Colorado Avalanche: Two Young Defense Short-Life for Avs?

Jan 14, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov (16) controls the puck in the second period against the New Jersey Devils at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 14, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov (16) controls the puck in the second period against the New Jersey Devils at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

Two 20 year old Colorado Avalanche defensemen are currently doing their best to help the big club, but with veteran defense close to returning how much longer can we expect either to stay with the Avs?

Both Erik Johnson and Brad Stuart are close to making their returns this season. Erik Johnson has only been out since January 4th (only?!), but Brad Stuart only played in six games before going down with his injured back.

Regardless of what you think of Brad Stuart and his outrageous contract, he will certainly return to the lineup when his is healthy, and Erik Johnson will also be in the lineup of course because he’s our No. 1 defensemen.

So, that means two spots must be made in order to facilitate their return to the lineup. The Colorado Avalanche are currently playing with two youngens on the blue-line, and they’re both waiver exempt so they’re the most likely to get sent down.

But, let’s just take a second to look at the Colorado Avalanche defensive depth, and see where we can expect guys to go.

The Blue Line in Colorado

The Colorado Avalanche are currently playing with two scratched defensemen: Andrew Bodnarchuk, and Nate Guenin. Nate Guenin has already cleared waivers, so he’ll certainly get sent down when EJ and Stuart return.

Bodnarchuk was picked up off waivers already, so he is not exempt, but even if the Colorado Avalanche put him on waivers, I doubt there would be another team stupid enough to pick him up off waivers like we did…

Then, there’s Zach Redmond, Nikita Zadorov, and Chris Bigras to think about. Zach Redmond is not exempt from waivers, and I think that a lot of NHL clubs would at least ponder the idea of picking him up if we tried to send him down.

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The question — with 50 out of 50 contracts currently — is do we care? What if we want to make a real move to improve the blue near the trade deadline? That’s rather tough to do with 50 contracts, so someone has to go.

However, it’s obvious that one of either Bigras or Zadorov is going to get the boot back to San Antonio because there’s no sense in scratching a young prospect that needs development. The real question is, who will Brad Stuart be paired with when he returns?

And, if EJ returns for a good stint before Brad Stuart, then who’s likely to get pushed out of the lineup?

Enter speculation…

Dubious Speculation

Here’s what should happen (when both EJ and Stuart are back), although I don’t know if it will. The Avs send Nate Guenin to the minors where he belongs after they no longer need to scratch him every night for some unapparent reason.

Then, they also place Bodnarchuk and Redmond on waivers, while sending Chris Bigras back to the minors for more development. The blue-line would be as follows:

Francois Beauchemin-city — Erik Johnson-baby shampoo

Nick Holden-a six pack — Tyson Barrie-sneaky

Brad Stuart-got nothing for that — Nikita Zadorov-his rocker

With that, you possibly lose an extra contract in either Redmond or Bodnarchuk. Both are in the final years of their contracts, and I doubt that Colorado will sign either of them for more term after this season, so what’s the risk in putting them on waivers?

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Nikita Zadorov can handle third pairing minutes, and we’ve seen what those third pairing minutes with Brad Stuart can do for a guy’s development with the gem that Nick Holden has become.

So yeah, that’s what they should do, however it’s more likely that Redmond stays with the big club and pairs with Stuart, while both the young-guns get sent down to the minors.

Bodnarchuk will be kept on as a healthy scratch, and Nate Guenin will report for his duties where the suns comes up on a sleepy little town, down around San Antone. — Doobie Brothers China Grove

Unfortunately, that’s just the most likely scenario, and I think it’s because of Patrick Roy’s loyalty to his players, he doesn’t view them as pieces that can be moved in any direction, but instead enlists a philosophy of developing relationships with his players.

That has it’s perks as I’m sure most of the team enjoys playing for Patty, but also provides situations like the above one mentioned.

Alas, a Brad Stuart and Zach Redmond pairing is not that much worse than Zadorov-Stuart, and I guess it will give more time for Zadorov and Bigras to develop with huge minutes.

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Finally, if Stuart takes a little longer to return, then I expect Chris Bigras to be the first to get sent down, while Guenin will report to the AHL as well, and Bodnarchuk will stick around as the healthy scratch.

Zadorov would then pair with Redmond on the third pairing. Either way, Chris Bigras has drawn the short straw in all situations, sorry bud.

What’s on Tap?

The Colorado Avalanche play the St. Louis Blues tomorrow night, and it marks another division game for Colorado.

The Avs are playing well against the Division this year, slamming an impressive 10-3-1 division record on the rest of the NHL. Only Washington and Arizona have better division records than the Avalanche.

The Colorado Avalanche are also 2-0 against the Blues this year, and the last game they played against them was the most exciting game I have seen all year.

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Furthermore, the Avs are presented with the opportunity to jump the Wild for the first wild card spot tomorrow night (if they lose to the Kings tonight), as the Wild are reeling with five losses in a row.

At the time of writing this, the Wild have yet to play the Kings, but if they drop their sixth in a row then the Colorado Avalanche could jump them in the standings with a win tomorrow against the Blues.

Puck Drop is at the Pepsi Center at 7:00 PM Mountain time tomorrow night, see you there folks!

What do you think Avs fans? What would you have the defensive pairings set as if it were up to you? Do you think the Colorado Avalanche should place Zach Redmond on Waivers? Should Bigras or Zadorov stay with the big club if either stays? Let us know in the comments!