A Colorado Avalanche defensive paring of Erik Johnson and Bowen Byram could be ideal for the team at the start of the new season.
The Colorado Avalanche are finally getting their captain of the blueline back. After missing all but four games last season due to concussion issues, Erik Johnson is set to return to the lineup.
He says that it was “frustrating” that recovery took so long, but that he feels good now. Indeed, he’s been a full participant in training camp activities.
In fact, Johnson, the longest-tenured member of the Avs and a bona fide veteran, has been skating with one of the exciting youngsters — Bo Byram. The 20-year-old Byram is returning after a long absence from his own injury — a concussion as well.
Byram is known for his dynamic skating style. Johnson likens him to defensive great Scott Niedermeyer, whom he played against early in his career. He added:
"“The sky’s the limit for [Byram]. He kind of went through his own injury trouble last year. He skates just like [Scott] Niedermayer did when I played against Scott a few years ago before he retired. He’s only going to get better and better and if I can help expedite that process, I’ll be glad to do so…. What once was kind of a weak spot for our organization on the back end is now probably one of our strengths.”"
And that’s where we get to the ideal nature of the Johnson-Byram pairing (besides the obvious nickname “BoJo”). Johnson and Byram have similar early histories (all a 20-year-old can be expected to have). They were both drafted very high in the draft — first-overall for Johnson, fourth-overall for Byram. They both turned pro young, and they both suffered a big injury early in their career.
Those similarities make Johnson the ideal mentor for Byram. Johnson excels at that role, which is the reason I call him the captain of the blueline. He can help Byram learn how to settle himself down when necessary and to pick his battles.
There should be no concern about the elder statesman of the team keeping up with the young firebrand. Byram is a speedy skater. He’s so smooth:
Well, Johnson earned the nickname “Condor” because of his own skating prowess. His legs are just
. His skating is equally as smooth as Byram’s. And that long stride eats up a lot of ice deceptively quickly.
What’s more, Johnson is a good one to know when to jump into the play. Yet his big body and keen hockey sense can keep him in defensive mode in case the offense-minded Byram jumps up into the offense.
This early in the season, with the preseason not even underway yet, no one knows who’s going to be paired with whom. With Devon Toews out with a shoulder injury, we can’t even know who’s going to partner Cale Makar on the top pairing. However, it’s likely the Colorado Avalanche coaching staff will at least try the paring in a preseason game to see how it might work in the regular season.
Either way, it’s good to have both Johnson and Byram back with the Colorado Avalanche.