The Colorado Avalanche have all the pieces in place, great forward core to build around, awesome goaltender, but where is the defense? How will they address their huge need for more quality and depth on that back end? In order to fix the Colorado Avalanche’s defense, they must act like a desperate ex girlfriend and get on the phones non stop until they find a player or two who will help take some of the workload off Semyon Varlamov and bring this team deeper in the playoffs. Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, and Jan Hejda are keepers, but obviously you can’t play any NHL games with just 3 defenders, one of which(Jan Hejda) is not getting any younger.
Nick Holden, who was living the life of an AHLer until this year under coach Roy, has turned into a solid bottom pairing two way defenseman, earning him a two year contract with the Avalanche. So we can say with some certainty that Holden will be a part of the 7 or 8 defenders the Avalanche will carry into next season. They also have Nate Guenin on the books, who similar to Nick Holden, earned himself a new contract after playing most of his hockey down in the American Hockey League.I’d have to think the Avs are more comfortable having Guenin serve as the 8th defensemen to fill in if/when an injury occurs than having him play a regular top 6 role, which seemed like too much for him on many occasions. That’s 5 players penciled in, add in Ryan Wilson and Andre Benoit, and you have the same defense from this past season which accomplished so much. However, Varly had to bail that defense out time and time again. The Avs front office have to see this issue and address it.
THE STANDARDS ARE MUCH HIGHER NOW
They have a few options in the pipeline to fill one or two roster spots depending on how well they perform in camp. Those players/prospects who are the closest to making the jump into the Avalanche defense include Stefan Elliott, Duncan Siemens, and Chris Bigras, all three of which were picked recently in the first and second rounds. However high their potential may be, it’s likely only one, if any, make the team next season. The Colorado Avalanche defense needs more quality NOW. A top 4, preferably a top 2 defenseman would have to be on the very top of the Avs wish list. Even though aquiring a top 2 defenseman is extremely hard and costly, they must try. Someone to play with Erik Johnson would be ideal, which would enable Jan Hejda to slide down to the second pairing with Tyson Barrie. The big question is – how will they acquire this key missing piece? Do the Avalanche shop a solid player in PA Parenteau since they are relatively deep in the forward position or do they try and dip into free agency and try and find that guy that way? Or should they add their first round pick along with a piece like Parenteau to grab that one player they’re after? Many of these questions are awaiting answers. Plain and simple, the Avs need an upgrade big time on defense.
After having a first year as successful as Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy put together this past season, the standard for top quality play is now back in Colorado. Which also means the expectations from the fans all the way to the top of management, are much higher, as it was, and as it should be. They have quite a few issues to iron out such as the decision on who to keep, out of Andre Benoit or Ryan Wilson. Or do they try and get them both off the books somehow? They cannot go into next season with the same defense and expect the same results. The Avalanche were out shot many times while Semyon Varlamov made save after save, that cannot continue. Free Agency might be the best bet in order to keep the offensive depth the Avalanche possess. Here’s a list of free agents that the Avalanche might covet. The Avs should be active this offseason trying to acquire a top 4 defenseman or two, the only problem is, a lot of other teams are wanting the same exact thing. The advantage the Colorado Avalanche have over most teams, is offering the beautiful city of Denver and an exciting fast paced style hockey with the promising young core they contain, a real chance to create something special for many years. Players know which teams are on the up and which teams are on the opposite side of the table, and the Avs are definitely a team on the up.
One thing is for sure, if the Avalanche decide to stay with the current defense, there will surely be a drop in the standings. You need solid quality and depth in your defense, that extra player or two will make a huge difference in every aspect of the game. That player has to fit the bill though, the Avs shouldn’t just make changes for changes sake. They must take their time and do their homework and hopefully sign the one or two guys that are right for this team. If that can happen without removing any core players in the process, the Colorado Avalanche will be one more step closer to where they want to be, Stanley Cup champions.
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