Patrick Roy and the Colorado Avalanche have some tough decisions to make in training camp. The toughest one might be picking the sixth forward to play on one of the top two lines.
While nothing is guaranteed, it’s safe to assume that Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly, Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Jarome Iginia will be five of the Avs top six forwards. Who plays on what line is still up in the air, but it’d be pretty surprising if one of those plays finds themselves on the third line, which is likely to be centered by John Mitchell.
The Case for Jamie McGinn
The Avs just extended McGinn’s contract in the off-season, paying him $2.95 million over the next two years. He’s coming off a very productive season that saw him score 19 goals and record 19 assists. He bounced around from line to line early in the season, but once injuries hit, he found himself playing alongside Duchene and O’Reilly for most of the season. McGinn fit in well, using his scoring ability around the net and hard work to help Duchene and O’Reilly put up career numbers.
The Case for Alex Tanguay
Jarome Iginla already stated that Tanguay was a big reason why he decided to sign with Colorado. The two spent four whole seasons together in Calgary. Iginla scored 164 goals during that time while Tanguay had 182 assists. It shouldn’t be shocking that those numbers are so close together as the two often played on the same line. Tanguay still has excellent vision and passing ability while Iginla still knows how to put the puck in the back of the net. A reunion between the two could lead to another 30+ goal season for Iginia.
If It’s McGinn
There’s little reason to think that, if McGinn is picked to be the final forward, he’ll once again be on a line with Duchene and O’Reilly. That would give the Avs a second line of MacKinnon, Landeskog, and Iginla while Tanguay would find himself with Mitchell and Daniel Briere on the third line. This scenario could either elevate the play of the third line or be a complete misuse of Tanguay if Mitchell and Briere can’t play up to Tanguay’s level.
If It’s Tanguay
The second line would become MacKinnon, Iginla, Tanguay while the top line would be Duchene, Landeskog, and O’Reilly. While that looks good, let’s not forget that Landeskog is a natural left winger while O’Reilly is a center who converted to left wing last season. So, in this scenario, Roy would be asking O’Reilly to shift positions for a third straight season or ask Landeskog to play out of position. Either scenario could end in potential disaster for the Avs. However, a third line of Mitchell, McGinn, and Briere sounds like an excellent third line that will combine smart defensive play with hard working, nothing flashy, offense and enough ability to score goals.
The good news for Patrick Roy and the Colorado Avalanche is that they don’t have to make any kind of decision until after training camp, where they can evaluate the players and their chemistry. Personally, I’d move O’Reilly to the right side with Duchene and Landeskog and play Tanguay with Iginla and MacKinnon. As he did last season, O’Reilly showed that he can adapt and, given what happened in the off-season, hopefully he’ll have no problem doing so again.