Colorado Avalanche, Is An Enforcer Still Necessary?

Nov 23, 2015; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba (8) braces for a hit by Colorado Avalanche left wing Cody McLeod (55) during the second period at MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 23, 2015; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba (8) braces for a hit by Colorado Avalanche left wing Cody McLeod (55) during the second period at MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports /
facebooktwitterreddit

The Colorado Avalanche are one of the few remaining teams with an enforcer on their roster, but with spots becoming increasing valuable is it still worth carrying guys like Cody McLeod or Patrick Bordeleau?

Fighting is still a part of hockey, and even though it’s importance and impact has been diminishing, it has been doing so mostly organically. That being said, many teams are ridding themselves of player who can only primarily contribute to one, shrinking facet of the game.

The Colorado Avalanche to this point have not been one of those teams, they kept both Cody McLeod and Patrick Bordeleau on the roster until last year. Bordeleau was kept in the minors nearly all of last year and with his contract up it would be safe to assume he won’t be back next year.

Yet the Avs continue to employ McLeod, and even have him as an alternate captain. Now I don’t want to get into the idealistic argument of whether fighting does or does not have a place in the game. For now it exists, and we will evaluate Cody McLeod’s impact on the Avs as an example of any other player who would fill a similar role.

McLeod’s Role on the Colorado Avalanche

More from Mile High Sticking

I’m not here to claim that McLeod is purely a fighter, although I would guess from experience of talking to other fan bases and writers that is the general conception about him as a player. And from afar it’s easy to come to that assumption — he led the league in fighting majors last year, played around 10 minutes a game, and averaged less then a shot a game.

In fact, I think Cody McLeod’s stats are somewhat elevated by the fact that he played with decent players for the most part. The skaters he spent the most time with are (in order of most to least time): Jack Skille (who I think is very underrated), John Mitchell (a solid two way center), Nick Holden, Francious Beauchemin, Tyson Barrie, and Erik Johnson.

So for the most part McLeod wasn’t being sent out there with Ben Street, Chris Wagner, etc. He was (for right or wrong) given the chance to play with some decent players. Which begs the question even more as to what his role is. If he was truly a fighter, I would expect him to see a lot of time with similar players, or the superstars to protect them. Instead he seems to be taking regular third or fourth line shifts.

Yet his point production was mediocre with only 13 points despite playing every game with decent linemates. At the same time his possession numbers were bad, with a 44% Corsi with score close and a -5.57 team relative Corsi, which takes into account how bad of a possession team the Colorado Avalanche are and then tells us that McLeod is noticeably worse then the rest of the bad team.

Lastly, there’s the notion that Cody brings grit, heart, and possibly love to the team. And I would say individually he certainly appears to, but it doesn’t seem to be wearing off on others. And if McLeod can’t inspire the team I’d rather give the that “A” to a player whose got skill and experience at winning.

Next: MacKinnon Can Learn From Crosby

Conclusion

Off the top of my head I can think of very few players like McLeod even left in the league, Chris Neil is probably the closest and a lot of people think he’s good for nothing but penalty minutes. Besides that though we’ve seen John Scott, Tom Sesito, and numerous others being sent and kept in the minors.

I can understand if the Colorado Avalanche wanted McLeod around to protect the young guys, but the young guys on the team A. aren’t that young anymore, B. are all a lot bigger then McLeod, and C. haven’t taken much abuse in the last 3 years regardless of where McLeod was.

If you could convince me McLeod was out there keeping Matt Duchene’s brain intact, I would all say keep him, but as a bona fide Rudy he’s just no longer worth a roster spot.