Colorado Avalanche Potential Defensive Pairings

Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

The NHL Season is set to debut on Wednesday, and the Colorado Avalanche will follow that debut with a game of their own Saturday. Here’s a prospective look at the possible defensive pairings for the Avalanche on opening night.

The Colorado Avalanche should be setting their defensive pairings and lines soon; the regular season is nearing and it’s time to develop chemistry.

As of yesterday, the Avs sent Duncan Siemens down to the AHL. Today, the Avalanche sent forwards Mike Sislo and Trent Vogelhuber to the AHL, which means they will carry 14 forwards and 7 defensemen.

Those seven defensemen are:

  • Erik Johnson
  • Tyson Barrie
  • Francois Beauchemin
  • Nikita Zadorov
  • Patrick Wiercioch
  • Eric Gelinas
  • Fedor Tyutin

That’s pretty much how I saw it when they signed Wiercioch and Tyutin over the summer. However, I imagined that Siemens would be with the big club, and that Zadorov and Bigras would both be in the AHL.

It’s a good thing that Big Z has made the club though because this is really the year he needs to start taking strides in the NHL. Zadorov was the biggest perceived asset in the Ryan O’Reilly trade, so hopefully he can solidify a top-4 role this season.

The only question is, who will be the seventh defensemen for the Avs?

First Pairing

Obviously Erik Johnson is going to be on the top pairing, but it seems like this year he’s going to have a different partner. Throughout most of the preseason — when EJ has been on the ice — he’s been playing with Zadorov.

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He did play one game with Chris Bigras, but that game didn’t go well for Bigras, hence why he is in the AHL.

In Saturday night’s game against the Kings — which I didn’t get to watch because of some fascist black-out in Montana — EJ and Zadorov played a ton of minutes together. They were on the ice for Jeff Carter’s goal, but that was just a wicked wrist shot.

This Zadorov and EJ pairing is enticing because of the size, but also because Zadorov has a similar playing style to EJ. They both have a nasty edge, can both skate like hell for big guys, and have some offensive upside. It’s yet to be seen how high that upside is for Zadorov, but this season should be a good indicator. Plus, EJ can teach Zadorov how to control his edge a bit more and make sure to focus on defense. Check this out:

At the twenty second mark of the video, the Kings get a good scoring chance with both EJ and Zadorov on the ice. You can see that Zadorov is out of position because he’s right up next to EJ. Johnson tries to give Zadorov a little nudge to get back into position, but it’s too late. Luckily, Varly is there for the save. However, it’s little things like EJ being conscious of position that may help Zadorov improve.

Second Pairing

This is a bit more of a toss up because in my opinion Patrick Wiercioch has been playing real solid. However, I think the left hand shot on this pairing has to be Beauchemin*, obviously next to Barrie.

*This is particularly relevant when you consider how well Wiercioch has been playing on the right side as a left shot.

Plus, Beauchemin figures to be more effective for longer if he spends less time on the ice than last season.

I also like a pairing of Beauchemin and Barrie because Beauch showed a ton of offensive upside last season, and everyone knows what Barrie can do on that side of the puck. Furthermore, Beauchemin is also a solid defensive player, and his veteran leadership may help Barrie on that end of the ice. Not to mention the fact that Beauch can cover Barrie while he’s pinching.

I think that Wiercioch may eventually find himself on Barrie’s left, but I like Beauchemin in this pairing to start the season.

Third Pairing

This is where things get tricky. Is Tyutin really a lock for the left side on this pairing because of his two million a year contract? I don’t think that should be the case, you put the best player on the ice, hands down.

Wiercioch has been playing his off-hand defensive side real well, and he deserves the to play on the right side of the bottom pairing. Tyutin has not been generating chances in the offensive zone. And, he hasn’t been a liability in his own end, but he hasn’t been great either.

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Gelinas — on the other hand — has been consistent on both ends of the ice. He may not be turning any heads with elite skill. However, the threat of his shot alone should earn him that left-side spot on the bottom pairing. Plus, he provides a lot more versatility on the power play than Tyutin. And, the Avs were not executing on the power play in the preseason.


Maybe it doesn’t make sense to have Tyutin as the seventh defenseman because of his contract. However, Jared Bednar’s attitude throughout training camp and preseason has been one based on evaluation. Not one player on the roster has guaranteed ice time, and I don’t think that Tyutin has earned that bottom pairing spot.

Who knows, maybe it’s Wiercioch that doesn’t get the spot. Anyway, Colorado Avalanche fans will know the results in just a few days time.

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The roster is basically set, especially since John Mitchell is still dealing with a hip injury. Mikko Rantanen, Blake Comeau and Jarome Iginla — who were also dealing with injuries — were all practicing today in full participation.

How the lines, pairings and alternate captains end up being doled out are the only questions that remain in preparation for opening night.