The Colorado Avalanche had a busy offseason, overhauling 1/3 of their roster from the previous year. The early portion of the 2015-2016 season then showed a team that was struggling to find their identity and struggling to gel as a unit. Fast forward to today and the Avalanche have won five games in a row and are suddenly right back in the playoff picture in the Central Division. This winning streak has seen a lot of things go right for the Avalanche; but perhaps the best thing going for the burgundy and blue right now is that the Colorado Avalanche free agent pick-ups are all hitting their stride and contributing.
Carl Soderberg may have been the new face that had the most pressure on him as he was tagged as “the Ryan O’Reilly replacement.” Of all the Colorado Avalanche free agent pick-ups, Soderberg has arguably the worst start. His defensive zone play has always been pretty decent, but it has really come along of late and, just as important, his offense is finally coming along. Soderberg looked lost in the offensive zone early in the year but his confidence has done nothing but grow, especially since being lined up with Blake Comeau and Andreas Martinsen. In the month of December, Soderberg has three goals and nine assists through 14 games.
If there is an area where Soderberg has remained disappointing, it is his face-offs. Soderberg’s face-off percentage is a woeful 44.2% and has fallen short of expectations all season. He has had a few good face-off performances here and there, but he needs to pick up this portion of his game
Numbers have never been the reason Blake Comeau was brought to the Colorado Avalanche. Blake Comeau is a role-player who tosses his body around with a certain disregard for his own health and he has done that ever since his first shift with the Avalanche. His offense has picked up more, of late, as he had four goals in December and a three-game point streak running. He also leads the Avalanche with two shorthanded goals this season.
The added offense is a perk for what Comeau brings to the game. Comeau is there for one reason, to make the Avalanche a harder team to play against. To go into the corners in each zone and punish opposing players. He’s good in his own zone, kills penalties and contributes in some way every single time he is on the ice. Blake Comeau has been earning his pay check every second he is on the ice.
Francois Beauchemin may be the most important of the Colorado Avalanche free agent pick-ups. The Avalanche have been looking for ages to have a defenseman that can play top minutes against top lines and compliment Erik Johnson and they finally got their man with Beauchemin. Beauchemin is leading the Avalanche with over 24 minutes of ice-time per game, is playing in all situations and is a coach on the ice. He can constantly be seen getting guys in their places in the neutral and defensive zones. His veteran presence has been invaluable to the Avalanche, and to Erik Johnson.
In addition, Beauchemin has been producing offensively and has contributed offensively with 19 points, second amongst Avalanche defenders to only Tyson Barrie. Francois Beauchemin has been absolutely everything the Avalanche could have wanted, and more.
Jack Skille is unique as far as how he joined the Avalanche. I can’t remember the last time the Colorado Avalanche gave a player a professional tryout coming into training camp, let alone when they signed a player off of a PTO. From the moment Skille came into camp he was on a mission to prove that he was still valuable to an NHL team and he has not disappointed. He has brought skill, speed, grit and more toughness to a fourth line that desperately needed depth. He doesn’t get a ton of ice time every night, but when he does he makes the most out of every second he gets. He has been a spark of energy ever since he arrived and has paid off in spades. I hope the Avalanche sign him to an extension this season.
The Colorado Avalanche look a lot different than they did a season ago and it looks like they are finally turning the corner. Sometimes it takes a while for new players to settle in and get going, but the Colorado Avalanche free agent pick-ups are locked in and are helping the Avalanche become the playoff team they have always believed that they are.