With Tyson Jost and JT Compher out with injuries the Avs faced the first challenging personnel decision of the season. Initial reports have both of them out for 2-3 weeks, which I’ll optimistically go along with, so if that’s the case they’ll miss around 8 games and likely return for the trip to Stockholm.
Jost has already missed a couple games with a knee injury and some time in pre-season with groin issues. He’s been used in a variety of roles from 4th line center to shutdown winger to finally getting a chance on the Avs top line in the game he was injured. Replacing his role is a matter of someone from the lower lines moving up the ladder.
Compher is a different story. He along with Gabe Landeskog have been the heavy lifters in the lineup, taking a lot of shutdown matchups, playing a lot of 5v5 minutes and still managing half a point per game. That role is basically impossible to fill with one player in the organization so it will have to come by committee.
I have no desire to rehash the org’s mistakes of the past in these situations so let’s just say that calling up Gabe Bourque and AJ Greer was the right thing to do. Of the 6 or 7 gentlemen on the Rampage roster that were in the conversation for these spots, these 2 were at the top of the list both for their capabilities and their performance so far this season.
Bourque was the slam dunk pick here, last forward cut in camp and has almost 250 NHL games worth of experience. He’s solid defensively, can kill penalties and can chip in with a point every few games. The staff know they can count on his consistency and competency.
The one positive aspect of having two young forwards injured is that it allows the org to supplement the conservative pick in Bourque with another youngster with upside. AJ Greer had a baffling pre-season. Instead of the big, skilled winger we saw last year he arrived in camp as Mr Sandpaper, bent on pissing off anyone within his reach regardless of what team they were on. Finally he got beat up and sustained a concussion, perhaps for his own good. He returned from his head injury this past weekend with the Rampage and Mr Sandpaper was gone, replaced by the big, skilled winger we all know and love. He played a solid 200 foot game, had an assist in both games and generally looked like a guy that was about to be called up to the NHL.
As far what the Avs staff has planned for these two fellows it’s not hard to guess. Greer should start with an offensively biased line at first and then they can go from there. Bourque can do whatever’s asked of him as far as bottom line and PK duties. The team have 13 healthy forwards now so there’s no guarantee both play immediately.
Long term is a different story. Bourque will continue to be the utility tweener, although with Matt Nieto struggling there’s always the chance that spot is up for grabs. Greer’s situation has a lot more upside. Many of us expected him to compete and win a job on the Avs out of training camp. That didn’t happen thanks to Mr Sandpaper and the concussion but even when Jost and Compher return there could be a permanent spot available to him. The key will be how he adjusts to defensive responsibilities in the NHL, whether he can genuinely add points to the lineup and if he can gain the trust of the staff in more situations than those he might be competing against.