Colorado Avalanche and Matt Hunwick: Water and Oil

James CriderCorrespondent IJanuary 18, 2011

DENVER - DECEMBER 23:  Matt Hunwick #48 of the Colorado Avalanche battles for position with Cal Cutterbuck #22 of the Minnesota Wild at the Pepsi Center on December 23, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The Wild defeated the Avalanche 3-1.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images


There's no question Colorado Avalanche defenseman Matt Hunwick possesses skill. He seems to be able to dish the puck fairly well and can skate like the wind.

Nevertheless, Hunwick's first 22 games with the Avalanche have been about as brutal as it gets, hardly the kind of play Avalanche management thought they'd get when they sent prospect Colby Cohen to the Boston Bruins for him.

For an 'offensive' defenseman, Hunwick hasn't provided much of it. Despite averaging nearly two minutes of power play ice time per game (and a confounding 19:06 overall), Hunwick has managed a whopping three assists as a member of the Avalanche, and remains goal-less.

Though, to his credit, two thirds of his points (two assists) have come on the power play, so I guess in a way he has been the second unit power play specialist the Avalanche have been looking for.

I kid.

As stagnant as Hunwick's offense has been, his defense has been worse. Again, he's only played 22 games for the Avalanche, yet is a team worst—nine. He's finished at least minus-1 in 12 games as a member of the Avalanche, and has only been a plus player four times—all the while playing on the second highest scoring team in the Western Conference.

Even worse, Avalanche coach Joe Sacco has opted not to rest puck movers John-Michael Liles and Kevin Shattenkirk when the team is shorthanded, which has forced Hunwick into a penalty kill role.

The result: a train wreck of a penalty kill, which is ranked 28th in the league.

It would be preposterous to blame all of the Avalanche's goaltending problems on one player, but there's no doubt Hunwick is a big part of the problem.

What's going on here? He doesn't score, he can't play defense and he regularly finishes in the minus column.

For a coach who's played musical chairs with his defensemen his whole 127-game tenure with the Avalanche, why hasn't Joe Sacco benched Hunwick yet, especially when it's worked wonders in the past (such as with John-Michael Liles last season)?

Until this question is answered, don't expect the Avalanche's morbid defense (28th ranked in GAA) to improve anytime soon.