Avalanche’s Nathan McKinnon – From ‘Young and Dumb’ to Stanley Cup Champion

Denver – Now this Nathan McKinnon Won the Stanley Cup, will he finally calm down?

The question takes five seconds, but leads the Colorado substitute Avalanche captain to share more about himself during a 20-minute interview than he has at any time in his nine-year NHL career.

McKinnon answers the question, but also opens up about a long journey of self-discovery. A journey that forced him to be honest with himself about how little he did early in his career, and that it wasn’t worth being preoccupied with what people outside of his team, his family and his friends were thinking. It made him realize that he had to channel his energy and emotions to help make himself a better, more dedicated player – and a person – before he could become the kind of leader he wanted.

“I feel like I have three different jobs at once,” the 27-year-old said. “For me, it seems my first three or four years have been one career. Young, stupid, not a good player. The second three or four years, I’ve proven myself as a good player in the league. The last two, three years have been all about maturity, trying to win cups. And focus on trying to be a good player.”

What made him say that 18-22-year-old Nathan McKinnon was “young and stupid?”

Anyone who’s been around McKinnon for a minute knows he’s direct, and that’s certainly the case in his assessment of his younger self. He points to his off-ice habits and the lack of maturity he showed on the rink. McKinnon realizes he was just a teenager and smiles when he says it was like he was in college.

“Then I came to a crossroads after we came [in] the last. Do I want to be a good player? Do I want to be a regular player? “

2016-2017 season It’s still new to any snowmobile or front office employee who’s experienced it. Avs finished with 48 points. At the time, the total was the lowest point in the salary cap era. Colorado’s season has to be considered among the worst in NHL history. McKinnon was 21 years old. He scored 16 goals and scored 53 points in 82 matches. It wasn’t bad, but it was less than 24 goals and 63 points he collected as a rookie when he won the Calder Cup in 2013-14.

“You try to lie to yourself about how things are going, but being humble doesn’t naturally suit me,” McKinnon said. “It wasn’t a huge change. Because all my life I sacrificed everything to be a great player as a kid. I ate well, I worked hard. Then I got to the NHL and lost my way a little bit. It wasn’t like a ‘found Jesus’ moment. But I was back on the rails. I knew How do I do these things. I’ve done this all my life. I had to find them again.”

MacKinnon emerging from the depths of the 2016-2017 season is the one everyone has been waiting to see for quite some time. He broke through to score 39 goals with 97 points in 74 games, helping the Avs reach the playoffs for the first time in three seasons. As a result, McKinnon was in the discussion of Hart Trophy as the most valuable player in the NHL.

took second place Taylor Hall In Hart voting that season. (Two years later, McKinnon was second in the Hart election again, behind him Leon Drystel.) McKinnon said that second place in the rankings for Hall infuriated him, but it eventually became another inflection point in his life and career.

After losing to Hall, McKinnon said it took two months before he realized he couldn’t let a decision made by voters affect his feeling. He came to accept his reasons for losing, acknowledging that there were better players than him.

“The guys who beat me deserved to win,” McKinnon said. “Halsey and Drissettle have had incredible years. They are incredible players.” You still want to win it. But at the end of the day, you can’t put all your happiness into how people vote and that’s fine. What matters is the men in the room and your family and friends. After that, you can’t control what other people think.” .

Statements like this explain why Eric Johnson He says the mental part of McKinnon’s game has absorbed his physical feats. Johnson, 34, is the longest-serving avalanche player and has watched McKinnon’s development firsthand. He knows how difficult an adjustment can be for a young player entering the league, as the first choice to play in the NHL as a teenager was himself.

“Sometimes it’s hard to put the mental wear and tear and psychological grind of a season together right away,” Johnson said. “He’s really evolved to where he does everything possible to be his best.”

For McKinnon, this Including becoming a better leader. Hart’s loss provided a positive side as it was further evidence that he was among the best in the game. The next step was to find a way to take what he had learned to become a better player and use it to make Avalanche a better team.

This means sitting with Andrei Burakovsky, now with the Seattle Kraken, encouraging him to shoot more after seeing his advanced metrics. And working with Matt Calvert, the sixth-ranked striker, who was on track for his first 20-goal season before injuries and a brief pandemic season in 2019-20 derailed those plans. However, Calvert still made important changes, such as working with a skate coach to revamp his skates. Another was changing his diet. He credited McKinnon with this change, and McKinnon said it all came from Calvert and nothing more.

thanks for the Nikita ZadorovThe world gained more insight into McKinnon’s nutrition plan. Zadorov, now with Calgary Flames, said in Interview 2021 That MacKinnon had sweets, ice cream, and sodas removed from the team’s locker room, he even played a role in the team stopping serving carbonara sauce with pasta, replacing it with a healthier option.

As Zadorov said, with these moves, McKinnon made “pros” for the whole team.

“It’s not just about his success, not that he was before,” said Avalanche coach Jared Bednar. Now he’s thinking more of, ‘What should the team do? How does it all fit together? “He’s a man with a bigger picture. A man who loves [Gabriel Landeskog] He’s had this perspective for a number of years as Nate has grown into it in the past six years. He’s been getting better year by year, and last year, he’s been a great leader for us.”

McKinnon knew he would have to ease into the role. He said Landeskog’s presence as captain of the Avs helped as it gave McKinnon time to find his game and find his way to becoming a captain who can make a difference.

One of the steps McKinnon has taken is to ensure that young players feel valued. Maybe the starting point for that is his relationship with him Cal Makar. Earlier in McCar’s still young career, McKinnon spoke of the Calder Cup winner as if he had raised him as his own while raving about how McCar was already one of the best defenders in the league.

pointed to Bowen Byram, saying the 21-year-old was the third-best defensive player in the playoffs last year and raised his stats. He went on to say that players like Byram, who are still on their entry contracts, are very important because their performance is what helps the Stanley Cup contenders with outstanding players and big contracts at depth.

McKinnon, who debuted in 2013, when Byram was 12, said: “It’s a lot different now than it was when I got into the league, so I like to connect with them. It’s hard being young. Nowadays, you need Young people to win. It’s not like the old days when you treat freshmen like s—. You need them.”

McKinnon said he loves talking to his teammates about anything. So how does that work when it comes to having a difficult conversation if someone isn’t playing well? McKinnon said the time he spent with his teammates gave him a measure of what was working. He knows that some players may respond well to one approach while others may not. For him, it’s more about crafting a message and communicating it in a way that is more about teamwork than a scolding.

Right wing star Miko Rantanen He said that McKinnon has become more patient than he was five years ago.

“I watched it especially in the playoffs,” Rantanen said. “He was really calm in situations. If we had a bad period, he was calm and encouraged everyone to reset. There was a difference and it was fun to watch.”

What made McKinnon want to be a better leader, let alone be a leader at all? He could have just been the best player in the team and nothing more.

“I don’t feel good when you’re trying to be the best player you can be and I knew we wouldn’t win if I wasn’t better than the leader and I tried to make the players feel good and get the players excited or try to be the best that they can be,” McKinnon said. “We were very close and thought if I gave it a shot in the last round of qualifying, especially trying to make the players feel good every day – that doesn’t mean we won – but every little thing the players do has value.”

The idea that McKinnon would like to open up about what has brought him to this point in his career may be the strongest sign of his development. There was a time when McKinnon was so angry enough with himself in training, he would shoot his baton into the stands at the Ball Arena. You’ll sail 10 ranks or so, requiring the Equipment Manager to retrieve it while MacKinnon gets another one.

Rantanen smiled when he said McKinnon had managed to cut back on those moments, but admitted that they still happen from time to time. And while McKinnon’s throwing of his baton into the stands was too amazing to ignore, it was something people didn’t really ask him about.

but now? He will talk about it freely.

“I don’t mind it,” McKinnon said. “I love when men get angry.” “We were on skate optional and [Kurtis MacDermid] Punched a water bottle the other day. Love her. I don’t think it’s a bad thing if you do that. I threw the stick that day. Did not matter.

“I’m thinking away from the rink, you have to prepare yourself to be a leader, a good person comes to the rink and then you have that energy before you show up. All I have is that work has to be done before you play.”

Much has changed in the six years since the low point of the avalanche’s 48-point season. McKinnon no longer has to ask himself if he wants to remain a mediocre player. His focus shifted to wondering what could be done to get more banners hanging in the rafters of the Ball Arena.

So does that mean McKinnon will finally stop?

You can probably guess the answer. no he’s not.

“This is my journey and everyone is different,” McKinnon said. “Some men come in and take control. Master [Sidney Crosby]And the [Connor] mcdavidAnd the [Auston] Matthews, these guys. I was not. I had to kind of find my way around and I think once I did find my way for three or four years, I focused more on trying to help others and not just trying to make myself good. This is how you win.”

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