The Colorado Avalanche have the enviable problem of having too-stacked of a lineup. Altitude analyst Kyle Keefe proposes the best combos.
The Colorado Avalanche broadcasting network has been airing a daily talk show since the sports pause began in mid-March. Some of the content has been engaging. Today’s content was… different.
It started out gamely enough. The three hosts for the hockey section, Altitude play-by-play announcer Marc Moser, Altitude radio announcer Conor McGahey, and Altitude analyst Kyle Keefe talked about what the team’s lines will look like if the season resumed.
Now, we all know that the Avalanche have been suffering with injuries this season. When the NHL put the season on pause, Mikko Rantanen, Nazem Kadri, Philipp Grubauer, Matt Calvert, and Colin Wilson were all on injured reserve. Nathan MacKinnon was expected to miss two weeks with an upper body injury.
Reports are that all of the above players are healthy and would be ready to resume hockey if the season started back up.
That does leave the Avalanche with a logjam at the forward position. They were icing 12 forwards every night even with five on IR. They had recalled players such as Martin Kaut from the AHL. They had also been playing Vladislav Kamenev regularly. The main cause of the logjam was the acquisition of rental player Vladislav Namestnikov at the trade deadline.
That means that, when the five injured forwards are available again, Colorado has 16 players at that position. That’s obviously four more than they can ice. The first three to get cut are obvious. Two, Kaut and Kamenev, were always considered filler players. And, unfortunately, Wilson appears to have lost his role on the team.
That leaves one other player that needs to be cut, and you may see where this is going.
First, here’s the video:
Not even I can’t argue with the first two lines, or at least the first two lines worth of players:
When you get to the third line worth of players, you still see why each of them would be included, though I would keep both Vladislav Namestnikov and Valeri Nichushkin on short leashes.
The fourth line is where I start to take issue — or where we should notice a glaring omission. As devised, the line consists of Matt Nieto, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and Matt Calvert. It does NOT feature Tyson Jost.
I’m assuming I didn’t catch you by surprise there.
Before I go into why Jost should play before any of those players, or at least two, let’s see what the man who actually gets paid to analyze hockey has to say:
"“Jost has to be in there. He has to be.”"
First, he put Jost in place of Namestnikov, which I have no issue with. He’s a flash in the pan — the 27-year-old has a whopping one playoff goal in 29 games. (Jost has three in just 18 playoff games, all achieved before he reached 21.)
Now, McGahey started with some sense when he declared, “You can’t put Namestnikov out of the lineup [I beg to differ], but you can’t put Jost out of the lineup, too [I concur].”
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Moser, randomly brings up a third player — Nichushkin. While I’ve said he should be on a short leash, no one has suggested scratching him.
Unfortunately, he seems to have derailed McGahey’s thinking because Conor suddenly started championing Namestnikov and his “four goals in seven games.” (He has a total of five points since the trade — Jost has seven in that time period.)
Moser then seems to double-down on his disapproval of Jost for some reason. He brings up “the two Matts” — Nieto and Calvert. He points out, “They’re two of your top penalty killers.”
Jost substituted for Calvert on the PK during Calvert’s absence. He did extremely well. Even Jared Bednar expressed his pleasure at Jost’s performance on the PK. Indeed, Jost did well enough you could say he could easily substitute one of the Matts on the lineup.
Specifically Nieto. Jost has 22 points (8 goals, 15 assists) in 67 games compared to Nieto’s 21 points (8 goals, 13 assists) in 70 games. If you want to get down to it, Jost’s points are greater than Bellemare’s — 9 goals and 13 assists (22 points) in 69 games.
So, once you take away the penalty kill part of the equation — which Bednar already has — you have no reason to dress either of those players, especially Nieto, ahead of Jost and every reason to make the latter argument.
Tyson Jost is a younger player who is more in the team’s preferred style of play. He was on a hot streak when the season got put on pause — Nieto hasn’t scored a goal since February 6 (18 games ago) and has only a single assist since then. And Jost starts to shine during the playoffs.
What’s more, Jost has had his stumbling blocks during the season, but no one would question the 22-year-old has a much higher upside than the 27-year-old Nieto. He simply has more high-end skills which Bednar can plunk into any part of the lineup as needed.
Besides, the Colorado Avalanche team this season has been about accountability and earning your spot in the lineup. I’m not saying Neito hasn’t done that, it’s just Jost has done a better job at it.
GM Joe Sakic has done a great job of curating the Colorado Avalanche lineup. Now it’s up to Jared Bednar to put the best lineup on the ice if the season resumes. That lineup includes Tyson Jost over Mattew Nieto.