Avalanche Wheel O’ Defensemen

The Avs organization made several moves Tuesday on the defensive side involving all three levels. Quick recap:

Anton Lindholm activated from Injured Reserve
Chris Bigras assigned to the Rampage
Andrei Mironov assigned to the Rampage
Duncan Siemens recalled to the Avalanche
Gabriel Verpaelst re-assigned to the Eagles

For the Avalanche…

Anton Lindholm has been rehabbing a broken jaw that tragically took him out for the trip to his native Sweden. Now with a special lower cage for his helmet he’s good to go. The staff really likes him and despite a mediocre training camp where he ended up in San Antonio for a day and some up and down play before the injury to boot they seem to have confidence in him they don’t with some of the other youngsters. I’m in a bit of a minority but I agree here. I think Lindy’s simple, smart game works and his problems are pretty much limited to mediocre puck skills.

Andrei Mironov has gone through several phases this season. He played opening night and looked lost then was benched for what seemed like a few months. We found out that he might have been understanding 10% of what the coaches were telling him, which was a big problem. After a long absence and some English lessons he went to the Rampage for 3 games, looked fine there by the way, and returned to the Avs. He was noticeably better but not better enough to play more than 8 or 9 minutes a night. This re-assignment makes a lot of sense, the dude needs experience more than anything else and he’s not proficient enough in the NHL to get much PT.

Chris Bigras had a solid training camp and start to the season. As the games went by he seemed to lose confidence or decision making ability or something important. He’s never been able to drive shot metrics well and that coupled with some alarming turnovers and play that everyone agrees is “jittery” dropped him out of the lineup. It continued to get worse and so here we are with a re-assignment to the AHL.

Duncan Siemens was given every opportunity to make the Avs in camp and frankly just choked. His performance as much as any of the other Ds was the impetus for the Avs to claim Patrik Nemeth off waivers on the eve of the season. Fast forward 20 games in the AHL and Duncan has been awarded a reprieve. He’s been solid as usual in San Antonio, anchoring the defensive side of the defense and minding Nic Meloche when he’s in the lineup. What remains to be seen are the Avs intentions with this promotion. Is he there to play? Is a more or less permanent roster spot available for him? Is he just a safety net or placeholder until some plug crosses the waiver wire?

Avs D Depth Chart:

Girard – Johnson
Zadorov – Barrie
Barberio – Lindholm
Nemeth (injured and not close)

The staff has tried a lot of different pairings and given opportunities to all 9 guys that have games in burgundy & blue this year to claim spots and roles. So far, other than EJ and Barrie who were there in permanent marker, only Sam Girard has solidified a spot in the starting 6. After some issues, Nikita Zadorov looks pretty close but he’s looked close before too.

Mark Barberio is treated like a solid vet although he really isn’t and is honestly being asked to play a role he’s not suited for. He makes decisions quickly and too many are unwise unfortunately. If he was paired with a solid defensive partner then the staff could take better advantage of his offensive skills but that’s really not an option with the current personnel. Right now his hidden role is target for the youngsters. All they have to do is outplay him consistently and the job is theirs.

What today’s moves do is get rid of the logjam and the staff’s imperative to find playing time for 8 guys, put Bigras and Miro in San Antonio where they can work out their problems and perhaps give Duncan one more shot. In other words, they gain stability or at least the appearance of such.

For the Rampage…

San Antonio loses their best defensive defenseman and one of two veterans on the blueline. They gain a skilled playmaker (in the AHL) in Bigras and a solid defensive D in Mironov.

Rampage D Depth Chart

Bigras – Mironov
Butler – Schmaltz (The Bloos Brothers)
Warsofsky – Meloche
Geertsen (suspended)

I don’t know if that’s how they get racked up, other than the Blues guys together, but it’s going to be something like that. Mason’s suspension is up after one more game so things change then, and up until the suspension worthy hit he’s been very solid. Warsofsky has been an unmitigated disaster and is worse in the defensive zone than Nail Yakupov. We’ll see if Coach Veilleux can ignore his salary and age long enough to scratch him and play Nic Meloche like he should. Sooner or later someone in the Avs organization has to take the reins and make it clear that the primary function of an AHL affiliate is to develop young talent and not be a jobs program for washed up veterans that are never going to play in the NHL.

Just to give Gabe Verpaelst some press, he played in last Saturday’s game due to Mason’s suspension and an injury to Schmaltz. As far as I can tell he did ok, he’s a fan favorite with the Eagles and has 3G/3A there along with quite a few (55) penalty minutes.

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Five moves on the same day is a pretty big deal, this is obviously something that folks in the org at several levels had to work out and figure the best way to distribute needs and goals for the next few weeks. Bigras and Miro need playing time if they are going to contribute at the NHL level, now they have access to those minutes and the staff in Colorado don’t have to balance trying to win games with trying to develop too many guys at once. They also don’t have to play a defenseman that they only feel comfortable playing less than 10 minutes a game for the time being and they have the space to keep two extra forwards rather than two extra D, which seems to be more in tune with their strategy.

Distributing the D this way also makes the Rampage a better team at no net cost to the org. Defensive zone play is where they’ve had their struggles so far this year and this just makes a good team better. However you may feel about the personnel choices involved these moves have the potential to make both clubs better in the short term and perhaps for the rest of the season too. If the players involved take advantage of the situation then it makes them better as well. It’s putting a lot of faith where none is justified but plenty of other changes have taken hold in the org this year, maybe this works too.


Scoring LW, punchy climber for the Ardennes classics, spirit guide

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