How the Avalanche Can Fix Their Blue Line

How the Avalanche Can Fix Their Blue Line
Mark Harris

The Colorado Avalanche were a bit of a disappointment in 2014-15. After taking home the Central Division crown in 2013-14, the Avs looked like an up-and-coming team with their speed and offensive talent, but things didn’t pan out that way as they finished in the basement of the division with a record of 39-31-12.

Everyone knew that their biggest weakness headed into the season was their blue line. Most also knew that Seymon Varlamov would regress a touch after a 41-14-6 record and a season save percentage of .927. Those assumptions proved to be true as Colorado couldn’t play world beaters for two consecutive campaigns.

The Avalanche allowed 2.7 goals per night which ranked 21st in the league. This after ranking 15th the year prior in the same category. Varlamov gets some of that blame, but the defense has to take some of the blame too.

This is something they need to address as the offseason continues.

Tyson Barrie stood as the highest scoring blue liner in Colorado with 12 goals and 41 assists. Those numbers placed him eighth in scoring among all NHL defensemen. You could definitely label his season as under-the-radar. Scoring isn’t the entire story for blueliners as they also try to stop the opposition from scoring.

Barrie ended the year with a plus-five rating and was the only d-man with a positive rating in the category with 50 or more games under his belt.

The Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets, and Minnesota Wild each had five defenseman that fit that bill while the Chicago Blackhawks had four of their own. It’s tough to compete against the top-tier of the division as they have ‘shut down’ defenders while you on the other hand do not.

The Avs have three defenseman set to be free agents this summer. Jan Hejda and Ryan Wilson will be UFAs while 23-year-old Stefan Elliott will be an RFA. Those three scored one goal and added 12 assists in 89 combined games. The trio could be expendable and the team could turn to free agency to try and solve their defensive woes.

One defenseman that is expected to hit the market this summer is Cody Franson. Franson was dealt to Nashville just prior to the deadline but saw a limited amount of ice time as he didn’t seem to fit in with the system. David Poile addressed the situation involving Franson Tuesday afternoon.

Franson had a combined seven goals and 29 assists in his 78 games played both in Toronto and Nashville. He was minus-seven in Toronto and had an even stat line in Music City. You can’t take too much from +-/ in general, and certainly not from his time in Toronto with a team that was well below average in all aspects of the game.

Franson however makes perfect sense for the Avalanche. He’s a big bodied blueliner that can stay home and defend and also has the upside on the offensive side of the ice as well. At just 27 he’s seen enough time in the NHL where he can adjust to certain styles rather quickly and still young enough to do so at a steady rate. He was paid $3.3 million this season. It’ll be interesting to see what his asking price may be as his value dropped a bit after the trade that sent him to Nashville.

Mike Green is another player that comes to mind that could change the makeup the Avalanche’s defensive core. The 29-year-old scored 10 goals and added 35 helpers in 72 regular season games. He’s set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer after being paid $6.25 million by the Washington Capitals this past year.

The Avalanche have around $1.6 million in cap space and with the cap expected to rise a bit and with no massive names to re-sign, they could make a splash in the free agent market and these are two names they may want to target.

Mark Harris

Mark covers the Central Division here at Today’s Slapshot. He is also the editor of predlines.com and co-editor over at puckfeed.com.

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