Colorado Avalanche: Why the Defense Is All But Set


The Colorado Avalanche currently has 12 (!) defensemen battling for six — make it seven or eight if you will — spots on the NHL roster. However, how many of those players are really battling for roster spots, and how many spots are guaranteed?

Erik Johnson is without a doubt the team’s No. 1 defender right now. As long as he’s healthy, he will play — and he will play on the top pairing. His spot is guaranteed.

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After Jan Hejda’s departure, the Colorado Avalanche brought in Francois Beauchemin from the Anaheim Ducks. There is exactly one plan for Beauchemin: partner Johnson. Johnson has been without a decent partner for a while now, and Beauchemin should be the one. Even if he ends up on the second pairing, his spot on the roster is guaranteed.

Next up is Nikita Zadorov. The 20-year-old D-man was just brought in from Buffalo. He has a lot of potential, and the Avs want him to develop into an important piece on their blue line. The plan is for him to play on a pairing with Tyson Barrie, but he could also end up playing sheltered minutes on the bottom pairing. Either way, he will be in Denver next season.

Speaking of Tyson Barrie; the 24-year-old had 55 points last season, and is the No. 2 on the Avalanche’s depth chart. He has a spot guaranteed on the roster, no matter what. Some even see him as a future Norris winner.

That leaves us with two starting spots that are currently vacant, as well as one or likely two spots for extras.

More from MHS: Colorado Avalanche D-Help Is on the Way

Fighting for those spots are Nick Holden, Brandon Gormley, Brad Stuart, Zach Redmond, Nate Guenin, Chris Bigras, Duncan Siemens and Andrej Meszaros (brought in on a PTO).

Fourt of those players (Holden, Stuart, Redmond, Guenin) are currently on one-way contracts. Simply from a business and reputation standpoint, a team can’t afford sending that many one-way contracts to their AHL farm team. Therefore, at least two of Holden, Stuart, Redmond, Guenin will find themselves in the NHL at the start of the season.

My personal guess would be that it is Holden and Stuart. Holden because he is better than Stuart and Guenin, maybe even Redmond. Stuart because he has a huge contract ($3.6 million for two more years) and nobody will pay an AHL player that much money.

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Redmond is a decent puck mover. Another thing working in his favor is the fact that he has a right-handed shot. The only other RHD — besides Johnson and Barrie — is Guenin. We all know that Guenin shouldn’t be the one playing in Colorado.

That would leave us with one final roster spot. Meszaros is on a PTO, and it won’t cost anything to release him — so he is out. Then there are Bigras and Siemens. The duo combines for one NHL game, and they are on two-way contracts, both waiver exempt — so they are out as well.

Now, the only player left is Gormley, who was just brought in for Stefan Elliott. He didn’t succeed in Arizona, but is hoping to get a fresh start in Colorado.

Therefore, the Colorado Avalanche’s defense on October 8 could look like the following (guaranteed roster spots marked bold.

  1. Beauchemin — Johnson
  2. Zadorov — Barrie
  3. Gormley — Redmond
  4. Holden — Stuart

As you can see, the whole big training camp battle may not be that big after all. If Bigras or Siemens look so incredibly good that it is simply impossible to put them on the roster, Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy will definitely find a way. But if they look nothing more than good, the Colorado Avalanche’s defense should be set, without much of a fight.

The only real battle is for exact positions in the lineup. Is Beauchemin the right choice for the first pairing? Is Zadorov good enough to play on the second one? Gormley, Holden or Stuart on the third pairing?

Those are the real questions. The roster itself, however, is all but set in stone.

Next: Chris Bigras Impresses at Rookie Camp

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