Upgrade Your Fandom

Join the Ultimate DNVR Sports Community!

Avalanche Film Room: How Jean-Luc Foudy used a benching to change his game

AJ Haefele Avatar
November 10, 2022

Ahhh, back in the Avalanche Film Room. Now, this is comfortable. Before we get too far into this piece, it’s vital I say that if you have not already read Meghan Angley’s piece on Jean-Luc Foudy from earlier today, you stop and do that first. I will be making frequent references to it. It’s free and unlocked so no excuses.

Done?

Great, let’s get into it.

Let’s start where Meghan did. As is frequently the case with young players and their development curves, this is a tale of two players, two approaches, two mentalities.

There’s the “before” player, the one who got drafted, got into pro hockey, dreams of playing in the NHL but isn’t ready for the best league in the world just yet. Then there is the “after” player, the one who faced an important crossroads in his career where he had to decide to stay true to what got him there or plant new seeds and grow his game in uncomfortable ways, adding to his arsenal.

The “after” player is typically the one whose roots grow strongest and eventually finds their way to the show. While we’re not quite there yet with Colorado Eagles forward Jean-Luc Foudy, if we eventually get there, we can point to the moment he went from the “before” player to the “after” player.

That moment is last March when he was healthy scratched and given a new set of hockey values. He needed to let go of some of his stubbornness, trust the coaches and veteran teammates around him, and embrace the mentality of some of the players who had come before him that were successful in using the AHL as a launchpad to the NHL.

One of the big criticisms of Foudy’s game has been his perimeter-oriented game. As a player with decent size but a slight build, going inside the home plate area is dangerous for a guy like him. That’s where all the rough and tumble stuff happens and Foudy has shied away from that area of the ice most of his life.

If he wants to get to the next level, however, that area is going to be vital. We can see from his goal and shot map last year that while he got there occasionally, he wasn’t keen on living there.

The goal map is encouraging because he shows an ability to score from multiple locations. As a player whose shot was among his biggest weaknesses in his draft year, this is a positive development overall.

That said, when you see the breakdown of shots (on goal/attempted), you see that his 27 shots right in front of the goal were his second-highest, but only fourth-highest in actual attempts. He was still quite comfortable hanging on the outside areas.

This year, however, you see the difference already taking shape.

Right in front of the goaltender? Now the most common location of Foudy’s shot attempts, and his next-highest is still in the middle of the ice. Considering that he’s moved to right wing full-time, Foudy getting his shots in those areas shows a change in mentality. He’s making a conscious effort to get to the dirty areas and we’re seeing it pay dividends.

Those goals aren’t just clean breakaways, either. Here’s his goal reel so far this season (he is #93).

The one breakaway in the bunch has Foudy scoring by putting it between his legs to score it. All four goals are a mixture of high hockey IQ (the first goal, especially, is a great read to slide off his defender and move to the front of the net), an improving shot (goals two and three), and his natural skating ability (the fourth goal).

So far this season, he’s registered four goals and five assists for nine points in 10 games. It’s a similar scoring pace as he showed in the postseason last year, when he scored seven points (4G, 3A) in nine playoff games as he took his game to an entirely new level in the Eagles’ most successful postseason since joining the AHL.

Before the postseason last year, Foudy had just 12 goals in 99 AHL games. Starting in the playoffs, he has eight goals in his last 19 games. Goals aren’t everything for a player, especially one whose sublime playmaking is arguably his greatest strength.

He has five assists on the year but these two really stood out to me from the pack.

These aren’t the traditional Jean-Luc Foudy assists, where he skates around the zone and makes a brilliant backdoor feed to an open player. No, these are greasy assists, ones that require him to go to the net, be involved in unpredictable scrambles around the net and make a play.

There’s nothing spectacular about them, but that’s the beauty of them specifically coming from Foudy. He’s a player who has always had the gift of producing highlight-reel plays. You go back and watch his draft-year film and you’ll see a guy you can’t believe dropped to the third round of the draft. His natural gifts are that good. It’s putting it all together in a package that works in pro hockey that has been the challenge.

One of hockey’s great axioms is simply, “Go to the net.” It goes back to the mentality change mentioned above, the stubbornness that Cronin attributes to Foudy, and the new set of values that can help elevate Foudy’s game.

Here are a couple of examples of Foudy simply going to the net, keeping it simple.

Again, not sexy. Nothing about this is going to go on YouTube with Rage Against the Machine blaring behind it. It isn’t that kind of show Foudy is putting on. No, this show is a lot more substance than style. It’s just good, hard, effective hockey.

You can even see the difference in Foudy’s game from that March benching of last year.

Before benching:

.38 points per game
2.5 shots per game
52% Corsi For
14:36 TOI

After benching (including postseason):

.59 points per game
2.6 shots per game
58% Corsi For
14:00 TOI

This Season:

.90 points per game
3.2 shots per game
60% Corsi For
16:01 TOI

You can see the slow ramp-up from last year to this year. He’s started out the year as an extremely effective player. To further this, here’s the heatmap of where he’s impacting the ice in the offensive zone.

Looks damn encouraging to me.

The changes to Foudy’s game have been subtle. The impact it’s having on the Eagles, and his future prospects to potentially push for an Avalanche call-up, is anything but subtle.

With a new mindset, Foudy is off to by far the best start of his AHL career. His pace right now would have him shatter the career-high 26 points he set last year with a 65-point season. I’m not necessarily expecting Foudy to stay at that level, but if he can continue to embrace this new mentality and grittiness to his game, we could be talking about Foudy helping the Avalanche sooner than later.

Scroll to next article

Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?