Prior to the 2013-2014 season Nick Holden had seven, yes seven, games of NHL experience. When he cracked the Colorado Avalanche lineup for the 2013-2014 season he experienced seven games just in the playoffs. The regular season? Holden played nearly eight times that many games, 54 to be exact.
In those 54 games, Holden scored 10 goals and added 15 assists. In the seven playoff games, Holden added three goals and one assist. Also and maybe more impressive, when the regular season was over, Holden had a plus/minus rating of +12. Very solid for a defender that had not even played a full NHL season. Holden a 207 pound 6 foot defenceman scored most of his goals back door after coming down from the red line.
Holden was a surprise in a season that, start to finish, top to bottom was a surprise for the Avalanche. A division title, a playoff appearance and three awards at the award show in Vegas highlighted the season. Holden was in the Avalanche line up game after game once he made the lineup and in those games only had 22 PIM. It was not a huge surprise when the Avalanche signed Holden to a contract extension after the season that would kick in after the 2014-2015 season. What was surprising was the length and term of the deal.
Three years paying the now 28 year old just shy of $5 million in that span. This past season Holden made only $600,000 and his new contract will be quite a large pay raise. With his new deal Holden is one of only four players that is currently tied to the Avalanche to the 2017-2018 season. Who are the other three you ask? Well they would be Matt Duchene, team captain Gabriel Landeskog and starting goalie Semyon Varlamov. All three of these players would be classified as the core of the Avalanche roster. Does this mean Holden is also part of the core when the Avalanche also have defenders like Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie who are not signed long term?
The Avalanche, as a team, regressed from their success in 2013 and Holden was no different. This season Holden played a career high number of games with 78 but, his point production dropped way off. Playing in 24 more games Holden produced 11 less points and had six more penalty minutes.
For his NHL career, Holden has played in 146 games. In that time he has scored 18 goals and collected 43 points. The question facing the Avalanche is which Holden is the true Holden? Is it the player that broke out in 2013 or the player that played every night and lacked in production? The Avalanche have faced some scrutiny in recent years for over paying under producing players and if things continue as they have been, Holden may be another example of this.
The events of this off season may dictate if Holden is in the lineup next season but his contract alone suggests he has to be. Having a player making short of $3 million in a suit in the press box would be hard for the organization to justify.