They say a week is a long time in hockey, and for Colorado Avalanche defenseman Sam Girard, that is certainly the case. Just two games ago, trade rumors circulated around the 23-year-old blueliner with his place on the team questioned.
Part of that has been down to the emergence of Bowen Byram, who has in many ways stepped up and delivered this season what the Avs have been getting from Girard for the past couple of seasons. That came at a time when Girard himself was slumping, both from a defensive point of view and on the scoreboard.
Fast-forward two games, and the scene is very different. In two impressive home wins against the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks, Girard has scored six points and recorded a plus-5 rating. In the eight games he had played prior to that, he put three points on the board and a minus-7 rating at the side of his name.
Couple that with the fact that Byram left the game against Vancouver with a head injury, leaving a question mark over when the Avs will see him again, and Girard is firmly back in the good book. Colorado’s top pairing of Cale Makar and Devon Toews are back and firing, allowing Girard to play on the second line minutes, relieving a little bit of the pressure on him and allowing him to play his own game.
What Has Changed for Girard?
The biggest difference we have seen in the past two games from Girard has certainly been his puck-moving. Rather than looking a little hesitant to move up the ice and take the puck forward, Girard has actively tried to get involved on the rush at every possible opportunity.
In the defensive zone he seems more assured, and is making better decisions on the puck to clear the zone better than he has done all season. This is not just a one-off good patch for Girard, instead, it is a rebound back to something like the form we have seen from him in the past, from which makes his $5 million per year cap hit look like an absolute steal.
Despite struggles early in the season, Girard is sitting just under a point-per-game pace at the minute, with nine points in 10 games. He was on pace for a 50-point season during the shortened 2020/21 season, and that should be his aim this time around.
Is a Trade Still Possible?
Although Girard may have played some unbelievable hockey over the past two games, that doesn’t mean a trade is not going to happen. Yes, it is probably less likely, but there are many teams out there who would love him on their top pairing. And some of these will have the answer to Colorado’s problems on their second line, where they would love to add a winger.
The good news for the Avs is that while ever Girard continues to play like he is doing right now, his trade value keeps increasing, and the team can command more for his rights. However, they will have to be careful about potentially pulling the trigger due to defensive injuries.
At least in the immediate future, Byram is out, while both Erik Johnson and Ryan Murray have previously had problems with injuries. If either one of those goes down alongside Byram and Girard gets traded, that would leave the team short. Johnson, in particular, has brought more than expected this season, and if Girard does leave, he would be expected to bring even more.
However you look at the situation, Girard is either playing himself into staying with the Avalanche, or he’s building up his trade value. A move feels less likely now than it did a week ago, but you cannot rule it out. For now, we’ll continue to enjoy the upturn in form for the Canadian, and more four-point nights like the one he posted against the San Jose Sharks would certainly be welcome.
Craig Jones is a freelance NHL writer from the UK, covering the Colorado Avalanche. Watching the NHL from afar, Craig has followed the Avs for more than two decades, and wrote about them for almost one. To get the UK perspective of the NHL and everything Colorado, follow Craig on Twitter @craigjones29.