Top Shelf: Avs still battling through rough start

Philadelphia, PA ( - What a difference a year makes.

Everything seemed to come so easy for Patrick Roy and the Colorado Avalanche last season, but that has certainly not been the case in 2014-15.

Before you could blink the Avalanche were out to a 14-2-0 start in 2013-14, effectively quieting the critics who laughed when Colorado hired Roy to lead the rebuilding franchise.

What followed was a storybook regular season that resulted in the franchise's first division title since 2002-03. It seemed the once rebuilding Avalanche had finally arrived, but what has transpired since is taking the shine off the club's memorable 2013-14 campaign.

The first blemish for Roy's Avalanche came in a first-round exit against Minnesota in last spring's playoffs, but Colorado's reputation has taken an even bigger hit thanks to a 5-8-5 start to the new season.

It's probably true the Avs were able to gain some of their success last season due to the rest of the league underestimating both the rookie head coach and the club's talented, young roster. However, what Colorado is going through now is bigger than simply having a target on its back following the success of last season.

By this time last season, Colorado already boasted a pair of six-game winning streaks but the club has yet to win consecutive games in 2014-15. The Avs also have been shut out three times already this season after getting blanked once in 2013-14, and not until late March.

The fancy stats brigade warned Colorado was heading for a fall this season because the club simply doesn't have the puck enough to sustain the success of 2013-14. Just like last season, the Avs are being routinely outshot by the opposition and goaltender Semyon Varlamov is not bailing the team out as often as he did last season.

To his credit, Roy has refrained from any public outbursts regarding his team's mediocre play. The passionate Hall of Fame goaltender has instead tried to lend a guiding hand through the tough times, but one has to think his easygoing attitude won't last forever.

"I want to be patient with our guys," Roy told the Denver Post on Wednesday. "It's a process. I know it's frustrating for everyone who would like to see the team winning, and right now it isn't happening. But we have to find a way out of that slump, and I don't think it's by bashing our players or screaming at our players that we're going to get out of it."

Although he's staying patient on the outside, Roy isn't averse to making big changes to his lineup. He benched veteran forward Daniel Briere for seven games earlier this season before inserting him back in the lineup the other night, and Roy also recently dropped last season's Calder Trophy winner, Nathan MacKinnon, out of the club's top-six.

MacKinnon, the No. 1 overall pick in the summer of 2013, burst onto the NHL scene with a 24-goal, 63-point showing in the regular season and added 10 points in Colorado's seven playoff games. The 19-year-old center has posted five goals and six assists in 18 tests as a sophomore, but he's also sporting a minus-8 rating.

After the Avs were slammed 6-0 by the New York Islanders on Tuesday, MacKinnon was dropped to the third line with Briere and Jamie McGinn as his wingers while John Mitchell replaced him between Gabriel Landeskog and Jarome Iginla.

Roy didn't mention MacKinnon by name, but he did speak of his team having to "realize that it doesn't have to be a perfect goal to count," a line that could easily be construed as a critique of his young centerman's reliance on speed and finesse.

The move worked for one night at least, as Colorado downed the New York Rangers 4-3 in a shootout, with MacKinnon providing a power-play goal to send the game to overtime.

"He had a great chance just before on the power play," Roy said of MacKinnon's goal. "Sometimes you put pucks on net, and you get rewarded. It doesn't always have to be perfect shots."

After beating the Rangers, the Avs finally hope to win consecutive games for the first time this season when they wrap a four-game road trip Saturday in New Jersey. The way the always confident Roy sees it, Colorado is bound to go on a hot streak at some point and Thursday's win in New York may be the one to finally get his team rolling.