The Colorado Avalanche’s blueline is struggling. What can be going on with what should be an area of strength for the team?
Well, the Colorado Avalanche are back to needing work on the defense. The defense’s lack is a very disappointing development this season.
The defense was finally supposed to be Colorado’s crown jewel after all those years of it being the team’s Achille’s heel. We have two young studs in Cale Makar and Samuel Girard with a stable of veterans such as Erik Johnson and Ian Cole to complement them.
What’s more, the defensive corps finally has depth. Beyond those four players, we have the up-and-coming Ryan Graves and our menacing Russian Nikita Zadorov. Mark Barberio is still in the mix. What’s more, the Avs acquired the stalwart Kevin Connauton and another up-and-coming defenseman, Calle Rosen, in trade.
The defensive corps is relatively healthy. Nikita Zadorov did take a puck to the face on November 7. The blow broke his jaw and required surgery. However, today he was practicing with the team:
Originally considered week-to-week with the injury, he could return as soon as tomorrow’s game against the Vancouver Canucks, meaning he’d have missed just nine days and three games.
Here’s some more on Big Z:
What a warrior.
It’s the forward and goal tending corps that’s decimated. After last night’s game, the Avalanche have lost 37 man games after just 19 games on the season. Here’s the breakdown:
- Mikko Rantanen: 9 games
- Colin Wilson: 9 games
- Gabriel Landeskog: 7 games
- Nikita Zadorov: 3 games
- Philipp Grubauer: 3 games
- Pavel Francouz: 1 game
More from Mile High Sticking
- Could Colorado Avalanche move on from Pavel Francouz next offseason?
- 4 goalies to replace Pavel Francouz if he has to miss time
- Colorado Avalanche make sneaky signing with Tatar
- Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog could return in 2023-24 playoffs
- Colorado Avalanche rookie face-off tournament roster
Additionally, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare missed one game after suffering a concussion in the game against Columbus. Nick Foligno was the perpetrator, and he was assessed a three-game suspension for the hit. I suppose it’s a little unfair that Bellemare came back quicker than Foligno, but we’re having plenty of bad luck all on our own.
So, the Avalanche can be forgiven if their forwards or goalies are inconsistent. In addition to having to play third and fourth string goalies, the Avs staff are mixing up forwards lines like a game of 3-card Monty.
What’s the deal, then, with the Avalanche’s blueline? They’ve been wildly inconsistent on the road trip. When Francouz went down with his injury in Winnipeg, they let rookie Adam Werner face 40 shots. And they let Connor MacDavid and Leon Draisaitl just have their way with both Werner and fourth-stringer Antoine Bibeau.
I know defense, like offense, should be run as a five-man unit. And I’m sure it makes a big difference that our two-way star, Landeskog, is one of the injured players.
However, look at this goal by (hired goon) Zach Kassian:
Girard coughs the puck up right to McJesus himself. He gets the puck to Draisaitl, who goes for the wraparound. Girard does turn back to cut off Kassian, and Makar does swoop in to force Draisaitl around the back of the net. However, Girard skates forward to double-team Draisaitl, leaving Kassian wide open for the rebound.
I’m not hanging Girard out to dry. Makar was the best of the lot, and he was only mediocre.
Will the return of Zadorov tomorrow help, if he does, indeed, play? I can’t imagine. He’s the most unpredictable of all our defensemen. I love me some Big Z, but he’s not the man you want to count on to steady the blueline.
Honestly, that job should fall to Erik Johnson. He’s the captain of the blueline. Yet for some reason he’s been equally inconsistent.
It’s all so perplexing.
What do you think, Avs Nation? What’s going on with the Colorado Avalanche’s defense?