Now that Colorado Avalanche hockey has disappointingly come to an end, it’s time for grading the Avalanche forwards. If the season had ended around the 30 game mark, almost every player on the team would be receiving a poor overall grade. However, the Avalanche turned things around in the second half of the season. With tweaks to the defensive system combined with the big guns playing much more like themselves in the offensive area, have bumped their grades up considerably.
Colorado came off of a spectacular year in 2013-14 which saw them win the Central division title with one of the NHL’s most lethal offensive groups. Let’s take a look at how the forwards of the Colorado Avalanche fared in their 2014-15 season.
Avs Forward Report Card
Bordeleau, Patrick. INCOMPLETE
INJURED / GP. 0
First on the list, one of the best enforcers in the NHL. Sadly Patrick Bordeleau missed the entire 2014-15 season due to back surgery and didn’t get to show us more of what kept him in the lineup the entire season prior. For a man his size, he can skate well and gets in on the forecheck, terrifying the opposition. A solid depth forward who can slot in on the 4th line when needed. A healthy Bordeleau would be a welcome addition next season.
Briere, Daniel. D
GP.57 G.8 A.4 P.12
It’s not like hopes were sky-high for Danny Briere when he was traded to Colorado. He spent all year in and out of the lineup. When Briere WAS in, he played sheltered minutes, never seeing much ice time. He was an amazing player back in the day, but time has caught up with Briere. And let’s not kid ourselves. Colorado traded an unwanted P.A. Parenteau and his two-year $4 million contract for Danny Briere and his ONE year $4 million contract. It frees up a substantial amount of money for the upcoming season, so it was definitely a good move. Best of luck to Danny on whatever he decides his next move will be. I was a huge fan of his back in his Sabres days.
Caron, Jordan. F+
GP.19 G.0 A.0 P.0
Jordan Caron was acquired at the deadline in exchange for Max Talbot. The former first round pick in 2009(25th overall) was put into a difficult situation where his new team were fighting tooth and nail to get into the playoffs. Caron was first tried on Duchene’s line with Iginla to start things out, that didn’t work out too well. He eventually ended up on the 4th line, and that was only due to the amount of injuries the Avalanche had.
Caron only received a + because he is still young, a former 1st round pick, and still has some potential. He will have to have a big summer and training camp to stick with the big boys next season.
Cliche, Marc-Andre. D
GP.74 G.2 A.5 P.7
Marc-Andre Cliche is a PK specialist, and sadly, that’s all he has to hang his hat on thus far. He has been playing on the 4th line since last year, however an upgrade is desperately needed in that area. Though Cliche does admirably on the PK, he doesn’t contribute enough in other facets of the game.
Colorado needs a solid defensive center for that line(preferably a bigger forward), good inside the dot, and who can also skate with the team and chip in with points every now and then. If Cliche does stay with the team however, it’s not the end of the world.
Duchene, Matt. C+
GP.82 G.21 A.34 P.55
This was a weird season for Matt Duchene. I personally thought he’d have a career year, I was wrong. He didn’t regress play wise, but he didn’t improve much either. As most Avs players, Duchene’s start was not pretty, but he did impress towards the second half of the season. Continuing to create chemistry with Jarome Iginla on his wing along the way. Perhaps his breakout will come as soon as next year however.
Dutchy is just way too talented and passionate about this team for it not to come together for him. Matt Duchene has all the tools to become a superstar in this league, something he is on the brink of accomplishing. Yes, expectations are high, but they should be for a player like Duchene.
Everberg, Dennis. B-
GP.55 G.3 A.9 P.12 / INJURED
Dennis Everberg was a very very Swede surprise. Sakic signed him in the summer and after coming straight from division 2 in the SEL, Everberg earned himself a roster spot on the 3rd line for the Avs. His poise with the puck and his size are his greatest assets and he knows it. The reason Everberg receives a B despite his numbers is because of the fact that he made such a big leap in leagues and did not look out of place.
In fact Coach Roy even put him out on the ice in key PK and PP situations, or late in games whether the Avs were up or down a goal. Dennis Everberg is versatile and will only get better as he gains more experience on the smaller ice sheet in the NHL.
Hamilton, Freddie. C+
GP.17 G.1 A.0 P.1
Acquired from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for defenseman Karl Stollery, Freddie Hamilton is a nice piece to add to the Avs forward depth. A great AHL scorer, and a solid showing with the Avs at the end of the year means that Hamilton will be yet another good depth forward to have in the system. Bottom 6 depth was something Colorado had been severely lacking, and they are addressing it with signing and trades for player like Freddie Hamilton.
Hishon, Joey. B-
GP.13 G.1 A.1 P.2
Finally, finally, finally. Joey Hishon has arrived in the NHL and it took tremendous patience and hard work for the 2010 first round pick(17th overall) to get to where he is today. I have been rooting for this kid since the Avs drafted him and the amount of unlucky injuries he has had to overcome is crazy considering his age. Now that’s all in the past for Hishon as he looks forward to training camp to prove he belongs with the Avs in the NHL.
He has tremendous puck skills, vision, hockey IQ, the works. Hishon the Magician just needs to keep on track now and keep getting stronger and there’s no doubting he will be a full-time NHLer very soon.
Iginla, Jarome. A
GP.82 G.29 A.30 P.59
What can you say about this guy that isn’t positive? He is 37 years old and is still putting up 30 goal seasons(29 this yr). He brought leadership, toughness, experience, and scoring to the Avalanche. Truly a great signing by new GM Joe Sakic, as Iginla looks to have plenty left in that giant gas tank of his.
Iggy finished the year tied as Colorado’s leading scorer along with Gabe Landeskog. If he and Duchene can continue to build chemistry, expect another big year from number 12. Iginla wants that Stanley Cup, and so do the Avalanche, let’s see if they can accommodate him in time.
Landeskog, Gabe. B+
GP.82 G.23 A.36 P.59
Same thing goes for Landeskog as pretty much the rest of the team. A slow start, with a good second half finish. He didn’t light it up in the beginning as mentioned, but after the All-Star game Landeskog looked possessed at times. Landy, the youngest captain named in NHL history has grown into his new leadership position. He was a great choice for captain and he shows you why every single game. Landy does not take a shift off. When something needs to be said, he will say it. If he feels he needs to drop the gloves, he will throw punches. He will not back out and no one can intimidate him, as evidenced by his bout with gigantic Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators. If he needs to set an example out on the ice, he does just that.
Landeskog was a force down the stretch for the Avs on the ‘9 line’ with MacKinnon and O’Reilly. No matter who he plays with though, Gabe Landeskog is always an effective player, finishing the year tied with Jarome Iginla for the team lead in points.
MacKinnon, Nathan. C
GP.64 G.14 A.24 P.38 / INJURED
There was a little too much hype and/or pressure it seems that surrounded Nathan MacKinnon after his first year as a pro. He won the Calder trophy for best rookie of the year and then went on to put up 10 points in 7 playoff games. During the summer, MacKinnon added a lot of muscle and everyone was ready for the monster to breakout right away. That obviously did not happen. Though, MacKinnon was on a similar pace to his rookie season, and was on fire with the ‘9 line’ before suffering his season ending foot injury.
So MacK did not regress, he just didn’t set the world on fire like some thought. With his speed, puck skills, and hockey IQ, I would expect him to become an absolute all-star in the NHL sooner rather than later. MacKinnon is 100% healthy, playing very well right now for team Canada at the IIHF World Championship in Prague along with Barrie, Duchene, and O’Reilly(see my reviews).
McGinn, Jamie. INCOMPLETE
GP.13 G.4 A.2 P.6 / INJURED
Another very unfortunate situation concerning Jamie McGinn. He also had to undergo back surgery to take care of a problem he’s been dealing with for quite some time. Suffice to say, McGinn did not see much regular season action at all. A big loss for the Avs as Jamie McGinn is a great versatile forward capable of scoring 20 plus goals, while also able to play up and down the lineup. Colorado will definitely be happy to have him back healthy next season, which he will be.
McLeod, Cody. C
GP.82 G.7 A.5 P.12
Cody McLeod just does his job, and does it in expert fashion. He is a 4th line grinder who also happens to be one of the assistant captains on the team, and has been for quite some time now. You’d find it very difficult to find a player of his ilk on any other team, he has a unique set of tools in his toolbox. Cody McLeod is the all-time leader in penalty minutes and fighting majors for the Colorado Avalanche. We are lucky to have a guy like Cody in the Avs locker room, a perfect 4th line hockey player. His grade would have been higher had he scored a few more points, a 15 – 20 point season is what we should expect from McLeod.
Mitchell, John. C+
GP.68 G.11 A.15 P.26 / INJURED
John Mitchell has been a great addition to the Avalanche team since coming over a few years ago. He is best used as a 3rd line center, though he can play either wing, up and down the lineup, PP, AND PK. He is for sure the Avs most versatile forward. When John Mitchell went down with an injury, the lineup suffered quite a bit. He needs to be healthy for the Avalanche to have that scoring depth they are trying to build. Mitchell has a great shot, very good at controlling the puck, and great at checking guys out of possession. Definitely a keeper for next year.
O’Reilly, Ryan. B
GP.82 G.17 A.38 P.55
Of all the Avalanche forwards, Ryan O’Reilly raised his game the most. The first half of his season was pretty bad. The second half was amazing, finishing the season off with 26 points in 27 games. O’Reilly was shifted back to center and never looked back. His line carried the team on a lot of nights along with captain Gabe Landeskog on his wing. After the All-Star Game Ryan O’Reilly further cemented himself as a very good top 6 center, who plays excellent defense. O’Reilly once again led all forwards with takeaways in the NHL. Ryan is a big part of the Avs core, let’s hope they get him signed to a good long-term contract this summer.
Rendulic, Borna. C+
GP.11 G.1 A.1 P.2 / INJURED
I know I know, how can I grade him after just 11 games!? Well because I saw all of those games and in each one Rendulic improved. Joe Sakic found another great big European forward during the summer, like he did with Dennis Everberg. Borna Rendulic became the first Croatian born player to skate AND score in the NHL. Borna has pretty nice hands and a hard quick release. He needs to work on his defensive game but that was expected when he signed. What wasn’t expected was that Rendulic would earn himself a call-up from Lake Erie and would stick with Colorado before a broken leg took him out for the rest of the year.
Tanguay, Alex. A
GP.80 G.22 A.33 P.55
Colorado Avalanche hero Alex Tanguay was the team’s most consistent forward from day 1. He is feeling great at his age and it shows. He still has some of the silkiest hands in the league and can pass that biscuit around like a magician. Tanguay should continue his great form next season and hopefully help his buddy Iggy get that Stanley Cup ring he wants so bad. Alex has proven that he is more than capable of playing either wing which is a great asset for the Avalanche, as they most certainly will be looking at different line combinations when everyone is healthy.
Winchester, Jesse. INCOMPLETE
GP.0 / INJURED
Jesse Winchester joins Patrick Bordeleau as the forwards who didn’t compete in any games this season. He played a few pre-season games and looked like a nice pick up but suffered a concussion and the symptoms never let up. It is unclear as to what Winchester’s future looks like. It all depends on those pesky post concussion symptoms.
So there you have it folks. Maybe I am a bit too nice with my grades, or maybe I have been too harsh on some players(doubt it), what do you think?
Next up will be report cards on the defense and goaltending.
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