Colorado Avalanche: Thoughts at the Midway Point of the Season

Jan 14, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Members of the Colorado Avalanche celebrate the win over the New Jersey Devils at the Pepsi Center. The Avalanche defeated the Devils 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 14, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Members of the Colorado Avalanche celebrate the win over the New Jersey Devils at the Pepsi Center. The Avalanche defeated the Devils 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Avalanche are currently tied for the second Wild Card spot with the Nashville Predators. Here is an Avalanche of thoughts.

*That’s right, after an extremely poor start, the team found some success late in 2015 and have positioned themselves for a playoff bid.

*Did Patrick Roy and the organization finally realize that Nate Guenin is not a good hockey player? I’m still convinced that Guenin knows some Roy family secret that he was holding over the coach’s head in order to remain in the lineup. Nikita Zadarov and Chris Bigras are still too green to be counted upon consistently, but at least they have upside, unlike Guenin.

*Speaking of those two, I thought they played well against New Jersey. Part of that was probably New Jersey’s poor offense, but that’s not to take anything away from the job Zadarov and Bigras did. It’s going to suck when Brad Stuart replaces one of them in the lineup.

*I still think trading Semyon Varlamov would be in the Colorado Avalanche’s best interest. He just hasn’t been consistent enough for my liking, and I don’t trust him in the playoffs. That’s not to say that I trust Reto Berra or Calvin Pickard, but they’re both cheaper options, and the Avs could use a Varlamov deal to strengthen the team in front of the goalie.

*As sad as it sounds, Alex Tanguay appears to be done. He’ll forever have a place in the hearts of Avs fans for his two goals in game seven of the 01 Finals, but he’s long in the tooth now and not contributing like a guy in his position should. The problem is, the Avs will likely be in the playoff race come the trade deadline and are unlikely to part with Tanguay or Jarome Iginla in order to get younger (and potentially better).

*What would it take for the Avs to get Jonathan Drouin? I think offering John Mitchell and a first round pick, which could be a lottery pick, is a good start. It’s worth the risk for the Avs considering Drouin’s age and skill level. Many people had him as the best overall player following the draft combine prior to the 2013 draft. We know he’s been magic with Nathan MacKinnon in juniors. Why not try to re-create that magic on the big stage?

*Jack Skille doesn’t put up huge numbers, but he’s great in his fourth line role. Solid training camp pick-up by the club.

More from Mile High Sticking

*I’ve been tough on Matt Duchene in the past, mainly because I want him to be an elite player, and I’m glad that he was able to put his early season struggles behind him and turn into one of the top goal scorers in the league. It’s a shame that he hasn’t been able to do it at center, where he could form a deadly one-two combo with MacKinnon, but part of the blame goes on the organization for not having enough talented wings to surround the two.

*I’m far more excited for the Avs/Wings alumni game than I am the actual outdoor game. Getting a chance to see Joe Sakic, Roy, Claude Lemiuex, Rob Blake and my all-time favorite Peter Forsberg play hockey one more time is certainly going to be a treat. The game is over a month away, but with Roy practicing again, the anticipation grows every day.

*Mikhail Grigorenko might be good if he could play with some talented wings. He’s shown flashes of high-level offensive skill, but he’s not going to consistently put up numbers playing with new linemates who he doesn’t mesh with every game.

*Chris Wagner was playing well. Then he got benched. Then he replaced Grigorenko. It worked because Wagner is a better third line center than Grigorenko, but Grigo has the better upside.

*People have been very complimentary towards Andreas Martinsen, but I don’t see him as anything more than a third line guy. I’d love to see him on a line with Carl Soderberg and Blake Comeau, but the Avs don’t have a good enough top six to make that their third line, so Roy decides to spread things out.

*That’s still Roy’s biggest flaw as a coach: constantly switching line combinations. The defensive pairings rarely change. Even with the injury to Erik Johnson, Roy decided to play a guy they plucked off waivers with Francois Beauchemin instead of moving Tyson Barrie to the top pairing. Yet the forward lines change on a period-by-period basis.

*Barrie in the high slot has become almost unstoppable. The shot almost always gets through and either goes in or gets tipped. It’s become a power play staple and one of the reasons why the Avs power play has become successful again.

*Ryan O’Reilly returns to Denver in less than a week. That should be fun.

What are your thoughts at the halfway point of the season?