Welcome to the Burgundy Debate Club! We’ve tasked a pair of our staff writers to present why, and then why won’t, a certain Avalanche player might find success this coming season. In this episode, QueenJK makes the case for and Rudo makes the case against Mr Carl Soderberg. Take it away, QJK
Figuring out what to expect from Carl Soderberg this season is difficult because a lot of it depends on his usage. If he’s still in coach Bednar’s doghouse then he won’t have a chance to rebound. However, assuming the organization recognizes that he’s been a useful player as recent as a year ago when he put up 51 points and that Soderberg is earning 4.75 million dollars as the 4th highest paid forward on the team and that fact can’t just get buried in the press box along with undesirable players.
Betting on Soderberg to improve on the paltry 14 points he put up a year ago seems like easy money when his 4.7 and 6.4 on-ice shooting percentages are factored in. Add the fact that Soderberg played just over ten minutes on average per game in the second half of the season and had scant power play time then it’s easy to see why he didn’t produce. The season spiraling out of control didn’t help his confidence or rhythm either as apathy set in. Soderberg has been one of the healthiest players in the league over the past several years with a 228 game iron man streak and doesn’t have the wear that other NHL players have when they pass the 30 year old mark due to playing most of his 20s in Sweden.
How much better will Soderberg perform is the big question. If Bednar keeps him on a main power play unit like he did in the first preseason game then that will certainly help. Linemates may be another story as it looks like he’s not getting a chance with the skill forwards thus far. But as one of the older and more experienced players on the roster, Soderberg should be called upon to balance out some of the inexperienced youth. The ability seems to still be there with Soderberg, he and the coaching staff just have to figure out how to properly use it. I’m betting that the factors add up for the team to need and get more use out of him.
And now we will hear the counter-argument. Mr Rudo, you have the floor
At best Carl Soderberg has one last final shot to prove that he can still be an asset to this team. With the Duchene situation still not resolved and players like J.T. Compher, Alex Kerfoot and Nail Yakupov coming on like gang busters in the preseason, Soderberg seems all but locked out of the top six. Even the third line is in question as the Avs very likely want to groom Tyson Jost to be a center going forward. This leaves Soderberg with two options, fourth line center or play the wing.
If Soderberg ends up slotting into the 4th line role he would be one of the highest paid 4th liners in the league. Expecting a bounce back year from him while he is playing 12 minutes a night with low quality linemates just isn’t realistic. What made Soderberg so successful in Boston and his initial year with the Avs was his playmaking ability. If his most common linemates are players like Comeau and Nieto (both carry a career shooting percentage well under 10%), even top end playmakers would struggle to pick up assists. It doesn’t matter how pretty a pass you give someone if they pound the puck right into the goalie’s chest.
On top of this it’s clear that Soderberg has lost a little something. You don’t go from 39 assists to 8 just because you have weak linemates. Nor is it a result of reduced ice time as he saw his assists per 60 minutes drop from 1.58 in 2015-16 to just .45 in 2016-17. Certainly some of that can be attributed to the majority of the team including Soderberg just coasting for the majority of the back half of the season, but at the same time Soderberg was 31 for all of last season and will turn 32 this October. On average NHL forwards start to see significant fall-off past the age of 30 and it only gets worse as time goes on. For aging veterans once you hit the falling off point it is extremely hard to bounce back and for Soderberg he has extra problems working against him.
Carl Soderberg has a bad eye, it’s something we all know but also something we forget about when hoping for a return to form. While Soderberg officially has 20/80 vision in his left eye, when interviewed about it he talks about how he doesn’t really see much more than shadowy outlines of players from it while on the ice. He learned to play with it, in fact you could even make the case that the problem improved some of the other aspects of his game significantly, but it still limits his versatility. Playing the right side is pretty much impossible for him as that puts the majority of the ice on his blind side. While he can function on the left he still runs into issues with pucks along the boards and the like, he is most effective at the center position and it is going to be hard for him to find ice time with the Avs there going forward. As his skills start to decline with age the issues with his eye are only going to compound the problem.
The inevitable buyout of Soderberg’s contract will stand as yet another stain reminding the Avs not to make the mistake of giving a 30(+) year-old veteran both term and money again.
/ / / / / /
Thanks, both of you. What say you, dear reader? Will the staff figure out how to properly use Carl and take advantage of his positive aspects? Or will the season spiral towards a buyout next summer?