Colorado Avalanche: Grading the 2011-2012 Avalanche Forwards

Kevin GoffContributor IApril 21, 2012

Colorado Avalanche: Grading the 2011-2012 Avalanche Forwards

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    As spectators during the run to the Stanley Cup, the Colorado Avalanche have some extra time to reflect on how the 2011-2012 NHL season went.

    In what will be a series of offseason pieces I will be writing on the Avalanche, I'd like to do some reflecting of my own.

    To start, here are grades for the Avalanche forwards from this past season.

No Grades

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    To begin, these are some players who did not see nearly enough action with the team to be given a clear grade.

    Evan Brophy: He played three games and had straight zeroes on his stat line.

    Mike Connolly: Came over in the trade with San Jose and played two games with the Avalanche before being re-assigned to Lake Erie.

    Brad Malone: Nine games with the big squad this year. Not really enough to have made a big impact even though he did tally a couple of points.

Pass/Fail

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    The following players for the Avalanche saw enough action to earn some kind of a grade but weren't part of the team for long enough to really get a specific mark.

    Whether it was because they came over in a trade or left for a league after only a few games, the following forwards at least have a chance at earning credit.

     

    Joakim Lindstrom: Fail

    Lindstrom had a pretty good camp for the Avalanche but never really could translate play from the Swedish Elite League into the NHL.

    He was a healthy scratch after some ineffective games and then asked to be released from his contract to return to the SEL.  

     

    David Van Der Gulik: Pass

    Van Der Gulik saw a decent amount of action early in the season as a fourth-line center for the Avalanche and proved to be a valuable defensive forward.

    His offensive statistics weren't spectacular, but that wasn't really his job.

    He was a plus-three through 21 games in a period where the Avalanche were struggling to win games. It's safe to say the Avalanche weren't losing because of his efforts.

     

    Mark Olver: Pass

    Olver saw action towards the end of the season on several different lines and was effective in each place.

    It was Olver's play that really made T.J. Galiardi expendable, as he became the type of pest player that the Avalanche had hoped Galiardi could return to all while putting up numbers and while being responsible in his own end.

     

    Steve Downie: Pass

    A trade deadline acquisition, Downie provided an immediate spark for his team and put up a lot of points.

    His production fell off sharply during the last 10 games or so mainly due to an injury that Downie was playing through.

    All in all, Downie did exactly what the Avalanche wanted him to do. He made the team more difficult to play against and provided some more scoring.

     

    Jamie McGinn: Pass

    McGinn could have been the best player on the Avalanche from the trade deadline on. In 17 games, McGinn had 13 points (eight goals, five assists).

    He found instant chemistry with Paul Stastny and David Jones and that line quickly became the best group on the team.

    Can't wait to see what McGinn does with a full season with those guys.

     

    Kevin Porter: Pass

    A healthy scratch for most of the season, Porter's best moment of the year came in November with the Movember mustaches

    Porter was OK this year, in limited action, but nothing special.

Matt Duchene

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    Matt Duchene was expected to have a big-time breakout season this year after a strong campaign in his second year as a pro.

    Instead, Duchene struggled to find his game (and keep it) and also had to deal with missing significant time due to injuries for the first time in his career.

    Duchene posted career lows in goals (14), assists (14) and points (28) in 58 games, which will likely affect the contract he gets during the offseason.

    I would count on Duchene having a strong bounce-back season next year, but his performance this year was not up to the level he can play at and we all know it.

     

    Final Grade: D, but this won't be his norm.

Milan Hejduk

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    Another Avalanche star who really struggled this season, Hejduk posted a career-low 37 points and had his first season without 20 goals since he was a rookie.

    Named captain of the team in mid-November, Hejduk struggled to find the back of the net any place that wasn't a shootout.

    It got so bad for Hejduk that by the end of the year he was playing on the fourth line and getting only eight or nine minutes a game.

     

    Final Grade: sad to say, D.

David Jones

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    David Jones was a story of two seasons. Early in the year, he struggled greatly and looked like he had fallen out of favor with the coaching staff after spending much of his time on the third and fourth line.

    After the All-Star break, however, Jones really seemed to find his game and his scoring touch.

    Jones managed to hit 20 goals for the second straight season and stay healthy enough to play 70-plus games.

    If Jones had played as well all season long as he did in the second half, he easily would have had 30 goals.

     

    Final Grade: C+/B-; inconsistent but finished the right way.

Chuck Kobasew

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    Chuck Kobasew had a few moments this season but was never the kind of secondary scoring threat that the Avalanche wanted him to be.

    He played 58 games and was a frequent healthy scratch throughout the year. In those 58 games, he managed 14 points (seven goals, seven assists).

    I never really thought he was a great signing to begin with, and Kobasew proved it by struggling to find a role on the Avalanche this season.

     

    Final Grade: D+

Gabriel Landeskog

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    The Avalanche couldn't have hoped for more from their rookie sensation. Landeskog surpassed all expectations and quickly made a name for himself as a clutch player.

    Landeskog is a finalist for the Calder Trophy, for rookie of the year, and was the only NHL rookie to lead his team in goals scored.

    Thinking about how Landeskog is only going to get better should make most Avalanche fans grin like the Grinch!

     

    Final Grade: A+

Jay McClement

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    If you want to talk about a guy who is under-appreciated because of the style of game he plays, then talk about Jay McClement.

    McClement doesn't score a lot (10 goals, seven assists in 80 games) and he does occasionally feel the ire of Avalanche fans on Twitter.

    Judging McClement by his offensive numbers, however, is foolish since that is not his role. McClement is a defensive forward, and a good one at that.

    He is a strong faceoff man and an incredibly important part of the Avalanche penalty kill.

    The things McClement does don't show up on the scoreboard; frequently, you have to look deep in the stat sheets to see his impact.

     

    Final Grade: B+/A-; solid play all year long and the best Avalanche penalty killer.

Cody McLeod

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    Cody McLeod has much more skill than he is allowed to showcase in the current role that he plays for the Avalanche, but he accepts his role and plays it well.

    McLeod doesn't get a lot of ice time as a fourth-liner, but he does his best to make an impact when he is on the ice.

    He's a skilled fighter, solid hitter, decent skater and great teammate.

    McLeod had a pretty successful season with 11 points and 164 penalty minutes. He filled his role exactly the way he was supposed to.

     

    Final Grade: B

Peter Mueller

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    Peter Mueller finally got back in the lineup on a consistent basis after spending so much time out with concussion symptoms.

    Mueller had some great moments this season but struggled a bit down the stretch.

    He only played 32 games this season, but I thought he deserved his own slide after such a long journey back.

     

    Final Grade: Pass

Ryan O'Reilly

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    What a breakout season Ryan O'Reilly had. O'Reilly had primarily been a third-line center whose primary job was defense, but O'Reilly took the bull by the horns and led the Avalanche in scoring this season.

    O'Reilly is the fan favorite to be the next captain of the team and showed what a strong leadership presence he has.

    In addition to the scoring prowess he displayed this season, O'Reilly also continued his stellar defensive play and was among the league leaders in takeaways.

    If O'Reilly continues this trend, we may see his name mentioned among Selke candidates in the coming years.

     

    Final Grade: A+

Paul Stastny

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    Paul Stastny gets the shortest end of the stick of any player on the Colorado Avalanche roster.

    When he is playing well, nobody talks about him at all, but as soon as he has a couple of games without a point or just a couple of shots, suddenly he's a huge waste of a roster spot because of his big contract.

    It's really annoying and not fair to Stastny. People don't realize that he does far more things throughout a game that are good.

    Stastny was the team's best faceoff man and was second on the team in scoring. 

    Why did it take until the last month of the season for people to get on Hejduk's case for not scoring? Come on, Avalanche fans, Stastny is frequently one of the most consistent Avalanche players on the ice.

    He did hit a bit of a lull in the middle of the 2011-2012 season, but he pulled himself out of it and was one of the most clutch players on the team in the last couple of weeks.

    Stastny is also one of the best leaders on the team and doesn't get enough credit for that, either.

     

    Final Grade: B/B-