Colorado Avalanche: What Do Recent Defensive Moves Mean?

Dec 19, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Nate Guenin (5) is pushed into the boards in the third period against the Edmonton Oilers at the Pepsi Center. The Avalanche defeated the Oilers 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 19, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Nate Guenin (5) is pushed into the boards in the third period against the Edmonton Oilers at the Pepsi Center. The Avalanche defeated the Oilers 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Avalanche placed defenseman Nate Guenin on waivers just five days after defenseman Brandon Gormley cleared waivers. What could Colorado Avalanche brass be planning?

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The Colorado Avalanche defense is in a state of turmoil. The team’s #1 defenseman, Erik Johnson, left the game on January 4 with a lower body injury and has yet to return. The initial prognosis was that Johnson would miss 5 to 12 games.

Five days ago the Colorado Avalanche placed young defenseman Brandon Gormley on waivers, which he subsequently cleared. However, he wasn’t allowed to report to the San Antonio Rampage right away. Colorado acquired Gormley in a trade for promising prospect Stefan Elliott from the Arizona Coyotes.

Today, the Colorado Avalanche have placed journeyman defenseman Nate Guenin on waivers. He’s expected to clear. The team has also recalled defensemen Chris Bigras and Nikita Zadorov from the Rampage.

That’s a pretty big shake up in the Colorado Avalanche’s defensive corps in a relatively short amount of time. I also seriously doubt these are standalone moves. What is the significance of all these defensive moves for the team?

Erik Johnson Injury

I don’t want to report this, but Erik Johnson has been placed on injured reserve. That could just mean the Colorado Avalanche are maneuvering roster space for a planned trade. However, it could also mean the injury is worse than initially thought.

In last night’s post-game presser, head coach Patrick Roy talked about the importance of Erik Johnson to the team. He lamented that he’d like to have Johnson back. He continued:

"“Missing a guy like EJ, you might be ok for a short period of time, but long-term you know it’s going to hurt us. Guys are working to give me everything they have, but it’s not Erik Johnson, there’s no doubt about it.”"

So, if Erik Johnson is out for any length of time, this is very detrimental to the Colorado Avalanche. There’s no replacing Johnson — and no reason to try since he will be back eventually — but that could explain what piece of the puzzle they may be making room for.

Defenseman Acquisition

Even without the loss of Erik Johnson, most fans and even sports reporters opine that the Colorado Avalanche need an upgrade on defense. The main complaint is that the team is relying too much on journeymen defensemen.

Mile High Sticking writer Will Radke goes into great detail about the Avalanche’s defensive prospects in this post:

Next: Avs Need D

It could also be that a player who’s not even on our radar is being considered for a trade. After all, coach Roy and GM Joe Sakic have the original architect of the Avalanche, Pierre Lacroix, as their inspiration. And he was renowned for his blockbuster trades.

I’m sure the likes of Roman Josi, Shea Weber or Erik Karlsson are unlikely to show up on the Avalanche roster anytime soon. However, there are plenty of second-tier defensemen who might be available for the right price.

Jonathan Drouin Trade

The hottest topic concerning NHL trades right now is prospect forward Jonathan Drouin’s request for a trade from his draft team, the Tampa Bay Lightning. According to lots of rumors, the Colorado Avalanche are pretty big players in this race:

Now, Tampa GM Steve Yzerman was reportedly in the Pepsi Center last night to watch his Lightning make a mockery of the Colorado Avalanche. However, we all like to think perhaps he and his old nemeses (from their playing days), Roy and Sakic, might have been hammering out a trade. Why the Colorado Avalanche would have to shake up their defense to trade for a forward is a mystery.

However, Denver Post sports writer Mike Chambers pointed out the following:

So, you never know if some mega-trade or multi-team trade might be in play right now.

Colorado Avalanche Prospects

Not to be lost in the shuffle, all this changing on defense had included the call up of defensive prospect Chris Bigras and fan-favorite Nikita Zadorov.

This is their chance, and they know it. They are sure to take whatever ice time given them and play like it’s Game 7 of the playoffs. That’s good for the Colorado Avalanche, because both have their advantages. Bigras (6’1, 189 pounds) is more the hockey IQ guy, while Zadorov (6’5, 221 pounds) is the wild mustang of the blue line.

Next: Gormley and the Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche host the New Jersey Devils tomorrow. With all the changes already made today, it’s 100% guaranteed the same lineup as last night won’t be skating out there. Let’s see what the roster configuration turns out to be at this crucial time when the team is hunting for a wild card playoff spot.