step, become a serious contender, unless we changed the way we played offensively,” head coach Mike Yeo said. “I have bit my lip a couple of times on the bench … but we’re going to live with the risk to get more reward.”

The big difference in Minnesota, though, is that the change in attack didn’t require a coaching change. Yeo acknowledged that if the Wild were going anywhere, it would have to be with a more aggressive mentality.

To achieve a similar new mindset, the Avs had to part ways with Joe Sacco, who repeatedly preached a conservative approach during his four years on the job, driving a wedge between him and his players.

“There were very few people in this (dressing) room who were happy. Our style of play, it wasn’t right for this team. We knew it would fail,” Matt Duchene told the Denver Post in late October. “That was the hard part. We knew (any) success was going to be short-lived. It was hard to really be excited about it.”

Johnson agreed. From the Post:

Under coach Joe Sacco, Johnson said, he would have been told, “What are you doing, not chipping it in?”

“Patrick has just given me that leash, and I just have a belief in my game right now. When the coach has belief in you, it makes a big difference.”

Related: Duchene: Avalanche players knew Sacco’s style of play ‘would fail’

  1. 19to77 - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:20 PM

    It really shows. Johnson’s been way better this season. Everyone has.

    • lonespeed - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:29 PM

      But you couldn’t beat Carolina.

      It’s okay. Raleigh is a nice place to travel in May. See ya soon.

      • pxland - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:38 PM

        Oh, I see what you did there. Your trolling was a bit unclear, but now I see that you are saying the Avs won’t make the playoffs.

        Well, my hat is off to you sir! That is some of the most insightful and intelligent commentary I have seen.

        You know, the Avs may not make the playoffs this year. The west is tough. But as an Avalanche fan it doesn’t matter right now, this team is rebuilding and has made a huge leap under Sakic/Roy. There will no doubt be tough times, but even given that, it is a great day to be an Avalanche fan.

    • cardsandbluesforever - Nov 14, 2013 at 5:54 PM

      you know its working if EJ is playing a lot better.

      I really wish my blues would adopt this offensive style- we have a ton of speed talent and depth, but Hitch preaches dump and chase, funnel the puck to the net offense. we have way too much skill and talent wearing the blue note to be playing such a cheap form of hockey. dump and chase should be called ” throw the puck away then go back to your end and wait to do it all over again” and funneling pucks to the net should be called ” throw the puck away and pray for a lucky bounce”

      I really hope Colorado goes deep in the playoffs this year so that other teams like my blues get a clue and stop this joke of a strategy and get to playing real hockey.

  2. lonespeed - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:02 PM

    You’re right pxland. I’m very sorry for my trolling. It is a bit far fetched to assume Colorado would make the finals this year. Especially, as you pointed out, the playoffs are probably a stretch as well.

    But maybe my comment still applies? What better way to rebuild than observe greatness? The team can still attend the finals between the Canes and Red Wings.

    • lonespeed - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:05 PM

      Crap, I forgot the Wings are now in the East. I guess it will be the Sharks and Canes.

    • jernster21 - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:06 PM

      Breaking news by lonespeed: Two eastern conference teams can now play each other in the finals. Fantastic!

    • avfanforlife - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:08 PM

      Finals between the Canes and Red Wings? Seriously… have you seen the conferences this year? C’mon – look it up and tell me if it is possible for those two teams to meet in the finals. Lame. (Cane’s will not make it to post season play this year.)

      • lonespeed - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:27 PM

        You guys have no sense of humor at all. Too much altitude out there in Denver?

    • pxland - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:11 PM

      Um… Wut?

  3. muckleflugga - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    when does the honeymoon in denver end…?

    right around the time the new wears off of the crystal chandelier in vancouver

    look for flames and oilers to start pulling avalanche and canucks back to earth

    then the finger pointing begins

  4. timmmah10 - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:55 PM

    Colorado has youth, speed, and is fun to watch. Thinking they are a flash in the pan is misguided (this coming from a Red Wing fan).

  5. restohpens - Nov 14, 2013 at 5:32 PM

    I record every Pens game and every Avs game so I can be reminded what a phenomenal offense looks like. Those young kids are a blast to watch and it’s good to see Hejda and Statsny flourishing under Roy. I don’t care who your team is, you can’t say you don’t like watching that team play hockey.

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