Matt Hunwick’s first game for the Colorado Avalanche last year was November 8th, a month into the season. The speedy defenseman was not injured, but instead found himself as the odd man out on a team cruising that no longer needed his services. A year later, he still may be a healthy scratch opening night, but the club has realized his value.
Matt Hunwick enters his third season with the Avalanche as their main weapon of speed on defense. He was traded to the club in the fall of 2010 from the Boston Bruins when the Avs were trying to outskate their opponents with their youth. However, in his 51 games, Hunwick logged just 10 points, no goals and a -19 plus/minus. The Avalanche missed the playoffs and changed their defensive philosophy with the acquisitions of Erik Johnson, Jan Hejda and Shane O’Brien to add to the toughness of a defense that already included Kyle Quincey and Ryan O’Byrne. Hunwick’s services were no longer needed.
Hunwick waited patiently and got his first chance with the Avalanche regularly last season in December because of injuries. He became a reliable defender, but easily replaceable once the other defensemen became healthy. The previous year, Hunwick was chastised for making mistakes and this stigma still hung over the Michigan native.
Hunwick remained patient and was rewarded with a second chance that saw him play out the rest of the season after Kyle Quincey was traded for Steve Downie. His solid play not only gave the Avalanche a chance to compete in March for the playoffs, but also earned Hunwick a two-year, $3.2 million contract before the lockout. The transformation from leftover skater of an old strategy to reliable defensemen was not expected while Hunwick sat out last year
Of the seven defensemen destined to make the team, newcomer Greg Zanon and Hunwick are both 5’11, the only defensemen shorter than six feet tall. However Zanon is a grinder and not known for the speed Hunwick posseses. While coach Joe Sacco has indicated that one of the Avalanche’s young defensemen, Tyson Barrie or Stefan Elliott will make the team, Hunwick now has the trust to reliably step in for the Avs. Hunwick has a solid place on the Colorado Avalanche, for the first time since he arrived.