Tyson Barrie-Nate Guenin Pairing
Apr 7, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) controls the puck away from Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie (4) in the first period at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
This decision didn’t surprise me in the least, yet it rocked some Avalanche fans’ faith in Patrick Roy to the core. Coach Roy has already made this decision, last year. The organization went out and got Brad Stuart to partner Erik Johnson. When that didn’t work, they gave him back an old d-partner that had always worked fine, Jan Hejda.
This year, the Colorado Avalanche ostensibly meant for Nikita Zadorov to partner Barrie. As I examined the implications of that partnership — two youngsters who both consistently get out of position — I started getting a cold sweat.
Turns out I wasn’t the only one. The Avalanche acquired defenseman Brandon Gormley from the Arizona Coyotes, and Zadorov was never paired with Barrie, that I can tell.
Plenty of Avs Nation was fine with the Gormley-Barrie pairing. I didn’t see enough of it, but it looked fine.
Brandon Gormley is only 23 year old, one year younger than Tyson Barrie. He’s only played in 32 NHL games. He’s still very green.
Barrie has a lot more experience, but still just 186 NHL games. He’s still very much developing. He’s learning in leaps and bounds, but he’s not in his prime yet. Some of the arguments against pairing him with Zadorov work with Gormley, too.
Coach Roy has shown that he likes to help his young defensemen develop by pairing them with a veteran. That was the rationale in acquiring Stuart in the first place, and probably why Hejda got promoted back to being Johnson’s partner.
We saw it with how Stuart mentored Nick Holden last season. Coach Roy praised how much Holden improved under Stuart’s tutelage.
Tyson Barrie has the talent to be a superstar in this league. But he has to develop properly. Last year he became just the fourth Avalanche defenseman to hit the 50+ points mark, and he did so with Nate Guenin as his defensive partner.
It could be that coach Roy felt Gormley would hamper Barrie’s development since he’s still developing himself.
Patrick Roy also likes to partner offensive defensemen with stay-at-home defensemen. Again, look at Hejda and Johnson. Johnson’s new partner, Francois Beauchemin, is also more shut-down.
Nov 4, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Nate Guenin (5) before the game against the Vancouver Canucks at Pepsi Center. The Canucks won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Some Avalanche fans call Nate Guenin a traffic cone. Well, that’s about as stay-at-home as you can get. But then, Barrie’s more of a throwback rover than proper defenseman. Maybe coach Roy wants to see that anchoring of the second defensive pairing. Maybe he wants Barrie to learn a little more shut-down play.
Or maybe Patrick Roy is acknowledging how important chemistry is for defensive pairings in particular. Barrie had a career season with Guenin as a partner — that’s got to take some chemistry.
Honestly, I always expected Guenin to end up as Barrie’s partner again. I just thought coach Roy might give it a couple games like he did with the Stuart-Johnson pairing.
However, Patrick Roy wants to see the team get off to a strong start. He doesn’t want to see a replay of last season’s dismal beginning.
If he didn’t see what he wanted — and this season the byword seems to be “consistency” — in the Gormley-Barrie pairing, why even start with that? Anything else you say about Nate Guenin, he’s not inconsistent.
Next: Final Thoughts