Colorado Avalanche Need to Play the Youngsters

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 11: A.J. Greer #24 of the Colorado Avalanche skates against the Edmonton Oilers at the Pepsi Center on December 11, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)"n
DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 11: A.J. Greer #24 of the Colorado Avalanche skates against the Edmonton Oilers at the Pepsi Center on December 11, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)"n /

The Colorado Avalanche need to reaffirm their commitment to the youth movement. That’s what their team is built to be.

The Colorado Avalanche are a young team, or that’s what they were supposedly built to be.

Last season the youth movement was in full effect. It was a point of pride for the team to be the youngest or second-youngest team in the NHL. On any given night, up to four rookies dressed for action, and they were given important roles in the games. And they thrived.

This season, the youth movement seems to have gone awry. Veterans are once again getting assignments over young prospects. And young players are being left to flounder, are seeing their minutes decreased, and even end up demoted. And that’s not good for their development.

Just ask Chris Bigras.

And lack of player development beyond wunderkinds like Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen is pure disaster for a team that’s looking to rebuild on the strength of its prospects. A team of one superstar line and a gaggle of waiver pickups is not going to get you anywhere.

According to GM Joe Sakic‘s recent press conference, building from the ground up with prospects is what you do in the salary cap era — and he has no plans for deviating from that “process.”

Well, you’ve got to get that process in place, then. And that process involves playing the youngsters in important minutes and doing the hard work to ensure they’re developing.

Yesterday, the Colorado Avalanche recalled forward A.J. Greer and defenseman Anton Lindholm from the AHL-affiliate Colorado Eagles. The 22-year-old Greer was the Avs’ second-round pick in 2015, while the 24-year-old Lindholm was a fifth-rounder from 2014. Both players are in the final year of their entry-level contracts, meaning they’re due to become restricted free agents this summer.

Both Greer and Lindholm have bounced between the NHL and AHL. Over three years, Greer has played 27 games for the Avalanche. Yet his average time on ice has dwindled from 13:39 in 2016-17 to 5:52 this season. That puts him at an average of  8:16.

Over the same span of time, Lindholm has played 62 NHL games. Like Greer, his average time on ice has dwindled. He’s gone from 14:45 to 7:11. His career average at the NHL level is 13:17.

In a preseason presser, Sakic talked about letting the youngsters “grow up together.” My understanding of that directive is that the young prospects should be shaping the future of the team. Giving them reduced minutes and less important roles doesn’t speak to me of a team that’s committed to a youth movement.

The team needs to reconsider its practical commitment to the youth movement. They have very little beyond a top line, a small handful of worthwhile veterans, and some waiver-wire pickups to flesh out the team otherwise. Within the youth movement, though, they have some raw material concerning the players already signed and some exciting future considerations.

All of that equates to horse feathers if they’re not committed to development.

Tyson Jost Update

I feel almost as if the handling of Tyson Jost is the thermometer for the team as a whole. He was the first-round pick that signaled the Colorado Avalanche were taking a 90-degree turn from the previous “process.”

After a failure of a Canadian road trip that saw the Avalanche go 1-4, the team decided to demote Jost to the AHL for “development.” It was the meanest method of reassignment — almost a banishment, to be honest. As if the slump were the 20-year-old’s fault.

More from Mile High Sticking

Well, Jost took a game or two to get accustomed to his new teammates and station. However, in three games, he recorded three goals and an assist. Unfortunately, he got injured in his sixth game as an Eagle.

The very driven Jost has clawed his way back. Per Mike Chambers of the Denver Post, Tyson is expected to play in the weekend back-to-back series with the Eagles. After that is an “expected call-up to the Avalanche,” I’m guessing in time for the February 12 game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Here’s the thing — I don’t want him called up if Jared Bednar is just going to give him stupid minutes. This team is predicated on developing for the future. That’s not going to happen with the 8:27 allotted to a 10th-overall pick, with no power play or penalty kill time.

“Let the kids grow up together” means giving them the space and time to do so. Give it to Greer. And, for the love of hockey, give it to Jost.

dark. Next. Avs Need to Find Identity , and Soon

The Colorado Avalanche are currently on a three-game road trip. At the time of writing, they were two points out of a playoff spot with the St. Louis Blues firmly in front of them.