Colorado Avalanche, Time To Give Maxim Noreau A Shot

Sep 22, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Anaheim Ducks right wing Devante Smith-Pelly (12) defends against Colorado Avalanche defenseman Maxim Noreau (26) in the third period at Pepsi Center. The Avalanche defeated the Ducks 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 22, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Anaheim Ducks right wing Devante Smith-Pelly (12) defends against Colorado Avalanche defenseman Maxim Noreau (26) in the third period at Pepsi Center. The Avalanche defeated the Ducks 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Avalanche have already dressed over 10 different defenseman this year trying to put a decent line up together. However there’s one player in the AHL who they haven’t given a look yet.

Today I was mucking about down on the AHL’s site looking at the San Antonio Rampage. I had originally wandered there to compare the defensemen in the Colorado Avalanche system to other teams’ D to see what turned up. On the way I was distracted by a bunch of Mikko Rantanen posts (one of which we’ll touch on later) and a San Antonio site that barely worked in my browser.

Then I saw it — a Rampage defenseman, whom I have never heard of in my life, is tied for 3rd on the team in points with a forward who has played only 9 fewer games. Additionally, this defenseman is averaging 2.75 shots a game! That’s far above even Mikko Rantanen — who has only 57 shots in 27 games.

I was blown away that I had never even heard the name — Maxim Noreau — before. So before we go any further, some background on this mysterious defenseman:

  • He went undrafted after his Quebec Major Junior career before signing a deal with the Minnesota Wild in 2008.
  • During his entry level contract he had a 39-point season and two 50-point seasons with the Houston Aeros, while making the AHL All Star game twice.
  • After his entry contract was up, his rights were traded by the Wild to the New Jersey Devils, wherein he decided to sign with HC Ambri-Piotta of the top Swedish League (NLA)
  • In 2013 he led all defenseman in the NLA in assists and overall points.
  • In 2014 he led all defenseman in the NLA in goals.
  • He is currently in the second year of a two-year, one-way deal with the Colorado Avalanche.
  • Last year he tallied 30 points in 39 games for the Monsters.

Obviously these numbers are simply outstanding. Even in his entry level years, he was scoring at around .66 points per game in the AHL, as a defenseman –Tyson Barrie‘s career average? .583. Yes that’s in the AHL versus the NHL, but my point is obviously this guy can play.

For all that, Maxim Noreau has only played 6 career NHL games, none with the Colorado Avalanche.

Scouting Time

More from Mile High Sticking

So I did some more research on the internet and couldn’t find anything recent about Maxim Noreau, which meant it was time for a good old fashioned minor league scouting session. So I ponied up $3.99 for the right to watch the Rampage play the Barracudas from January 30th, got some nachos from Qdoba, and sat down ready for some sweet AHL action.

First things first. Normally when I’m watching a certain player it’s an Avalanche player (like the Brandon Gormley piece), so I can look at the shift charts to figure out when they’re out there. Also when I do Avalanche players, normally the video quality is good enough that I can read the number on players’ jerseys and see where the puck is. Basically I’m saying don’t spend any money on the AHL package.

Regardless, I sat and I watched. I rewound so I could figure out who the hell had the puck, and why certain numbers weren’t on the Rampage’s website. Eventually I had learned something. So first, my Maxim Noreau conclusions:

  • The guy plays as his numbers indicate. He skated well, passed well, and had a cannon of a slap shot that he had no hesitation in using.
  • He communicated well on defense. Various times on rushes he would point out who he wanted the backchecker to take.
  • He saw the ice well, occasionally turning quickly and throwing break away passes up the ice that his own teammates weren’t even ready for.
  • Even though he had decent defensive positioning, it was obvious he’s not the most solid defenseman. There were a couple of times where he loafed back to the front of the net out of the corner, letting an opponent stand open there for a second.
  • He’s an alternate captain.
  • He wasn’t the fasted player on the ice, but he was quick. A lot of quick stops and turns in the corners.
  • He didn’t jump into the play nearly as much as I expected with those numbers. He seemed to prefer to float a bit and try and pick off the pass. Albeit it is hard to tell his habits from just one game (and I’m sure as hell not paying to see anymore).

We’ll return to Maxim Noreau in the conclusion, but I’m sure many of you have never watched a replay of a non-televised AHL game, so here are my general game notes:

  • I had just read this article about how Mikko Rantanen was “boyhandling” men in the AHL. (Get it? Because he’s a boy whose manhandling men.) And I was thinking some San Antonio intern was just overexcited to write for the Colorado Avalanche website. Rantanen boyhandled a lot of Barracuda men.
  • The video quality was only a little worse than your local high school sports programming that is picked up with antennas on public access during a blizzard.
  • The commentary was the radio coverage laid over the footage, so during commercial breaks the camera guy pointed the camera at whatever the hell he felt like while radio commercials played. The result? I saw a lot of people take bites of hot dogs, pretzels, and nachos.
  • They (and by “they” I mean the sole commentator) called Gormley’s name a lot, but it was always for super mundane stuff: “Brandon Gormley skates back and picks up the puck with no pressure,” “Gormley holds the blue line on a pass directly to his tape,” “Gormley goes to change” etc…
  • At first people watching was fun, then it began to feel pretty weird. I never would have thought I would wish for commercials.
  • Duncan Siemens cannot make a pass to a guy 3 feet away from him.
  • I felt a little bad hearing Cliche and Bordeleau’s names. I understand they’re not NHL players, but it has to be hard to be the old men in the AHL.
  • At the same time I was a little pissed about how many roster spots were taken up by washed up players instead of actual prospects. Does anyone still think Ben Street might develop into a decent NHL player?

Does Maxim Noreau Deserve A Shot?

Normally this is where I would lambast a Colorado Avalanche defenseman for some of the negative qualities I observed: being lazy back to the front of the net, shooting without looking (although it worked for him most times), and a lack of physical play. But Maxim Noreau can skate and he can pass. That alone puts him above Brad Stuart and at a tie with Nate Guenin –– although Noreau skates much better then Guenin.

I’m blown away this guy has been toiling away in the minors while the Colorado Avalanche take fliers on Andrew Bodnarchuk, go to Gormley, then Bigras, and then back to Zadorov. MAXIM HAS 26 POINTS IN 36 GAMES. I don’t care what league you’re in, that’s outstanding for a defenseman, and the guy has been doing it his whole career.

Here’s Noreau in action with the NLA:

Honestly, I’m at a loss for why the Colorado Avalanche haven’t given him a shot. They went and plucked him out of the NLA to let him toil in the AHL, while underperforming and way less skilled defensemen get shot after shot at a roster spot. At 28 years old, when he’s put up consistently outstanding numbers I don’t blame him for not working as hard as he could to get to the front of the net.

Maxim Noreau plays the exact game that Patrick Roy loves from his defenseman — he skates well and moves the puck up the ice quickly. He has a cannon of a shot that he got through to the net, and he communicates well on the ice.

At a time when the Colorado Avalanche are turning the system over looking for a defenseman, I think it’s time to see what Maxim Noreau can do at the NHL level. God knows his numbers say he deserves it, and even if he doesn’t I’d take him over Brad Stuart or Nate Guenin any night.