Strike 2: Locker rooms are special places. What fans can’t see (and what the media sees and relays is very muted) is oftentimes just as important to the success of a team as what they get accomplished in the film room or the practice field.

The dynamics of a locker room – where superstars, journeymen and raw rookies share the same space – are actually really important to the success of every team. Who’s the leader? Who is the guy(s) that needs to be given space? Who are the cut ups? Who are the guys to speak up when something needs to be said?

For the Colorado Avalanche, their most important “voice” has been missing for most of the past two seasons. Gabe Landeskog remains the Avalanche “Captain,” but only in absentia. Nevertheless, defenseman Devon Toews stepped into the role after a recent loss to lowly Chicago to send a strong message to his teammates – via the media – who he felt were not in sync with the bulk of the group and underperforming as a result. His coach, Jared Bednar, said simply, “He’s not wrong.”

There were no mixed signals, no minced words. A frustrated Toews was undoubtedly speaking for a core group of Avalanche veterans, guys who know how to win and what it’s going to take to get this very talented group back on track towards another Stanley Cup run.

And those who were the target of Toews direct quotes clearly knew who they were, too.

This sort of thing can go two very different directions. If the targeted players chose to, they could easily gather together and begin a fracture within the room that could eventually cause a Stanley Cup favorite to crack apart. or the message could get received as intended and serve as impetus for renewed focus and motivation.

Based on the two games that the Avs have won since Toews sent his message via the media, it looks right now like it’s the latter. That’s great news for Colorado hockey fans.

In these kinds of situations, it has to be a well-respected veteran player that speaks out, either in public (via the media) or in private, to facilitate change and improvement. Toews clearly fits the bill. Coaches and managers do so much talking during the course of a season, that when a team is struggling, it’s easy for players to simply tune out. I had a manager once who hated team meetings. He said, “Good teams don’t need them, and bad teams don’t listen.” He was probably right about that, especially when he was the one doing the talking.

But it’s different when it involves players only.

I had another situation where a future Hall of Fame player called a players-only meeting to call out another standout player for his demeanor and negative influence in the clubhouse. With no coaches around, and the locker room all to ourselves, the Hall of Famer asked the standout directly to his face, “What exactly do you want from us? We’re your teammates. We’re in this together, remember?”

On that occasion, only minimal improvement resulted, but at least 24 of us felt better about the situation, having gotten everything out in the open. Sometimes just getting things off your chest can have a benefit.

No telling if Toews or anyone else in the Avalanche locker room gathered the entire team – sans coaches – behind closed doors or not to discuss the team’s struggles. But something must have happened. Things got better almost immediately. If you’re an Avalanche fan, you just hope that the message doesn’t have to be sent like that again this season.