The Colorado Avalanche have been without their captain, 20-year-old Swedish power forward Gabe Landeskog, since he suffered a concussion on January 26th against the San Jose Sharks. While players like Matt Duchene and Semyon Varlamov have been keeping the Avs afloat, they could certainly use their young captain back in the lineup.
The Avs got some seemingly great news today when Landeskog took part in his first interview since being injured. Given the Avs’ strict “no media” policy toward injured players, this is a fantastic sign that Landeskog’s return to the lineup is imminent. The interview can be seen here: Gabe Landeskog’s first interview since his concussion on 1/26
What This Means For the Avs
Colorado will try to get back to .500 tonight when they host the St. Louis Blues. Currently, they are only four points out of a playoff spot. If they can get Landy back soon, say this upcoming three-game road trip, they can certainly still make a run for the playoffs. Matt Duchene and P.A. Parenteau have unquestionably been the Avs’ best forwards this season, posting 17 and 13 points respectively. Add a healthy Landeskog to the mix and this could one of the premier lines in the NHL.
Where’s the D?
The Avs biggest weakness of late has unquestionably been the defense. The Avs surrendered 11 goals over the past two games, but managed to win one and lose one thanks to a season-high six goals against the Nashville Predators on Monday afternoon. Top defenseman Erik Johnson has not played since February 11th, when he suffered a head injury against the Phoenix Coyotes. Although Johnson has only recorded one point (an assist) thus far this season, his loss has been a huge one. He has been the core of the Avs defense this season, especially in the defensive end in front of goalies Semyon Varlamov and J-S Giguere. His offensive numbers will come, but his defensive play has been invaluable. EJ is reportedly close to skating again as well, so if he and Landy can return soon and strong, the Avs will be a much-needed boost on offense and defense.
Watch The Head
With both Landeskog and Johnson currently out with head injuries, the Avs and these players must be careful. Yes, the team certainly needs these guys to return soon if they hope to make a playoff run. Duchene has been fantastic, but you need more than one star player to win in the NHL. Head injuries are not like a wrist or an ankle where people can play through it. Landeskog and Johnson must be 100% before putting on an Avs sweater for game action. All too often, we see players return from concussions, just to experience further symptoms later on and be shelved for months after that. Sidney Crosby and Peter Mueller come to mind. It will certainly not help the Avs in the long-run if either player has to return to the IR.
The Missing Piece?
Of course, the hottest topic involving the Avs since the lockout ended has been the situation with the fallen-from-grace, Ryan O’Reilly. At this point, it seems a trade is inevitable, but the Avs are prudently waiting until they get an offer with a solid return for their soon-t0-be former centerman. While the O’Reilly trade may not happen until the off-season or conceivably even beyond, if the Avs are able to make a move before the trade deadline, a scoring winger or top defensemen could really round out the roster and push the Avs into the playoffs.