Nikita Zadorov needs to be in the lineup every night so he can be allowed to make mistakes, so he can learn and be more effective in coming seasons.
The Colorado Avalanche recently changed the look of their defense core with the Matt Duchene trade. The team added Samuel Girard, a nineteen year old prospect, who looked quite impressive in his first two games with the Avs. At the same time, the team lost Anton Lindholm for the foreseeable future with a broken jaw. So basically, there are still 8 d-men for 6 spots.
Nikita Zadorov has been a healthy scratch in four of the team’s last seven games, earning the ire of coach Jared Bednar along the way. I believe that Zadorov being a scratch needs to end.
Nikita Zadorov’s season began with a lengthy offseason contract negotiation, which cost him most of camp, the entire preseason, and the first game of the regular season. Big Z then played the next eight games in a row, earning his first goal as an Av, playing over 17 minutes per game, and registering 20 hits and 9 blocks.
However, not everything was smooth sailing. Zadorov oftentimes got himself out of position trying to make unnecessary hits. He also took a multitude of bad penalties. He earned being a healthy scratch the team’s next three games. Upon his return, Big Z had 10 hits in three games, playing well against the Senators, but was scratched again for the team’s most recent contest.
Colorado Avalanche Defense Going Forward
The Top 4
The Avalanche clearly have two defensemen who will play every night, in Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie. Samuel Girard will likely be in the lineup every night, as long as he is on the roster. I feel that he has already done enough to earn that roster spot, and he will not be sent back to his Junior team. I also think Patrik Nemeth will be in the lineup when he gets healthy.
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The Next 4
That leaves four defensemen for two spots for the foreseeable future, until Lindholm gets back from injury. Nikita Zadorov needs to be one of the two defensemen that plays. I think Chris Bigras should be the other one. They are both young, and the Colorado Avalanche would benefit from them learning by playing on a nightly basis.
Mistakes will be made. The Avs are rebuilding. The mistakes need to be corrected by the players and the coaching staff. Mistakes should not be punished by making a player a frequent healthy scratch and benching him. That is very short sighted, and will not help the team going forward.
As for the other two defensemen, Mark Barberio is the perfect seventh defensemen. He can fill in for minor injuries, or give a young player a night off, if they need a game to watch from the stands to make corrections to their game. Barbs has also shown that playing in the top pair is way too much to ask. He should not be viewed as a long term part of the Avalanche future on the blue line.
Andrei Mironov, on the other hand, has proven himself to need more AHL seasoning. He has looked overmatched in his NHL games. Mironov is also very young, and should not be scratched on a nightly basis. He needs to play, and the AHL is the perfect place for that. It is still too early to rule him out of future organizational plans, but he is not ready for the NHL yet.