Colorado Avalanche 3rd Line Heroes


“Jamie (McGinn) is coming off a very good season and played an important role for our team.” — Joe Sakic

With Joe Sakic’s moves over the summer, the Colorado Avalanche are a much deeper team going into the 2014-15 season. The Avalanche’s top-6 are unlikely to reveal any surprises, as long as Alex Tanguay is healthy. It’s in the bottom-6 that positioning gets more interesting.

If head coach Patrick Roy follows true to form, it’s likely practically everyone not guaranteed a top-6 spot will have to earn his way on the team — heck, even P.A. Parenteau had to do so last season.

Center John Mitchell and winger Jamie McGinn are almost certain to make it into the lineup each night, and they’re likely to be the Colorado Avalanche 3rd line pairing of choice. Let’s review their statistics from last season.

John Mitchell Statistics

Center John Mitchell had one of the best seasons of his career. He had 11 goals, which is second only to his rookie year. His 21 assists was a career-high, as were his overall points of 32. He finished the year at a +13, another career high.

Mitchell spent the majority of the season centering the third line. His faceoff percentage was at a reasonable 50 percent. He managed more takeaways than giveaways, resulting in a turnover ration of +11.

Mitchell shows grittiness. He averaged over five hits per game, and that’s good for the Avalanche. He may not be a finesse scorer, but he has experience and provides solid depth for the Avalanche. Colorado seems to have faith in him, having rewarded him with a three-year extension worth $5.4 million. Sakic said at the time:

"“John is a proven NHL player who has been a very good addition to our team the past two seasons. He can play in different situations and we feel his presence and his versatility will continue to strongly benefit our team moving forward.”"

Jamie McGinn Statistics

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While the Avs Nation does not appreciate McGinn’s role in Matt Duchene’s knee injury late last season, we all acknowledge it was an accident.

On a positive note, McGinn also had a career year playing a lot on Duchene’s line. He recorded 19 goals and 19 assists for 38 points, all career highs. He was even better in his turnover percentage than Mitchell, recording a +19 ratio.

Last season McGinn earned a reputation for scoring big goals — not as frequently as Tyson Barrie, perhaps, but he did earn three game-winners. He’s an industrious winger with a strong work ethic who’s not afraid to lay the hits on.

The Avalanche also displayed their belief in him by way of a two-year contract extension worth $2.95 million.

One of the Colorado Avalanche’s summer acquisitions was center Daniel Briere, a trade from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for winger P.A. Parenteau. At the time of the acquisition, Sakic remarked that he might see time on Mitchell’s line, so let’s look at him next.

Daniel Briere Statistics

The 36-year-old Briere is thought to have his best days behind him. Three times in his career he’s had 30-goal seasons, and he’s had an additional three 20-goal seasons.

Last year was a different story. He recorded only 13 goals and 12 assists in 69 games for the Canadiens. Those aren’t terrible stats, and not too far off from either McGinn or Mitchell.

Briere is better-known for being a playoff performer. In 124 career playoff games, he’s scored 53 goals and 63 assists. That is some experience and production the Avalanche would like to make use of. He’s not big, though, and he’s known for being creative, not defensive.

On the other hand, Matt Duchene said of him during an interview with Sportsnet:

"“Danny, who’s one of the gutsiest players you’ll ever see in terms of he’s a smaller guy, but he plays hard, scores huge goals in the playoffs.”"

No question but Joe Sakic knows best, but I like him for the fourth line center position. Even on the decline he’s got much better numbers than Marc-Andre Cliche. Plus, the Avalanche may very well put some rookie blood into the mix at some point, and he would make an excellent role model for the youngsters.

While it’s likely coach Roy may give Max Talbot a chance to earn that spot, I’d like to propose winger Cody McLeod for the position.

Cody McLeod Statistics

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  • Cody McLeod’s never going to be accused of being a sniper or an elite scorer. He’s been labeled as an enforcer, though that’s an over-simplification of his role. Yes, he can fight — but that’s not all he can do. While he is physical, he also works hard in the corners.

    Last year was a middling year for him, points-wise. He only scored five goals and eight assists for 13 points. Of course he spent the majority of the year playing on a line with Cliche and Patrick Bordeleau, neither of whom are known for their scoring spark.

    McLeod is an energy player and a leader. He’s had better offensive seasons than last, having scored 15 goals one season and topping out at 20 points that same season.

    Coach Roy may very well give him a chance on the third line. He mentioned that he likes a line combination consisting of a scorer and a crash and bang style of player. McGinn’s got pretty soft hands. McLeod could be the grit needed to make that line more successful, thus relieving some of the scoring burden from the Avalanche top-six.

    So, while Joe Sakic may not have gone out and gotten huge names — beyond Iginla, of course — the team nonetheless has more pieces in place for another successful season. And maybe, just maybe, the third line will produce some heroics.