Colorado Avalanche Need to Sort out the Defensive Corps

STOCKHOLM, SWE - NOVEMBER 11: Blake Comeau
STOCKHOLM, SWE - NOVEMBER 11: Blake Comeau /
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The Colorado Avalanche have a lot of defensemen on the roster, and many of them young. They need to cement their pairings now.

When it comes to the Colorado Avalanche defensive corps, there are only two players who are secure on any given night — Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie. Beyond those two, the revolving cast of defensemen includes the following:

*Nemeth and Lindholm are out with injuries. Though neither is officially on injured reserve, their is no timetable for their return.

Throughout the season, we’ve seen the following for a top pairing:

Barberio-Johnson
Zadorov-Johnson
Lindholm-Johnson
Nemeth-Johnson

None of those were great, but Zadorov was the most consistent of Johnson’s partners.

Throughout the season, we’ve seen the following for the second pairing:

Nemeth-Barrie
Girard-Barrie
Lindholm-Barrie

The third pairing has been a merry-go-round of whatever’s left over:

Mironov-Barberio
Zadorov-Lindholm (Mironov)
Zadorov-Bigras
Mironov-Bigras
Bigras-Lindholm
Barberio-Bigras
Barberio-Lindholm
Lindholm-Mironov

To be clear, the Colorado Avalanche have played only 16 games. The only injuries have been to Nemeth and Lindholm, with the latter being just recently.

Conventional wisdom in hockey states defensive pairing should be pretty consistent. The two players need to get a good feel for the other. They need to develop chemistry.

I’ve always been a fan of the Johnson-Zadorov pairing. Those are two big players who skate extremely well and who have a mean streak. That could be a juggernaut of defense.

However, recently Tom Hunter of Mile High Hockey did an interesting article with the ultimate conclusion that Erik Johnson plays better without Nikita Zadorov and vice versa. Hunter used both CorsiFor and Fenwick, showing that both Johnson and Zadorov were better in those categories without the other.

More from Mile High Sticking

It was thought Girard would be put in the top-pairing with Johnson. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a 19-year-old kid, but he’s one who’s shown a lot of poise. Girard is an offensive defenseman who can skate and handle the puck. That could be a good pairing.

Not many Avalanche fans liked the Girard-Barrie pairing. They’re both small and offense-minded. At a certain point you want your defenseman to play defense. Nemeth with Barrie was better, but I like Barberio with Barrie in a pinch.

The bottom pairing isn’t quite as important. There’s probably not a big problem leaving it as something of a revolving cast. However, if Zadorov isn’t making the top pairing, then I’d like to see him be the cornerstone of this bottom pairing. Let his partner be the question on any given night.

Meanwhile, it’s understandable why the Colorado Avalanche would be trying out different pairing options. They have a young d-corps. Johnson is the state elder at 29 followed by Barberio at 27 and Barrie at 26. Nemeth is 25, and then you have five players under 25 — and one of them a teenager.

Naturally, the coaching staff can’t know yet what, exactly, you can expect from each of these players. It may be up in the air how much each defenseman can play and for how deep into the season.

However, we’re fastly approaching the quarter-point of the season. Johnson and Barrie deserve consistent partners, and Zadorov deserves his proper shot.

Next: 3 Areas for the Avs to Work on During the Break

Someone must have earned those spots by now for the Colorado Avalanche. Who do you think best serves in those positions?