Colorado Avalanche: Ideas for Maximizing the Offensive Lines

DENVER, CO MARCH 28: Colorado Avalanche right wing Nail Yakupov (64) gets past Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (53) as he chase down the puck in the first period on March 28, 2018 at Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO MARCH 28: Colorado Avalanche right wing Nail Yakupov (64) gets past Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (53) as he chase down the puck in the first period on March 28, 2018 at Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images) /

The Colorado Avalanche should shuffle their line combinations to shake up their lack of offense. They need a change for the final five games of the season.

The Colorado Avalanche need to make a change if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive. It’s true the team has made great strides in their development. However, we don’t need to be satisfied with almost making it into the playoffs — not without a fight anyway.

So, let’s look at how the team can shuffle lines and defensive pairings to shake up their play in the last five games of the regular season.

Two Consistent Lines

The Avalanche have had two consistent lines and two revolving door lines. The consistent lines were the top and the checking:

Mikko RantanenNathan MacKinnonGabriel Landeskog

Blake ComeauCarl SoderbergMatthew Nieto

The checking line has five points (2 goals, 3 assists) in the last five games with all three players contributing. That’s not bad for a checking line, especially on a team that went 2-3-0 in that time. Therefore, I see no great benefit in breaking up the Soderberg line.

The MacKinnon line is another matter. They have seven points in that same time period (2 goals, 5 assists). That’s utterly disastrous for what’s supposed to be one of the best scoring lines in the NHL right now. They’ve gone cold, having produced no offense in the last three games (two losses, shootout win). It’s too late in the season to leave them together in the hopes of sparking them again.

So, I recommend taking Gabriel Landeskog off that line. It’s not punitive on the captain. Rather, I think Rantanen and MacKinnon feed off each other better. Plus, I have Landeskog in mind for using his leadership and power forward abilities.

Rookie Line

The Avalanche have been experimenting with an all-rookie line off and on for months now:

Tyson JostJ.T. CompherAlexander Kerfoot

If the team was already eliminated from playoff contention, I’m all for letting the kids learn together. However, it they want to make a final push, it’s probably time to break up the rookie band.

Here’s where I want to see the captain come in. Funnily enough, our young captain is actually the veteran of the top line at the age of 25. Well, MacKinnon and Rantanen don’t need that veteran leadership as much as the rookies do.

I considered all three rookies for promotion to the top line. I like Compher’s two-way play and Jost’s speed for that top line. However, I’d like to give Kerfoot one more shot at playing with MacKinnon and Rantanen. He’s a natural playmaker, someone with a pass-first mentality. Mikko and Nate are both players who can capitalize on a well-aimed pass.

So, the top two lines will look like this:



What I like about that second line beyond Landeskog providing leadership is that Compher is developing into a power forward in his own right. And our puppy dog rookie, Jost, is already learning how to nip. This isn’t a line that’s going to punish like the checking line, but nor are they going to be a line of fancy players — all three will go into the dirty areas.

Plus, Compher plays a 200-foot game, Jost is the Bulldog of the Forecheck, and Landeskog loves to take up office in front of the net. This line really could work.

Fourth Line

More from Mile High Sticking

This fourth line is where we see a rotating cast of who’s healthy and which journeyman isn’t sucking at the moment. Last night, the Avalanche rolled out this line:

Gabriel BourqueDominic ToninatoNail Yakupov

Vladislav Kamenev was the only healthy scratch for forwards. Both Sven Andrighetto and Colin Wilson are injured again — I have no idea how or when.

The best-case scenario is if Andrighetto gets healthy, he replaces whomever is sucking the worst. None of the three were difference makers one way or another in the Philadelphia game. However, for game styles, I’d keep Yakupov to go with Andrighetto or even Wilson. Yakupov may have awful hockey IQ, but he has the best elite skills of the three.

So, who gets the scratch? Bourque had a shot and two blocks in the Philly game. Toninato had a block. Colorado’s already icing three rookie forwards, so… play Bourque against Chicago.

If neither Andrighetto nor Wilson is ready to go, who do you play? I’d go ahead and give Vladislav Kamenev another chance in place of Toninato. He might play very well with countryman Nail Yakupov.

However, I’d keep doing what coach Jared Bednar has been doing — watching for suckage. If one of those players drops his play, it’s perfectly reasonable to drop him back to healthy scratch territory.

Side note: For the love of hockey, get Patrik Nemeth away from Erik Johnson. It’s like saddling EJ with the worst qualities of Jan Hejda and Francois Beauchemin all over again, albeit without the age. Promote Samuel Girard.

Next: Are Avs Playoffs Hopes Over?

The Colorado Avalanche have a do-or-die game against the Chicago Blackhawks tomorrow. I’d like to see some shuffling of lines and even defensive pairings in the game.