Sebastian Hedley-Noble The Hockey Writers
Grading the Avalanche Defense and Goaltending
Now that report cards are finished for Colorao’s forwards, it’s time to wrap it up by grading the Avalanche defense and goaltending. As mentioned in the previous review, the Avs as a whole started the season off in terrible fashion.
With a tweak to the defensive system after man on man was clearly not working, Patrick Roy went to the traditional zone coverage and it helped the entire team, most of all the defense of course. However if they intend on contending for the Stanley Cup, Colorado must bring in a top 3 defenseman at the very least.
Barrie, Tyson. B
GP.80 G.12 A.41 P.53
One of the highest scoring defenders in the league this season, Tyson Barrie broke out in a big way. I believe Barrie will be one of the very best offensive defenseman in the NHL very soon. Tyson still needs to work on his defensive side of the game, but you can tell that he has and will continue to get much better in that area.
Most people never think of Tyson Barrie when talking elite offensive defenseman, that is all about to change. Barrie is currently playing more great hockey for team Canada at the IIHF World Championship in Prague.(see my reviews on our Canadian Avs)
Guenin, Nate. D+
GP.76 G.2 A.13 P.15
Nate Guenin is a decent bottom pairing defender. The problem is he plays top 4 minutes. He was average, so he gets an average grade. Guenin needs to be put on the bottom pairing or used as the Avs 7th defenseman.
Hejda, Jan. C+
GP.81 G.1 A.12 P.13
One of Colorado’s better defensive defenseman, Jan Hejda just kept on being himself. A very solid, reliable top 4 defenseman. Hejda has been a great partner for Barrie allowing him to move forward while he holds the line. A decent season, though I gave him a C+ because Hejda can put up a bit better numbers than he did.
Hejda is currently playing as one of the alternate captains for his Czech Republic at the IIHF World Championship.
Holden, Nick. D
GP.78 G.5 A.9 P.14
Nick Holden had a great first complete season with the Avs in 2013-14, putting up very nice numbers for a player who has spent most of his professional career in the AHL. However this past season, Holden regressed in his play and much like Guenin is playing more minutes than he should. Something NEEDS to be done about that.
Johnson, Erik. A / INJURED
GP.47 G.12 A.11 P.23
Erik Johnson was having a breakout year leading all defenders with 12 goals before he went down with a knee injury. Johnson was elected to his first ever All-Star game, but was not able to participate due to the injury happening just prior to the game. Just terrible timing for him and the Avalanche.
Johnson has finally emerged as a true number 1 defenseman in the league. He is huge and can skate extremely well while becoming much more effective in his own zone. Another solid season under his belt with continued offensive production and there will be no question about it. People who called him a bust, have not been heard from lately.
Redmond, Zach. C
GP.59 G.5 A.15 P.20
Redmond was used as the 7th defender for most of the year until EJ got injured. He is a bit of a question mark going forward. He is a decent bottom pairing guy, and one the Avs should rate higher than Holden or Guenin.
Redmond could be useful if given the right partner. 20 points in 59 games is not too shabby. Hopefully he can improve on his defensive play to round out his game nicely.
Stuart, Brad. C+
GP.65 G.3 A.10 P.13
Brad Stuart was acquired by the Colorado Avalanche in the summer from San Jose for a 2nd round pick. The move was questioned, and probably still will be for a bit. The defense needed improvement, and Brad Stuart is a Stanley Cup champion who provides great leadership, and can still play some darn good defensive hockey.
Stuart’s addition instantly made the Avs tougher to play against, no doubt about it.
Wilson, Ryan. INCOMPLETE / INJURED
GP.3 G.0 A.0 P.0
Ryan Wilson skated in only 3 games at the start of the season before suffering another injury. This time, it was shoulder surgery that kept him out for the entire year. Really an unfortunate situation. Wilson was looking great to start the year and Avs fans perhaps thought the old hard-hitting Ryan Wilson was back. It was not in the cards however.
Have we seen the last of Ryan Wilson? Most likely, given his injury history. Though if he can get healthy again, he would be an upgrade over several of the Avs current defenseman.
Bottom line is that Colorado cannot go through another season with the same defense and expect to get better. Their transition game is one of the biggest problems. They need improvement in that area, and once that happens, they WILL become contenders.
Berra, Ret0. C-
GP.19 W.5 GAA.2.65 SV%.918
Reto Berra was pretty terrible his first few games he started, though he was very sharp towards the end of the season. That couldn’t have been an easy year for him sitting so much and then getting outplayed by Calvin Pickard.
The big problem with Reto Berra is his consistency, he will let in a soft goal one shift and stand on his head the next. But at least Berra finished well and gave the Avs something to think about moving forward.
Pickard, Calvin. A
GP.16 W.6 GAA.2.35 SV%.932
When Semyon Varlamov was sidelined with a groin issue on two separate occasions, Calvin Pickard was called up and outplayed Reto Berra completely. As you can see, his numbers are outstanding for a young rookie goaltender.
The Avalanche will have a hard decision whether to keep Pickard with the team next year, or stay with Berra as the back up while Picks gets much more ice-time in the AHL.
Varlamov, Semyon. B
GP.57 W.28 GAA.2.56 SV%.921
Semyon Varlamov continued to see lots of shots during the first half of the season. When Patrick Roy tweaked the defensive system, it definitely worked as the shots against were lowered considerably. Varly suffered some unfortunate minor groin injuries during the year and was taken out of his rhythm a bit. He wasn’t in Vezina form like the season before, but Varlamov was very solid yet again.
One of the world’s best goalies, the Colorado Avalanche have no worries at all in net right now. They are set for the foreseeable future with Varlamov and Pickard, potentially making a great goaltending tandem as soon as next year.
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