Colorado Avalanche Defense: Are Beauchemin, Zadorov The Ultimate Solution?


Going into the 2015 offseason, everybody agreed that the Colorado Avalanche’s main problem was the defense. There were in fact no two opinions on the matter — the defense had to improve. Luckily, Avs management around GM Joe Sakic and coach Patrick Roy agreed as well.

It is one thing to admit that you have a problem, but a whole different one to do something about it. So it was quite nice to see that the Avalanche seemingly fixed the issue within one week. The club traded Ryan O’Reilly — which is a big story by itself — and got 20-year-old defenseman Nikita Zadorov as part of the return. Only five days later, on the first day of 2015 NHL free agency, former Anaheim Duck Francois Beauchemin was signed to a three-year contract.

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But were those moves really enough to fix the defense? To answer that question, we have to look at who was there last season, where those players are now, who we are looking at right now and who we are looking at in the future. Let’s begin with last season.

In 2014-15, the Colorado Avalanche’s defense featured two very good NHL-caliber players in Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie, one good defenseman that is steadily declining in Jan Hejda. Additionally, the Avs had to rely on Brad Stuart, a fairly old D-man that is below NHL level by now, as well as Nate Guenin, Nick Holden and Zach Redmond, who are all seventh defensemen at best.

Out of that group, only Jan Hejda has left the team, as the Avalanche decided not to re-sign him. The rest is still available for the upcoming campaign. Therefore, we are looking at eight defensemen that are on the roster for 2015-16.

Two of the big issues on defense were that neither Johnson nor Barrie had legitimate partners who deserved being on their respective line. The No. 1 priority this offseason was to find a partner for Johnson and the Avalanche did exactly that. Francois Beauchemin led the Ducks in time on ice last season and was a valuable part of their defense.

Beauchemin is 35 years old and a three-year contract seems long because of that, but he is an immediate upgrade over all other defensemen besides Johnson and Barrie. There is a long list of D-prospects that want to join the NHL sooner or later and Beauchemin could slowly slide down the depth chart, while filling a mentor-role for the next three years. A very valuable signing at a decent price ($4.5 million).

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Nikita Zadorov is also a great addition to the defensive core. The 2013 17th overall pick of the Buffalo Sabres has quickly adapted to the professional game. He got a first stint of seven games with the Sabres in his draft year, before finishing the season in the OHL and returning as a full-time member of the Sabres in 2014.

He is a 6-foot-5, 235-pound defenseman, which is exactly what Roy and Sakic wanted. Furthermore, he has a lot of offensive skill and a heavy shot. Zadorov projects as a two-way, all-around defenseman and looked great at times with the Sabres, especially playing alongside Rasmus Ristolainen. He is an immediate upgrade to anyone who has partnered Barrie this past season.

Zadorov is definitely be a long-time solution, while Beauchemin not. But no need to worry, help is on the way. Chris Bigras, Duncan Siemens, Mason Geertsen, Kyle Wood and Andrei Mironov are all defensemen that could join the Avalanche sooner rather than later.

However, Brad Stuart and co. are still on the roster for at least another season and it is unlikely that their spots can be cleared. The Avalanche should have enough salary cap room, though, to send down Guenin or Redmond, whose contracts expire in 2016. That would allow the above prospects to move into the lineup as early as this upcoming season.

Therefore, Beauchemin and Zadorov are not the ultimate solution to everything, but a solid solution until the real help is hopefully there. For the future, the Colorado Avalanche could have a defense consisting of Bigras-Johnson, Zadorov-Barrie and Siemens-Wood/Geertsen/Mironov, which would be a great defense if everybody reaches their potential. Let’s hope for the best.

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