A seemingly harmless body check, during a meaningless game against the Los Angeles Kings, was enough to change the culture of the Avalanche's lineup for the foreseeable future.
The concussion left wing Peter Mueller—known Mark Messier helmet advocate—sustained in the Avalanche's second pre-season game, has negatively impacted the team, through it's first four games.
Regular line-mate, Matt Duchene, has had to play with bizarre combinations in the wake of Mueller's injury, including a duo of rock-and-sock 'em grinders, in Daniel Winnik and Cody McLeod. Duchene's other set of line-mates, Brandon Yip and David Jones, have been on-again, off-again players in their short careers. Four of their combined five points coming in the 4-3 shootout win against Detroit.
Not exactly the ideal situation for a player the Avalanche view as a large part of their franchise, taking the 19 year old stand out third overall in 2009.
Additionally, Colorado's already pedestrian power play, has sunk to new low, capitalizing on only 2 of it's first 14 chances, while allowing two short-handed goals. Mueller's replacement on the blue line, defenseman Kyle Quincey, has no points in four games and his errant pass directly led to one of the aforementioned goals against.
Drastic consequences for losing a player that's only played 15 career games for the franchise.
However, with the second youngest lineup in the league and mainstay sniper Milan Hejduk looking worn down, in what will likely be his final NHL campaign, it makes sense. The Avalanche didn't go out and sign anyone this summer because they were expecting Mueller to be one of their horses up front.
And not having him is killing them.