The Most Disappointing Colorado Avalanche so Far in 2013-14
The answer is “incredibly.”
Even as the Colorado Avalanche have fallen back to earth over the past month, dropping to fifth in the Western Conference despite leading the league in regulation and overtime wins with 18, it’s difficult to express frustration with too many players on the roster.
After all, this is a team that has seen the playoffs once in the past five years, and under the leadership of franchise legend and first-year head coach Patrick Roy, is suddenly a viable playoff squad.
The goaltending duo of Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere is superlative and the team doesn’t have a single player with a minus rating through 25 games.
Every player seems to believe in what Roy is selling, and perhaps this team is destined for something special when all of its players are healthy.
With that in mind, “disappointment” is a stretch for some of these guys. Perhaps they’re not actually all that disappointing, but the circumstances around them are.
Roy dropped McGinn to grunt status during the weekend series against the Minnesota Wild, promoting Patrick Bordeleau and Cody McLeod to higher lines while McGinn dropped in the lineup. He still mustered around 27 minutes between the two games, but part of that was due to a game misconduct that McLeod earned on Friday.
McGinn’s eight points in 22 games aren’t the kind of numbers that Roy wants from a top-six forward. “I expect more from him,” Roy told the Denver Post before the series. “(He) needs to be better offensively, play with more grit in front of the net.”
Making it into a single game this season for the Avalanche qualifies as a disappointment for Hunwick, who has landed on waivers twice since July. That appearance came in a 4-1 loss to Florida on November 16, where he registered two blocked shots and one hit.
With nearly 300 NHL games to his credit, Hunwick should be a major league roster player somewhere—especially for a team whose defensemen frequently land on the wrong side of the plus/minus category.
Hunwick was a plus-four last season in 43 games while playing some tough minutes for the Avalanche. Maybe he’ll be trade bait later in the season, but he hasn’t had much showcase time.
Another defenseman with a lot less NHL playing time this year than he’s been used to, Elliott didn’t make the NHL roster out of training camp this year. He played in 39 games in 2011-12 and 18 games last season, totaling 17 points over those two seasons, but has spent this year in Lake Erie.
For Elliott, defensive depth and playing time are the two reasons he’s in the minors: the Avs have an abundance of NHL-caliber defensemen, and he’ll get more playing time in the AHL as he continues to develop (remember, he’s only 22).
But not being able to immediately take a lineup spot from Nate Guenin or Cory Sarich, both in their 30s, has to be frustrating for a guy who’s had more than a cup of coffee in the bigs.
Talbot joined the Avalanche after playing 11 games for Philadelphia in a trade that sent Steve Downie to the Flyers.
In 24 games this season split between the two teams, Downie has 16 points, 14 of which are assists, as he works with Sean Couturier and Matt Read. It took Talbot nine games to register a point for Colorado, which he finally did against Chicago on November 20.
Sure, Talbot and Downie are two very different players, and Talbot’s strengths are in areas that don’t necessarily show up in obvious ways on the regular season score sheet—leadership, clutch scoring (he scored two goals in Pittsburgh’s Stanley Cup-winning game in 2009), and the penalty kill—but that doesn’t mean Avs fans can’t lament the loss of Downie and his secondary scoring in the interim, especially with Alex Tanguay out of the lineup.
If the Avs’ goaltending maintains anything less than its superhuman form as the season goes on, and Talbot (or the rest of the bottom-six forwards) can’t start chipping in some clutch goals, the team may start to wind up on the wrong side of some close games.
Too much of that, and the playoff attributes that Talbot was acquired for could go for naught.
With three goals and six assists in 13 games so far, Tanguay hasn’t been disappointing on the scoresheet; what’s disappointing is that his knee injury, suffered on November 2 against Montreal, has kept him out of the lineup for the past month. Coach Roy said on November 16 that Tanguay would be out “indefinitely,” and he hasn’t yet played.
The good news is that Tanguay skated on Monday with a knee brace, according to the Denver Post. The bad news is that with a lengthy recent-injury history—a separated shoulder in 2008-09, an upper body injury in 2011-12, and a torn MCL in 2012-13—his durability is a concern.
Any more time off the ice, and the Avalanche could be wondering what might have been for Tanguay this year.
Chris Leone has written for Bleacher Report since 2008 in multiple capacities. Follow him on Twitter @christopherlion.