Marc-Andre Cliche: Why the AHL is the Only Option


Marc-André Cliche seemed destined for an AHL career, when the Colorado Avalanche decided to give him a spot on their NHL team. Two years later, however, the Avalanche should realize that he really isn’t good enough, and that the AHL is the only option for him.

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Back in the day, when Cliche was a teenager going into his draft year, NHL Central Scouting ranked the center 49th among North American skaters for the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. That is higher than 2005 draftees Keith Yandle (55), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (70) and others, including former Avs center Paul Stastny (74).

He then got selected 49th by the New York Rangers, which was later than Vlasic (35) and Stastny (44), but still ahead of many other notable NHL players. For example, Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang was selected 62nd, Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick 72nd and Keith Yandle 105th.

But enough draft talk. Fact is, Marc-Andre Cliche projected as a great two-way center for the NHL. However, as so often in life, things didn’t work out as planned. In 2007, Cliche was traded to the Los Angeles Kings along with Jason Ward and Jan Marek for Sean Avery and John Seymour, where he signed his first pro contract. He stayed with the Manchester Monarchs, the Kings’ AHL affiliate until 2013, playing only one NHL game along the way.

You can’t blame the Avs for trying to turn Cliche into an NHL player.

Enter Colorado Avalanche. The new ownership made some changes, and Marc-Andre Cliche was part of the process. He got signed as a bottom-line NHL forward, which is what he has been for team for the past two seasons.

You can’t really blame the Avs for trying. Cliche was still a defensively responsible forward, who can play at center or on the wing. In the AHL, he recorded 151 points in 341 games as well. Unfortunately, again, as often in life, things didn’t work out as planned.

Marc-Andre Cliche turned out to be below NHL level, while playing 150 regular season and seven playoff games for the Avalanche over the past two seasons. How was he not NHL level?

Dec 17, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Colorado Avalanche right wing Marc-Andre Cliche (24) skates in warm-ups prior to the game against against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center. The Stars defeated the Avalanche 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Well, you obviously wouldn’t expect a lot of production from a defensive bottom-line forward, who is playing his first seasons in the NHL. So let’s not even talk about that part. He recorded three goals and 14 points in his 157 games — sorry, I had to.

Anyway, what really could have counted is defensive play. Stop the puck from getting into your teams net, or even better, keep it out of your defensive zone. Cliche is, well, not the best at either of those things.

In the 2014-15 season, Cliche ranked ninth on the Avalanche in CA/60 (Corsi against per 60 minutes) at 60.1, according to Ninth on the team isn’t that bad, though, is it? Yes and no. Yes, because he wasn’t much better than those ranked behind him, and no, because one can always argue that the Avalanche was bad in possession numbers as a whole.

While other Avalanche players also created offense while getting a ton of shots against, Marc-Andre Cliche did not.

The difference is, while other Avalanche players also created offense while getting a ton of shots against, Marc-Andre Cliche did not. He ranked 23rd in CF% (Corsi for percentage) in five on five situations on the team, at 38.2 percent. Better than only Joey Hishon and Jordan Caron. We all know how that went for Caron.

Let’s take the Winnipeg Jets as a comparison. A Central Division rival that finished in a wild card spot last season, which should be the Avalanche’s goal for the upcoming campaign. On the Jets, the 25th-ranked player in CA/60 was Drew Stafford — at 62.26. Their 24th-ranked player was quite far ahead of that with 57.51. So, Marc-Andre Cliche would be the new No. 25 if put on the Jets. Sure, he may have had better numbers on that team, but most likely not by much.

That shows us two things: firstly, Marc-Andre Cliche is not a very good possession player. Secondly, the Avalanche’s possession game is one of their biggest weaknesses — no news here.

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The thing is, if they want to change something about it — and they sure as hell should — Cliche cannot be part of that bottom six. He simply isn’t good enough. It was worth the experiment, but Avalanche coach Patrick Roy must admit that it failed. As sad as it is.

On the bright side, with Matt Duchene, Carl Soderberg, Mikhail Grigorenko, John Mitchell and possibly Nathan MacKinnon, the Avalanche should have enough depth down the middle. Even if changes need to be made, Joey Hishon is still there, and Freddie Hamilton and Mikko Rantanen will likely be too. To be honest, even Andreas Martinsen may be a decent option.

The New York Rangers once had high expectations for Marc-Andre Cliche. But with the Avalanche in 2015-16, the AHL should be the only option for him. Even on a one-way contract.

Should Marc-Andre Cliche stay in the lineup, be a depth player or get sent down?? Let us know in the comments!

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