Avalanche’s Lack of Depth Scoring Is Cause for Worry

The Colorado Avalanche have failed to get off to the kind of start we expected to see from them. It is unfair to put this down to one specific problems, because there are many issues for the Avs to solve right now. The team is currently 4-5-1, and certainly not showing anything like the Stanley Cup contending form they are supposed to show this season.

However, one issue in particular stands out, particularly because this was flagged by many over the summer as an area in which the team had downgraded. This is depth scoring, and so far, we have yet to see it, adding to concerns that fans already had.

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In the summer, Brandon Saad left as a free agent, while Joonas Donskoi went to Seattle in the expansion draft. Who has stepped up to replace them? So far, barring a bounce back year from J.T. Compher, the answer is no one.

Avs’ Bottom Six Struggles to Support

One of the reasons why Compher is excluded from this is because of the role he has been playing, which has been far more expansive than last season due to injuries. If you look at players who have consistently played a bottom-six type role, it doesn’t make for good reading.

Logan O'Connor Colorado Avalanche
Logan O’Connor of the Colorado Avalanche (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Logan O’Connor – three points in 10 games

Tyson Jost – two points in 10 games

Darren Helm – one point in 10 games

Sampo Ranta (10 games), Jayson Megna (8), Martin Kaut (6), Mikhail Maltsev (3), Kiefer Sherwood (2), Alex Newhook, Dylan Sikura and Steffan Matteau (all 1), are all yet to score a point this season.

The top line has not been great, and the second line hasn’t really fired either, but between the two players have put points on the board. Further down the line up, though, that has not happened.

Replacing Saad and Donskoi

The Avs decided to not really replace Saad and Donskoi with outsiders, and instead they looked for players from within to step into the line up. The team probably had one of those pinned down for this as being Newhook, while the currently injured Valeri Nichushkin was given a slightly bigger role to begin with, in the hope of finding more points.

Taking Compher to one side, who has made a fantastic start to the season, no one else has stood up and delivered.

It is probably fair to say that the Avs were extremely deep last season, and given cap implications, they couldn’t really afford to do the same again this season but will have expected better than what we are seeing so far.

Is There a Solution in the Coming Games?

What Colorado really needs right now is for Nichushkin to return to the line up, which could happen as early as this week. When he does that, he either gives them a third line threat, or takes up his second line role and pushes Compher down to the third line, to give them an in form player on that line.

Related: 3 Early Avalanche Trade Targets

Then the Avs need to put together their most skilful depth players together on the third line. Rather than spreading out these players across the third and fourth lines, put them all together in a bid to get some players firing.

Alex Newhook Avalanche Draft
Alex Newhook, Colorado Avalanche, 2019 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This would likely mean a call back up from the AHL for Newhook and putting him on the third line with Jost, and either Nichushkin or Compher, whichever is not on the second line.

This combination is more than capable of scoring points, and can begin to move the team forward as they look to find their feet and improve their record. Any combination can be used for the fourth line, as long as it involves O’Connor, one of the few shining stars so far this season. This line wouldn’t be expected to chip in too much with goals, and would predominantly be used in a shutdown role.

Get this right over the next couple of weeks, and the Avs may finally have some kind of depth scoring, even if it isn’t as strong as last season.


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