The Colorado Avalanche have a solid defense. Here’s an in-depth look at how it’s built.
The Colorado Avalanche have always been an offensive-minded team. Even in the down years, they always drafted and traded for offensive players.
For a long time, that focus on offense meant the defense took a back seat when it came to priorities. The Avalanche didn’t make drafting a defenseman top on their list, though they did randomly select Duncan Siemens at the 11th position in 2011.
In fact, the blueline started being seen as a liability for Colorado. They had good firepower up front. However, they were making do with veterans and journeymen for the defense.
My, how that has changed. What was once the albatross around their necks is now their crown jewel. The Colorado Avalanche have a lethal defensive corps — and it’s only getting better.
The Avalanche have always made keeping a veteran presence on the blueline a priority. Unfortunately, they often plumped the defense with aging veterans well past their prime. Think Brad Stuart.
The Avs still have a veteran presence at the back end, but it’s no longer a liability. The cornerstone of their defense has long been Erik Johnson. He is the longest-standing Avalanche player and still just 32. He’s the captain of the blueline and an essential part of the leadership core. He’ll never put up big offensive numbers, but he is solid on defense and can still jump into the play when needed.
Ian Cole is the other vet on the team. A year younger than Johnson, he provides the team’s grit. He also provides the important experience of having won the Stanley Cup, an important ingredient for a Cup-contending team.
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The pluralization of the heading isn’t an accident. The Colorado Avalanche already have a bona fide superstar in current Calder Trophy winner Cale Makar. And no one doubts Bowen Byram will join him in that category when he officially joins the team.
Both youngsters — they’re just 22 and 19 respectively — were fourth-overall draft picks for Colorado. As noted, Makar won the Calder for rookie of the year this year because of his impressive play. He’s an incredible skater who can make offensive magic happen. What’s more, he’s solid on defense. And he’ll unexpectedly get physical. He’s a stud.
All signs point to Byram being the same sort of player. He spent last season with his major juniors team, the Vancouver Giants. Unfortunately, because of his age, he’d have to join them again if he doesn’t make the NHL team. Hopefully he joins Colorado when the season starts, whenever that might be. However, whenever he does eventually make the team, he’s going to add a similar magic to Cale Makar.
We can’t forget that we have a very impressive player in the wings in Conor Timmins. He suffered a setback with his concussion issues, which kept him out an entire season. However, he looks to be back in the saddle again. He may not be quite superstar quality, but he’s going to be a big part of the team eventually.
Another player who’s borderline star is Samuel Girard. His best buddy on the team is Erik Johnson, and signs point to his being the heir apparent to Johnson. They’re very different players, but I could see Girard eventually being that cornerstone with all the stars around him.
Ryan Graves played the majority of last season as Makar’s defensive partner, so that tells you how important he is to the team. He was a wild card to even make the team, but he’s proven to be a great skater who’s responsible defensively. He’s a large man, and he can hit.
The final member of the core team is a new-comer, Devon Toews. Colorado sent their next two second-round picks to the New York Islanders in exchange for the 26-year-old defenseman. He’s known as a highly-mobile skater who can play a 200-foot game. He seems to fit right in with Colorado’s style — which the Avs also must have felt since they signed him to a four-year contract not long after trading for him.
So, as you can see, the Colorado Avalanche have done well to rebuild and reboot their defensive corps. They have a stellar blueline in their preferred style, and one that complements an explosive offensive core.