Recently it seems like there has been a revolving door between Cleveland and Denver. Recent calls ups for the Colorado Avalanche have included Andrew Agozzino, Tomas Vincour, Michael Sgarbossa, Paul Carey, Ben Street, Colin Smith and Karl Stollery. Injuries have hit Colorado hard this season and it has severely tested their depth. To make matters worse, Jamie McGinn is due to have surgery on his back December 10, and his season could be coming to an end.
The long term impact of McGinn’s surgery could be largely beneficial if he recovers well. He’s young so a back surgery hopefully wont effect his game too much, but short term it’s going to force some decisions on Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic that they would rather not have to deal with.
Injuries are bound to happen, and Colorado’s injury list seems almost comical at the moment. It’s certainly not an excuse for their poor play, that’s another discussion entirely. The real danger of a player like McGinn getting hurt is that it might put on hold the team’s plans for improving other trouble spots in the lineup.
McGinn is a versatile player. He’s played on any one of the top three lines and in a variety of different roles. His absence leaves a kind of hole can’t really be filled by just one call up. Roy would have to choose a replacement based on a situation, rather than just replacing McGinn with a new forward. Roy would need to decide if he’s going to need a skill player or possibly something like a grinder for the third line. Such is McGinn’s versatility that he can move from roll to roll.
Juggling lines with McGinn is certainly easier for Roy given McGinn’s relatively broad skill set. He isn’t the best forward on the team, but he is one of the few that has been successful in the few different roles he’s given.
Now that McGinn is possibly out for the rest of the season, his ice time is going to be passed around. Top line options are not too bad. Players like Duchene, O’Reilly, Tanguay, Iginla, MacKinnon and Landeskog make up a decent top six despite some under performances so far this year. Mitchell is still a quality third line center who seems to make Colorado better when he’s healthy.
The problem is that Colorado are not very good at other places on the ice, and McGinn’s absence might mean Joe Sakic is reluctant to move a piece from the team’s position of stregth (the offense), to fix a team’s dire weakness (the defense). But this would be ill advised. Even if the team struggles offensively with the loss of one of their forwards, it might be worth that to improve the defense.
Someone like O’Reilly who has been underwhelming this year would still get a decent return on defense. Not necessarily a top pairing guy, but surely better than what Colorado put out on the ice now. Losing O’Reilly puts a hole in the top six, but improving the defense probably covers that up. McGinn being in the lineup covers that up even more.
McGinn himself would, at trade deadline time possibly be in the rumor mill himself, but obviously not if he’s out until next season. Defense is Colorado’s glaring weak point, so with a few exceptions, no player’s name should be taboo when Sakic is trying to improve the team.
Getting better is going to be McGinn’s first priority, but Colorado’s front office can’t change their plans midseason because of an injury like this. Making the team better has to be priority one for Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy. Right now the team is not anywhere close to where they were last year and it’s clear work still needs to be done. Forwards called up from the AHL in recent weeks have performed admirably, and if the option to upgrade the defense presents itself, leaning on some of these younger players is much better than doing nothing, at least for the rest of this season.
Trade rumors are largely speculation, and there is no official word that someone like Ryan O’Reilly or Jamie McGinn when he was healthy were on the market. But McGinn’s injury shouldn’t give the Avalanche an excuse to stand pat. This season doesn’t look like this season is going to be the same fairy tale adventure that last season was. That’s not to say Colorado are not right on the verge of becoming a contender. It’s just that right now, it might be getting close to the time to cut the team’s losses, and get better long term. Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy can’t be conservative with this roster, they need to be bold but smart, regardless of who’s healthy and who’s not.
Born and raised in Denver, I’m a writer covering the Colorado Avalanche. I have a degree in Journalism from Northern Illinois University.