Colorado Avalanche: Jared Bednar to Scramble Lines for Consistency

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Colorado Avalanche coach Jared Bednar is scrambling his lines for chemistry and consistency with the addition of Mikko Rantanen to the roster.

This week in practice, Colorado Avalanche forward Jarome Iginla has been skating on a line centered by Matt Duchene, with Gabe Landeskog on the other wing.

Meanwhile, Mikko Rantanen has been skating on Nathan MacKinnon’s right wing, while Mikhail Grigorenko has been playing the left wing.

So, Duchy moves back to center, Iggy doesn’t get demoted to the third line, but Carl Soderberg does.

Luckily though, Soda has been reunited on a line with Blake Comeau, while Rene Bourque takes the other wing.

And, the final line combination is John Mitchell centering Andreas Martinsen and Joe Colborne.

Related Story: A Deeper Look at the New Line Combinations

Gabriel Bourque and Cody McLeod look like the healthy scratches up to this point, however anything could change heading into Friday.

I did some prospective lines for Friday in this post:

Related Story: How Will Mikko Rantanen's Call-up Impact the Avs?

Turns out I was wrong. I guess I just didn’t see Bednar putting Duchy back at center, but I can’t say I’m upset with the move at all.

Duchene has been a monster on face-offs so far this year, with a a nice 53.8 percent in the dot. He’s only taken 26 face-offs total, but that number will increase dramatically if he stays at center.

More from Mile High Sticking

Anyway, these changes are the result of Jared Bednar’s willingness to change his lines during games, and during practices in order to develop chemistry. Bednar also has the luxury of having five players on the roster who can play both the wing and center.

Versatility and Chemistry Key in Helping Bednar Construct his Lineup

After practice on Tuesday, coach Bednar talked to the media about how Rantanen would fit into the lineup. He addressed issues of chemistry and consistency in his decision to shake up the lines, saying:

"We’re trying to find some combinations now, find some dangerous lines — chemistry within those lines. It makes more sense for me right now to move Duchene to center and try to get some balanced scoring and a balanced attack. We didn’t have a great game in Washington…we didn’t have a great game and didn’t produce much offensively in Florida. So, if the job is not getting done, then you got to change it. You can’t expect it to take care of itself. So if we have the ability to make some minor tweaks — a winger here and there — maybe we can find some chemistry that’s more consistent."

One of the main critiques for Patrick Roy during his tenure as the Colorado Avalanche head coach was how often he changed the lines.

For me, I wasn’t really perturbed by this because a lot of coaches will shake their lines up looking for chemistry. Joel Quenneville comes to mind as one.

What did bother me is that it seemed like Roy would sometimes put a guy on a line he had no business playing on — Cody McLeod is one example.

More From Mile High Sticking: The Avs Have a Western Conference Test on the Way

I don’t think that’s what Bednar is doing here. As much as I would like to see Iggy demoted to the third line, I don’t mind Bednar giving him another shot with Duchene and Landy.

Furthermore, with a whole week’s worth of practices before Friday’s game, now is the time to try some new line combinations. And, part of the reason he is able to do that is because of the versatility of his forwards to play both wing and center. Here’s what he had to say on that:

"We have guys that can play center, and some guys that can move up and down the lineup a little bit and be productive both offensively and defensively. Duchene is one of those guys, Mikko is another guy that can play probably center or wing as well."

So, Bednar is at least entertaining the thought of putting Mikko Rantanen at center. That’s not a bad idea down the line if Bednar wants to move Duchy back to wing. He could play on Rantanen’s right wing.

However, for now, the Avs don’t need to put that kind of pressure on Rantanen. Luckily Bednar agrees with me:

"For [Rantanen] just breaking into the league right now — his best chance is probably on the wing to start out."

Not to mention the fact that the Avalanche are pretty slim at the wing position, especially the right wing position.


If you’re not anticipating Mikko Rantanen’s season debut like a dog anticipates the return of their owner, then I just don’t know about you.

The Avalanche need this forward depth like a hockey player needs teeth — for events and stuff, obviously not to play.

Unfortunately, Iggy will not be receiving a demotion in lieu of Mitchy’s and Rantanen’s returns to the lineup. However, the addition of both players will still go a long way toward increasing the depth this team has night in and night out.

Next: Celebrating Duchene's 500th Game

And, Iggy has historically taken a few games to find his groove offensively. This season has been a little rougher in that regard with all the needless penalties, but he might still find his game.

Hopefully Mikko Rantanen is able to find his game in the NHL as well. That MacK and Rants combo has the capability to real froggy.

Friday is only a hop, skip and a jump away folks, don’t fret. I know the wait has been excruciating, but there have been some good developments this week.

Thank you for stopping by.