For years the Avs defenseman corps has been maligned publicly by media members and obliquely by team management. Aging expensive stopgaps and dime-store projects were used to fill holes that everyone knew needed to be populated by young talented players, it just never happened until now. It’s still far from optimum but the construction is sound.
Now there’s a different issue, plenty of youngsters that need time on the ice and spots on the NHL roster and only a limited amount to give them. These are the problems we’ve wanted to see for over a decade.
We’ve thrown out a couple of questions to the Burgundy Rainbow staff on this topic, here’s what we came up with:
The Avs are dealing with the paradox of too many forward injuries while also having too many defensemen on the roster. As players get healthy but not 100%, the 8 Ds might be a luxury they can’t afford. What’s the best way to deal with this?
SeaMill: It seems like they take the 7 best D in their minds. It seems like Mironov would get sent down since Lindholm has grasped the love of the guys in charge and Bednar. Mironov playing in San Antonio might be good for him to settle in more but honestly, he just seems like depth at this point. I am also a big advocator for momentum, stability, and confidence being a huge factor in performance. Players being scratched every other game so other players can play is something I have never been a fan of. Let the guys make mistakes, learn from them in game situations, and let them get chemistry together. Play the same D consistently.
Vlad: How about pulling a reverse Brent Burns and converting Tyson Barrie to a forward? Anyone?
No. That would be a silly idea. I think this is where the Avalanche organization needs to definitively embrace their #youngerfaster mantra and allow its younger defensemen more playing, even if it results in games (and points) lost this season. The Avs are still wearing their LOLabel from last season, so exploring the trade market at this point in the season doesn’t guarantee that they will receive their asking price in doing so. However, for a defenseman such as Mark Barberio, who is 27 and on a cheap contract expiring at the end of season, perhaps a lower-round draft choice–maybe a fourth-round pick to replace the one sent to Nashville in the Colin Wilson trade?–which would help alleviate the logjam on the blueline while giving the young guys more ice time and bolstering the Avs’ draft stock. If the trade market isn’t viable, an alternative could be using the waiver wire on Barberio and, should future outings continue to be problematic for Patrik Nemeth, do the same for him (once his thirty-day exemption period expires). This would turn the defense over to Erik Johnson and Barrie as the blue line vets and giving the likes of Chris Bigras, Anton Lindholm, Andrei Mironov, and Nikita Zadorov the opportunity to make (or break?) their NHL legacy.
QueenJK: Mironov going to the AHL seems like the easiest and most logical move, which everyone probably agrees with. Let’s assume that politics override logic here and Mironov stays, then it’s likely just status quo. Ideally, they probably would prefer to keep only one extra forward and defenseman anyway so Mironov hanging out as the 23rd roster player doesn’t really change the complexion of the roster. A real crazy solution would be to actually trade someone but we can’t count on that to happen.
Mike@MHH: Obviously, the way to go is to force TBL and MTL to rescind the trade so we can then deal Duchene and one of Bigras or Miro for Sergachev, or failing that, go back in time and make sure the Avs win a few less games so they can draft Sergachev themselves. Is that what you meant by paradox?
Rudo: The best option would be trading Mark Barberio for whatever we can get for him but that may not be the most realistic option. As it stands now when the injured forwards get healthy Bourque will be sent back to the AHL.There’s also a good chance Grimaldi gets sent down as well. That puts us at 24 with just 1 more to be cut. That comes down to Greer or Mironov, both players that could benefit from getting good minutes down in San Antonio. If Greer earns a permanent roster spot over the next few games then things may change a bit but at this point he hasn’t proven it for me and I expect to see him sent back down. With that said, if Mironov is willing to go to the AHL I would love to get him some games down there as well, running a 22 man roster is just fine for now or you could even keep someone like Bourque up to be the resident press box man for a 23rd player.
earl: There’s definitely a gap between Andrei Mironov and the rest of the defensemen. The Avs have a decision to make about whether that gap is going to close at all and how long that’s going to take. From what I’ve seen out of Miro both in the NHL and with the Rampage, he needs to play and the AHL is the place to give him time to improve. If I had to make an honest depth chart right now, he would be no higher than 9th and probably lower than that. Keeping him in Colorado does nothing for him and puts the Avs in a place where a roster spot they could use for day-to-day injuries is taken up by a guy that shouldn’t be on the roster. If sending him to the AHL results in him returning to Russia then so be it. Long term if he’s to be of any benefit to the org some development has to happen.
Nikita Zadorov was scratched 2 games in a row last week and Jared Bednar remarked that it was performance related. Make your case for either putting Z back in the lineup Thursday OR scratching him once again.
SeaMill: Zadorov has not looked good, that’s evident. However, like i said earlier, let your players get in a groove. If they are scratched continually, then they will not get in that groove and lose confidence. Z needs to play, albeit in a smaller role to let him know that he needs to improve. Let him play some easier competition, get his feet back under him, and then gradually increase his responsibilities. Scratching him more might not be the best thing for him, but none of us know what’s going on behind the scenes and every player is different. If this is what is best for Z in Bednar’s mind then so be it. He is an NHL head coach for a reason. But overall, I am on the #LetZPlay side of the argument.
Vlad: After earning(?) his two-game benching due to performance-related issues, Zadorov absolutely must return to the lineup against the Carolina Hurricanes. This is a clear “teaching” moment for Zadorov: there are expectations that Bednar and Co. have for the young Russian, and being scratched for consecutive games is reflective of Zadorov’s play not meeting those criteria. Zadorov has to be held accountable for bringing his very best every night–especially if he is going to be utilized as a top-four defenseman–and having to wait a total of nine calendar days to get back in the lineup ought to help motivate him for a stretch of three games in four nights. Zadorov has the opportunity to use this time wisely to study his game, refine his tactics, and approach Thursday night’s contest with renewed focus and determination. How Zadorov responds to this challenge will likely determine his role in the lineup this season and possibly long-term.
QueenJK: It’s not great seeing Zadorov scratched but I can’t get too outraged about it when guys like Chris Bigras are sitting as well. It’s tough when there’s four “youngerfaster” defensemen on the roster and it’s understandable the staff probably isn’t wild about the idea of pairing two together. That said, two games is enough to get the message through and get Zadorov back out there. If they want to maintain the idea that this is some sort of merit based system they have going here, Patrik Nemeth could stand to get a night off after his showing against Chicago. He has even less NHL experience than Zadorov so they can’t even lean on the veteran crutch as their excuse.
Mike@MHH: I think you need to put Z back in the lineup for Carolina. I’m not sure you need to pair him with Johnson though. And I’m not for advocating breaking up Barrie and Nemeth. So I guess what I’m getting to is that he needs to be in, but he needs to earn his top 4 minutes and not just be slotted back in.
Rudo: Zadorov must 100% be back in lineup against Carolina. Poor performance leading to a 1 game scratch is perfectly fine, message sent. A 2nd game seems to be a bit of a stiff penalty for someone you are expecting to play in your top 4 going forward. Add on to that the 4 days off the Avs have coming up to practice in, if Zad is looking so poor in practice that Bednar feels the need to scratch him for a 3rd consecutive game it is becoming a real issue. Coming off an injury to end last season and then the awkwardness of how his offseason played out for him I’m willing to give him so leeway in getting back up to speed here. Let him play through it and get back to where he was before his injury, as long as he is back to form before midseason there should be no need to panic.
earl: I like the competition over TOI the Avs have going now and it’s something that’s going to play out through the season. Every D besides EJ & Barrie should be getting a night off here and there. Taking Miro out of the rotation should ameliorate the need to scratch players for more than a game or two at a time. So do that for sure.
Big Z has gone from opening night scratch to consistent 3rd/4th in TOI back to scratch in 11 games. It’s definitely troubling but I don’t think it’s unwarranted. I also don’t think this is a message to Z specifically, it’s a message to everyone that the staff are going to select the 6 defensemen they think will help the team both short and long term to play every night. Since Zadorov’s scoring isn’t picking up like we’d hoped he has to play solidly in the d-zone and make good decisions every shift. He can do that but hasn’t demonstrated he can do that consistently, which is what the staff want to see before they lock him into the lineup. I want to see him back in Thursday night, even if he’s ineffective again he deserves the chance to show what he can do on the ice after a break.
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What say you, dear reader? How should the staff craft the roster at this point in the season? Does Big Z deserve to play on Thursday?