The Colorado Avalanche have a great defense that can actually take them deep in the playoffs — for years to come.
If you’d asked Colorado Avalanche fans a few years ago how deep their defense was, they’d have pointed you to a mid-July creek here in Colorado. Shallow, in other words.
How about now? It’s definitely not still a mid-July creek. Is it the raging Arkansas, however? Let’s look at what the team has to offer to answer that question.
Shut Down Defense
Defense is supposed to stop the other team from scoring, right? Defensemen are supposed to check opponents so hard they think twice about trying to score on your goalie. That’s the Adam Foote style of defenseman.
That’s not really the modern style of defenseman. However, you still need players who are big enough and strong enough to give opponents pause.
Colorado doesn’t have an Adam Foote on the team. However, as far as what I’d call a shut-down defenseman, Ian Cole fits the bill. He takes too many penalties, but shutdown D are going to do that.
Speaking of, Nikita Zadorov often falls into the category of shutdown D. He’s definitely a player who makes other teams pay. And, alas, he does take penalties he shouldn’t.
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To my mind, the two-way defenseman is the beacon of a team’s defense. He’s the player that truly plays a 200-foot game. This defenseman can deliver the bone-jarring check but also fly into the offensive zone and score. This is my favorite style of defenseman.
Erik Johnson is a classic two-way defenseman. The above describes him to a T. He’s nearing veteran status, though. Luckily, a youngster shows some good potential at providing those skills — Ryan Graves.
Graves has been paired with Cale Makar for most of the season. He’s early in his career, but he does seem to be developing those two-way skills. He’s never going to wow you with his offense, but you’re never going to slap your head because of his defense either.
We can work with that.
New Age Defense
The current trend in the NHL is to move toward a new style of defense. No longer to you rely solely on big, bruising players to block shots and beat up the other team with bone-crunching hits. Now, you want fast puck-moving defensemen who can feed the puck to the forwards and even score themselves.
This is the quality the Colorado Avalanche were missing the most. And this is the quality they set out to get starting first with the inclusion of Samuel Girard in the Matt Duchene trade and the drafting of both Cale Makar and Conor Timmins — not to mention Bowen Byram.
In other words, yes, they have the new age defenseman in spades. Not only do they have a couple stellar examples on the roster already, they have more coming up the pipe.
If you look at the current roster, you’d have to say the Colorado Avalanche are definitely closer to Arkansas River than summer-dry creek. What was once their Achilles’ heel is now their crown jewel.
However, if you look at their prospect pool, they don’t have enough to replenish the shutdown D very well. Maybe Josh Anderson. That’s the kind of player that’s not too terribly hard to pick up in free agency or as an extra piece in a trade.
The two-way defenseman role, though, they’re sorely lacking there. Maybe Timmins will take on more of that kind of role with Makar and Byram taking the lead as new age d-men. Maybe Girard will transition more into that role as well.
Maybe the Avalanche will be able to draft their future two-way defenseman this season.
In any case, the Colorado Avalanche really do seem well-set when it comes to the blueline. Not only now, but they have some nice pieces coming up the pike as well.