Colorado Avalanche starving for wins

Landeskog accepts trivia challenge (2:44)

Craig Custance puts Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog's knowledge to the test in a quick game of Avalanche trivia. (2:44)

These are desperate times already for the Colorado Avalanche, who have labored out of the gates in the incredibly competitive Central Division.

At 2-5-1, the Avs are already six points behind the sixth-place Winnipeg Jets in the Holy Mama Central.

You never want to overdramatize things just eight games into a season, but the reality is the Avs cannot fall too much deeper. It has to turn now -- starting with games Thursday night at the Tampa Bay Lightning and Friday night at the Carolina Hurricanes.

"I think we're all disappointed with the start, we were hoping for more, expecting more," Avs general manager Joe Sakic said over the phone from Tampa on Wednesday. "Also it's not time to sulk, it's time to find a way to get some wins together and get going. There's quite a few guys squeezing their sticks a little bit, trying to find a way to get going. Sometimes it's easier said than done, but I'm confident we've got a lot of guys that will start getting going and getting the puck in the net."

Confidence is shaken on a team that missed the playoffs last season after a breakout, Central Division-winning season in 2013-14. Mind you, their 39-31-12 record last season, good for 90 points, wasn't terrible, but in the Central Division? Last place.

And that's where they sit again in the NHL's best division as the Nashville Predators, Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks and Winnipeg Jets are a combined 37-13-4 to begin the season, racing away from the Avs in a hurry.

"Yeah, and the guys see that," Sakic said when asked about the Central Division. "The good thing about our locker room, they care, they care about each other, they want to do well. They all know we've got to find a way to get going."

The Avs lost 4-1 at the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night, a game in which they went 0-for-5 on the power play, gave up a shorthanded goal, and gave up three power-play goals. In short, it's a special teams nightmare.

Head coach Patrick Roy cancelled practice Wednesday in Tampa and instead had his players do off-ice workouts and a video meeting.

Everyone is looking for solutions.

"The goal was to get off to a real good start, that didn't happen for whatever reason," said Sakic. "We just got to find a way to play better. ... I think the big thing for our team is that we need to manage the puck a lot better than we have, especially in the third period."

The Avs, whose regression last season was predicted by the advanced stats community, sit 30th in Corsi For at 40.5 percent as of Thursday morning. But as Roy pointed out again during my training camp stop in Denver last month, the Avs are never going to be a top team in these metrics because of how they've chosen to play, an aggressive, off-the-rush offensive style.

Still, as Sakic points out, better decisions with the puck are needed, especially around the net.

"It's easy to say, it's harder to do, but we need to put more pucks on net instead of trying to make all those little plays," said the Hall of Famer. "Some of the guys are probably lacking a little confidence with the puck. The smart thing to do is start crashing and get pucks towards the net. But sometimes you're trying to make that extra little cute play. That's really what is hurting us."

The man speaking might know a thing or two about goal-scoring, sitting 15th all-time in NHL history with 625 goals.

And, as he's known to have done from time to time, Sakic has taken aside a few of his offensive players to chat with them of late.

"I've had a couple of conversations with different guys," said Sakic. "These guys all care and they want to do well. They just need a couple of bounces, get more pucks on net. It's a frustrating thing to go through when you're a goal-scorer and you're struggling to score and the team isn't winning. It mounts. We just have to find a way to get it done."

The Avs are averaging 2.50 goals per game, 17th in the league; not terrible, but not where one expects a team with Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Jarome Iginla and Tyson Barrie to be. Of course, they were 23rd last season at 2.55 goals per game, so it's much of the same.

In the meantime, the Avs are 25th in goals against per game at 3.13, in part because netminder Semyon Varlamov hasn't found his game yet but also because of the play in front of him.

"Young defense corps, it's hard to win with big errors at wrong times there," said a member of a rival Western Conference coaching staff.

In the meantime, one ponders if a trade could help, although as we've seen once again with a quiet October around the NHL on that front, easier said than done this early in the season.

"It's not time to panic," said Sakic. "You're looking to improve your team at all times of the year. Yeah, we're off to a tough start, but you're not going to do anything unless you know it's going to benefit your team. You're always looking at the big picture."

The big picture is that this remains a young, talented team. The short-term picture, however, is screaming for wins.