Colorado Avalanche Defense: From Worst To Best In 3 Years?


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Whether or not the Colorado Avalanche defense was the reason for the team missing the playoffs or not can be debated. However, it was definitely a strong contributor. Because of that, the club has made some significant changes this off-season, by adding D-men Nikita Zadorov and Francois Beauchemin.

Suddenly, this first big problem seems to be solved — at least for a couple of years. After that, there are quite a few prospects on the verge of making the team and the future looks much, much brighter than it did a short time ago. A deeper look will show why.

Colorado Avalanche Defense 2014-15

Jan Hejda — Erik Johnson
Brad Stuart — Tyson Barrie
Nick Holden — Zach Redmond
Nate Guenin

This looks anything but good and as we all know, it also didn’t work out too well. Especially when Erik Johnson got injured, that defense was more than shaky and arguably the worst in the league. Jan Hejda is not a first-pairing player, Brad Stuart is not a second-pairing player and Nate Guenin and Nick Holden are far below-average third-pairing guys.

On the bright side, prospect Duncan Siemens finally gave his NHL debut and did a good job. He will hopefully get some more time with the Avs in the upcoming campaign and develop into a good physical defenseman on the highest level. Within just one week, the Colorado Avalanche defense changed into something much, much better-looking.

Colorado Avalanche Defense 2015-16

Francois Beauchemin — Erik Johnson
Nikita Zadorov — Tyson Barrie
Brad Stuart — Nick Holden
Zach Redmond/Duncan Siemens/Chris Bigras/Nate Guenin

There had been a lot of speculation about who the Avalanche would sign to give Johnson a good-enough partner. Fan-favorite for the position was Andrei Sekera, who spent last season with the Carolina Hurricanes and LA Kings. In the end, Sekera signed with the Edmonton Oilers and the Avs settled on someone that wasn’t much talked about before — Francois Beauchemin.

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The 35-year-old was the Anaheim Ducks’ No. 1 defenseman until last season, leading the team’s D-men in ice time. He is the perfect combination of size, physicality and skill and seems like the perfect partner for Johnson. At 35, he may not be the ultimate solution to the Avs’ struggles, but he will definitely be an important piece in the future.

A little bit different is the situation for Nikita Zadorov. He will add some much-needed defensive stability to the second-pairing and can likely stay there for years to come. The Russian D-man knows how to throw big hits, block shots and has offensive skill as well.

The third pairing is still not ideal, but acceptable knowing two things. Firstly, the two top-pairings are much better now and the players on them will be able to eat a lot of minutes. Secondly, Chris Bigras and Duncan Siemens should be ready to join the team sooner rather than later. Which leads us to three years from now.

Colorado Avalanche Defense 2018-19

Chris Bigras — Erik Johnson
Nikita Zadorov — Tyson Barrie
Mason Geertsen — Duncan Siemens/Kyle Wood

Three years from now, in the 2018-19 season, this could be the Colorado Avalanche defense. A lot depends on the prospects’ development and this is a best-case scenario, but considering the potential these guys have, it is anything but impossible.

If it works out this way, Chris Bigras would have at least two years of NHL experience, possibly more than that. Zadorov and Barrie would have played together on that pairing for three seasons and definitely know each other by then. The third pairing would finally be fully revamped, leaving the likes of Stuart, Holden and Guenin as a far memory. Last but not least, Johnson will be a 30-year-old veteran, which is anything but bad for a solid defense.

Would this mean that the Avalanche went from the worst defense in the league to the best in three years? Well, it is way too early to tell and we don’t know what the other teams will do. Furthermore, the draft can change a lot of things. But simply considering how much talent there is in the system right now, it could be well possible.

Next: Quick Prospect Development Could Pave Way For Success

Next: Avs Development Camp Winners And Losers

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