Colorado Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov seems to always get the short end of the stick.
Everyone has their favorite players, and I won’t deny that Big Z is in my top 10 of the current Colorado Avalanche. Over the last couple of years, I am not sure he’s been treated right by the front office and coaching staff.
This editorial might anger some, and that’s alright. You’re allowed to have a different opinion. In fact, I encourage you to push back or support my thoughts at any time. But here it is, Nikita Zadorov seems to be facing an uphill battle with little encouragement from the upper tiers of the Avalanche.
This doesn’t come down to mentorship because we have seen Erik Johnson and even Francois Beauchemin take him under their collective wings. It comes down to player development, which multiple of the young guys are missing.
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Before last season, Zadorov missed the first two days of camp because of contract deliberations. And even when they could come together on whether it would be a one year or two year contract, the rumors were that GM Joe Sakic and Zadorov were separated by $500K per year.
With almost $9.5 million of cap space after the deal was inked, according to SB Nation, surely we could afford the additional funds for a 22 year old defensive player that many touted to be so promising when he matured. This is a player that Hockey’s Future reported was seen as a “cornerstone in the rebuilding project in Buffalo” before being included in the Ryan O’Reilly trade to the Colorado Avalanche.
When he did arrive at camp, he seemed to have been met with resentment, even though we were told he wasn’t by Coach Jared Bednar. Instead they mentioned being unhappy with his fitness level. He was benched on at least 3 occasions and a healthy scratch at least 3 times throughout the 82 game regular season and whether you see those as good decisions by the coach or not, you have to wonder how much was being addressed outside of in-game situations.
Bednar, a coach that spent a good number of years (since 2002-2003 season) in the lower leagues both with the South Carolina Stingrays (ECHL) and multiple AHL teams as both a Head and Assistant Coach, should be more focused on seeing these younger players reaching their potential (to repeat something that Nadia mentioned in a similar post about Tyson Jost).
In fact, I would argue that after having so much experience with non NHL teams, he would be the ideal man for the job. However, there seems to be some type of disconnect between what we are seeing with some players and with others whenever we get a look in on practices. And after seeing Zadorov get benched in the third period after, what even I will admit was, an unnecessary penalty in the game versus Boston and an again as a healthy scratch against Washington, I am starting to wonder if anger over that contract deliberation is still influencing someone’s opinion.
What can you expect of a player that, prior to the Tyson Barrie injury, was averaging just under 16 minutes of ice time this season? While all the while having him to switch to the right side and constantly change up his partner between Patrik Nemeth and Mark Barbario. Two players, with two very different styles of play.
When he does something wrong you’re quick to pull him. However, when Tyson Barrie is out with an injury, you make sure that Zadorov is playing 20:06 minutes versus Nashville and 19:06 against Pittsburgh. Of course you’re going to need players to step it up and add more shifts when someone goes down, but obviously you think he’s good enough when you need him. Why are you wasting his potential when you have enough players to actually cultivate it?