Welcome to the second edition of Avalanche at a Glance, Kevin Goff and I will be tackling two topics(Colorado Avalanche related) every week and discussing them. This will be a regular column for THW and hopefully it will improve each week!
We hope you guys enjoy the read.
In Between the Lines
SEBASTIAN HEDLEY-NOBLE: To start off this week’s “Avalanche at a Glance” I wanted to discuss line combinations. The forward lines specifically. Colorado is one of the highest scoring teams in the NHL, but have been in a bit of an offensive drought of late. I have been advocating the separation of Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon for a while now, and last game against the Montreal Canadiens, Patrick Roy finally decided to do so.
We have seen basically every combination of forwards there is and I am pleading for some consistency. I want Colorado’s lines set, along with every player knowing their role on the team. Our top two centers should be Duchene and MacKinnon. This is not a stab at Carl Soderberg in the least, as he has been outstanding and probably the Avs most consistent player this year.
If the Avs can line up with Duchene, MacKinnon, and Soderberg down the middle, that’d form a VERY strong group of centers, as well as making it harder for other teams to match up against them.
Some believe Gabe Landeskog and Soderberg should be joined at the hip until the end of time and I don’t get it. Yes, they have formed good chemistry, and yes they are both Swedish, but Landy needs to be next to Duchene or MacKinnon on one of the top two lines. While they might not be Swedish, he has plenty of chemistry with them as well.
Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla still have plenty of gas in the tank so they stay in the top six. Iginla is proving that now, while Tanguay is skating better of late and should get the monkey off his back in the near future, plus he’s much more suited on the second line than the third.
The lines Roy put out against Montreal are much more balanced and this is how I’d like to see them moving forward, with a couple minor tweaks(I am counting on a trade for a depth forward which = X). One very important note with this lineup, it gives the Avs a right-handed shot on each line(Iginla, MacKinnon, Comeau, Wagner, Skille):
- Grigorenko – Duchene – Iginla
- Landeskog – MacKinnon – Tanguay
- Mitchell/X – Soderberg – Comeau
- McLeod – Wagner – Skille/Martinsen
What say you Kev?
KEVIN GOFF: Well, some consistency would definitely be nice, but to be honest, there really has been a decent amount of consistency in the forwards, especially the top six, up until about the last week. It was Duchene, MacKinnon, Grigorenko (most recently), Landeskog, Soderberg, Comeau, and it was this was for about a month. The well started to dry up in a big way so, like any coach does in such situations, Patrick Roy started to juggle the lines.
The problem with juggling the lines here is that it ends up highlighting the depth issues the Avalanche have, and we see guys like John Mitchell, Cody McLeod and Jack Skille forced to play outside their depth with guys who see and play the game at a whole different level. The lack of depth then exacerbates the team’s inability to score. I understand the concept of wanting to spread out the talent in order to put a big scoring threat on each line, but the way this team is currently constructed I just don’t believe that it works.
I have really liked Landeskog with Soderberg. The two, as you mentioned, have found a really nice chemistry together, along with Blake Comeau. They’re a great possession line and play with a great combination of skill and grit.
I do like Landeskog with MacKinnon, as well, so I’m open to a bit of that. Jarome Iginla has shown some pretty good chemistry with Duchene and Grigorenko, as well, and we’re getting to the point of the season where he always seems to dominate, so that works for me, too.
The place where I will disagree with you is Alex Tanguay. His tank is hovering at empty, and has been all season. This season for him I liken very much to Peyton Manning’s up with the Broncos. He still sees and thinks the game in a certain way, but his body simply doesn’t let him do what he wants anymore. He’s slower both from a skating standpoint and a reaction standpoint. His decision-making has been awful basically the whole year and he has been little better than a liability when on the ice. If there’s a guy that I believe will be moved at the trade deadline by the Avalanche, it will be him. He’s not a top-six guy anymore.
We’re Talking About Prospects!?
KEVIN GOFF: I feel like going “off the beaten path” with my topic this time around and look into the future of the Colorado Avalanche. One of the things that Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy have done a fantastic job of since taking over is drafting. They have had three very positive drafts and have created a pipeline of players that are very exciting for the future.
We are all just beginning to get a taste of the type of player that Chris Bigras will be, but he’s definitely not the only guy in the pipeline people should be excited about. One player that I want to single out is one who may end up being the steal of his draft class, and that is Colorado’s Seventh Round Pick from the 2014 Entry Draft, Julien Nantel.
Nantel plays in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. He is fourth on the team in scoring and tied for third in goals (19). I love absolutely everything about his game; he’s a deceptively quick skater, tenacious fore-checker, 200-foot player, strong on the body, good decision-maker with an outstanding shot that plays in all situations.
He is definitely benefiting from playing on a loaded Rouyn-Noranda team that is having an amazing season, but his progress as a player is impossible to deny. Of all the current Avalanche prospects still playing in the CHL, he might be the one that excites me the most. He’s got the potential to be a second-line forward that can play against the opponent’s top lines.
The Avalanche must sign him to an entry-level contract at the end of this season, or he may re-enter the draft, and I expect them to do just that. What prospects catch your eye?
SEBASTIAN HEDLEY-NOBLE: Nantel is a solid choice, and it’s very interesting now that fellow Avalanche prospect A.J. Greer has joined him and J.C. Beaudin(who is second on the team in points) in Rouyn-Noranda, forming a trio of Colorado hopefuls. It’d be nice if they can all form some nice chemistry together while moving up the ranks within the organization.
There are fortunately a few prospects that have caught my eye. I could go ahead and take the easy choice here, and that is no doubt Mikko Rantanen. However I have written so much about him of late, I’ll pick another prospect who I am extremely excited for, and his name is Nikita Zadorov.
Zadorov, currently playing for the San Antonio Rampage in the AHL, is making all the strides to become a top defenseman in the NHL. Z is a very large kid, standing 6’5″, and weighing 220 lbs at age 20! He uses that big frame to his advantage on a daily basis, punishing opponents with bone crunching checks, as we’ve seen evidence of already in his short stint with the big boys.
What makes Zadorov unique though, is the combination of that huge body along with elite skating ability, offensive awareness, and a heavy bomb from the point. In 36 games for the Rampage so far, Zadorov has collected 21 points(8 goals).
We don’t know how good this kid can be, but the potential is almost limitless. Colorado hasn’t had a defensive prospect like Zadorov in many years. He will have a massive impact on the not so distant future of the Avalanche and I can’t wait.
SEBASTIAN HEDLEY-NOBLE: My favorite moment from the past week or so has to be Mikhail Grigorenko’s beautiful play last game versus the Canadiens. In the final minutes of a massive game for Colorado, Grigo stripped the puck from PK Subban and created the game winning goal, and with some style to say the least. It’s even sparked rumors of Subban being shopped!
KEVIN GOFF: Hard to find a better play from the Avalanche this past month, maybe all season than this AMAZING pass from Blake Comeau to set up Carl Soderberg. Two offseason acquisitions that have made an unbelievable difference for this team. I could watch this play over and over again, and I bet you all could too!
- Thanks for reading, hope you look forward to the next edition! You can follow us on Twitter if you’d like(we’d recommend it) – Kevin@BrgBrigadeKevin, Sebastian@SebastianHNoble
Sebastian Noble is currently in his third year with The Hockey Writers covering the Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers. Liverpool, England, and of course Colorado Avalanche & Florida Panthers supporter. You can follow him on Twitter @SebastianHNoble