The Colorado Avalanche have an abundance of defensemen. Does that make Sam Girard expendable?
The Colorado Avalanche have turned what was once their Achille’s heel into the crown jewel of their play — defense. Yes, I’ve written that before, but we’ve never seen that more in evidence than during their successful Stanley Cup run this year.
After all, the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP was a defenseman, who also happened to win the Norris Trophy for best defenseman and would have been a strong candidate for team MVP except in non-MacKinnon years that goes to the best player on the team by a MILE.
That’s a long way of saying, in an extremely Avengers Robert Downey Jr. voice, “We have Cale Makar.”
Makar alone does not make our defense entirely. He’s well-partnered with Devon Toews, who has been so solid this year. We’ve also got the up-and-coming Bowen Byram, whom we can’t really expect to be another Makar, but he should be well above average at least. The Avalanche also tied up Josh Manson, a very serviceable defenseman, for another four years.
That group really only leaves the bottom pairing up for grabs. So, you have to ask, does that leave a place for Sam Girard? Well, let’s look at the case for and against La Tornade, our tornado.
The Case against Sam Girard
See above. The Colorado Avalanche are stacked on defense. They have impressive offensive defenemen who can also shut opponents down. They have more solid, two-way defensemen as well. And the bottom pairing can be for rookies or cheap journeymen — Makar is on $5 million a year.
That salary is a sticking point. First of all, he’s only sort of worth that money. He had 28 points in the regular season — 5 goals and 23 assists. In seven playoff games he had only three points — 1 goal and 3 assists.
The fact that he only played seven games is because of an injury, one that many people blame on his lack of size and grit. He’s a smallish player, and he plays a finesse game. After all, he earned his nickname of “La Tornade” because of his perfect spin-o-ramas. So, he doesn’t exactly seem built for a rough game.
The Case for Sam Girard
In his career, mostly with Colorado, Girard has 22 goals and 122 assists for 144 points in 340 games. That’s not nothing. He’s not a pure goal-scorer like the Hulk, er, Cale Makar. However, he’s an adept playmaker.
What’s more, he fits in with the Avalanche’s style. True, they’ve tried to add some grit and downright mean in the last couple years. However, their main game is based on skating and scoring. Girard is a skater, and he can set up the scores.
He does make the occasional gaffe. Even our superstud Makar makes the occasional gaffe as well. The question is whether Girard makes mistakes more often than he doesn’t.
You know I’m not good with the advanced analytics — I’m an English major, so I’m terrible at math. However, the coaching staff uses all the metrics available to them. And they put Girard in regularly for 18 to 22 minutes a game. And they’re not the types to suffer fools gladly.
So, no, I don’t think Girard made more mistakes more often than not. He wouldn’t have earned that ice time if he did.
Concerning his salary, it fits under the Avalanche cap right now. They even have nearly $4 million to throw at a player or two. That should be enough to round out a pretty well-rounded team.
With one exception — Nazem Kadri and the second-line center position. Kadri is still unsigned, and it’s imagined that he’s holding out for bank and term. You can’t blame the guy because this will be the most important contract of his life — the last one he can likely use to set himself and his family up for the future. Maybe even round out his career.
With that perspective, “nearly $4 million” isn’t enough. They would need to produce nearly twice that much, and that’s where Girard’s salary and potential redundancy come in.
So, what’s the verdict? Well, if the Avalanche are going all-in to get Kadri back, Girard will have to be traded. However, if they think Kadri’s price tag is too high, there is no reason to rid themselves of La Tornade.
The Colorado Avalanche have a stacked defense, and Girard is a part of that package. The team should keep him at least for the upcoming season.