Colorado Avalanche Player Grades Through Quarter Mark
There's been alot to like about the Avalanche's 2010-2011 season.
They've gotten some outstanding performances from individual players, they lead the Western Conference in goals scored, and are tied with the Vancouver Canucks for the Northwest Division lead, despite rampant injuries throughout the roster.
However, there are cons as well. The defense has been spotty, some of the Avalanche's higher paid players have played so poorly they've been healthy scratches, and—though they've battled through it well—for the fourth straight year the Avs are one of the most injury prone teams in the NHL.
Let's look through the roster to see who's been pulling their weight and who's pulling the team down.
Left Wing Cody McLeod: D-
2010-2011 has not been McLeod's season.
Through 22 games, he's a minus—2, averaging the lowest ice time in his career, and has been prone to taking needless penalties, with a whopping 90 PIMs thus far. Offensively, not much is asked, but McLeod only has four points and is barely averaging a shot per game.
A far cry from the 15 goal season he had in 2008-2009, which earned him a three year contract worth over three million dollars.
Defenseman Kyle Quincey: D
Kyle Quincey continues to struggle. It doesn't help that he missed several games with an injury, but Quincey has gone from top pairing defenseman to frequent healthy scratch over the course a years time.
Dumb penalties, spotty defensive play, and no offense (pointless in 15 games) make one wonder if the Avalanche will soon cut ties with Quincey, despite re-signing him to a two year deal last summer.
Defenseman Ryan Wilson: D+
Like Quincey, Wilson has taken a big step back last year.
He's been good half of the time, but the other half his play has been dreadful; his handling of the puck in his own zone resembles a person who has just been tossed a hand grenade, and his assertiveness in front of the net is limited.
Other than a few big hits, Wilson has been a liability most nights for the Avalanche.
Right Wing Brandon Yip: C
Yip has been okay through the Avalanche's first 23 games, but not on the same level he played at last season.
Yip's biggest problem is that his role isn't defined. He hasn't fit well when paired on the Avalanche's third line with Daniel Winnik and Ryan O'Reilly, but often can't keep up when put on a scoring line with Stastny or Duchene.
To his credit, he's done fairly well offensively with five goals and five assists. But if and when Peter Mueller returns, Yip could be used as trade bait later in the season.
Defenseman Adam Foote: C+
Given his age (39), Foote has had a solid season when he's been in the line-up. Unfortunately, that's only been 12 times due to various injuries.
Left Wing T.J. Galiardi: C+
Unfortunately, T.J. Galiardi has been sidelined with a broken wrist for the past nine games. However, his play was nothing to write home about before the injury, as he had only six points in 14 games, despite playing on the first line.
Defenseman Kyle Cumiskey: C+
Cumiskey has now missed 12 games with a concussion injury, and that's his first problem. Cumiskey is a very injury prone player, as he's missed almost a season's worth of games over the past three seasons.
On the ice, he's been a work horse for the Avalanche. But he hasn't been without his faults, namely his decision making with the puck. He's young and he can skate like the wind, but the emergence of rookie Kevin Shattenkirk could bump Cumiskey into a smaller role when he returns, and his future with the team is cloudy.
Center Phillpe Dupuis: C+
In his limited role as fourth line center, Dupuis has been pretty decent, scoring five points in 20 games while seeing spot work on the penalty kill.
Defenseman Jonas Holos: B-
Though he's been head scratchingly demoted to the AHL, Holos was a solid contributor in his first 12 NHL games, logging over 20 minutes per game and sporting a plus—3 rating.
Defenseman Scott Hannan: B
Hannan continues to be unspectacularly spectacular, logging big minutes while keeping the mistakes to a minimum.
However, unlike years in the past, Hannan has been a tad bit more mistake prone this season; an example being the end of the Avalanche's 3-2 loss on Thanksgiving to the Edmonton Oilers, in which Taylor Hall—the player he was supposed to be covering—was left wide open to score the game winning goal in the final seconds of the third period.
Defenseman Ryan O'Byrne: B
Ryan O'Byrne has been great since being acquired from Montreal, making an impact of the first defensive pairing with John-Michael Liles, whom his defense first style compliments well.
Impressive for a player who couldn't even crack Montreal's line-up. That speaks volumes about how well he's played—that, or how bad the rest of the Avalanche's defense is.
Probably a little of both.
Goaltender Craig Anderson: B
Not much to say about Andy. He's been good when in the line-up, but his season has been derailed by knee and groin injuries, allowing the work horse who started 71 games last season to only participate in nine of the Avalanche's first 23 games.
Center Ryan OReilly: B
O'Reilly has been pretty good in his second NHL season, but he gets a "B" because he's been so invisible offensively. Yes, his primary job is solid defensive play, but he's expected to score more than once in 23 games.
Left Wing Kevin Porter: B
A really up and down season has seen Porter go from the Avalanche's fourth line, to the AHL, and then to the Avalanche's top two lines. Luckily, it's all been up for Porter lately, as coach Joe Sacco is trusting him in more situations, such as the penalty kill and playing the point on the power play.
So far, Porter has rewarded, with five goals in his last 10 games.
Right Wing Greg Mauldin: B
The 28 year old rookie has been a pleasant surprise for the Avalanche this season. After starting the year in the AHL, Mauldin has impressed since his call up. Highlighted by a two goal, two assist performance against the Minnesota Wild, Mauldin has seven points in only nine games, and may soon see himself getting time on the Avalanche's second power play unit.
Goaltender Peter Budaj: B+
The fact that the Avalanche are still in the playoff hunt is enough to earn Budaj a B+.
He's been solid in net, despite spotty defensive play in front of him, and has proven stable enough a good chunk of games over the balance of the season.
Left Wing David Jones: A-
Someone bubble wrap this guy. After scoring 10 goals in 23 games before going down with an ACL tear a season ago, right wing David Jones has shown that production was no fluke, as he has 10 goals in only 20 games already in 2010-2011. As a result, Jones has worked his way up to the top line with Paul Stastny and Chris Stewart.
Center Matt Duchene: A-
Duchene started 2010-2011 in a funk. He was scoring points, but was doing it quietly; he wasn't noticeable on the ice, and even though he had alot of assists had only two goals in his first 18 games.
But recently, Duchene has exploded for four goals in five games, and has 21 points in 23 games.
Center Paul Stastny: A-
As expected, the Avalanche's franchise player has been the anchor for the highest scoring team in the Western Conference.
The only thing peculiar about this season is that since switching from a wood stick to a composite stick, Stastny has been scoring more goals. He has nine in 23 games; compare that to last season, when it took him 39 games to score his ninth goal.
Right Wing Milan Hejduk: A-
After a slow start in which Hejduk was a team worst minus—7 in October, it looked like age and injuries were catching up with the 34 year old forward. Instead, Hejduk has exploded for 25 points in his last 18 games, and leads the Avalanche with 26 points.
Left Wing Daniel Winnik: A-
Winnik has been another great addition from Phoenix, who the Avalanche acquired him from last off-season. He's been one of the Avalanche's best penalty killers, and has chipped in offensively with five goals.
Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk: A-
After not making the big club out of training camp, rookie Kevin Shattenkirk's play has cemented him a spot not only with the Avalanche, but in the race for the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year.
There are still a few defensive miscues, but four goals and six assists in only 12 games played more than makes up for the occasional hiccup.
Right Wing Chris Stewart: A
Stewart has been a dominant player in his junior season in the NHL. With 11 goals and 14 assists, along with two fights, 2011 has been a coming out party as Stewart develops into one of the premier power forwards in the NHL.
Defenseman John-Michael Liles: A+
Liles Norris-worthy season continues. Not only is he scoring at inordinate rate—23 points in 23 games—but has arguably been the Avalanche's best defenseman defensively as well.
Through the quarter mark, Liles has easily been the Colorado Avalanche's best player.
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