Colorado Avalanche: Are They The Worst Defensive Team In The NHL?

By Randy Holt
Erik Johnson
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Avalanche were one of the worst clubs in the league during the lockout-shortened 2013 season. Which is why they were able to win the lottery and secure the no. 1 overall pick. Rather than select the top defensive prospect available, and a generational talent, in Seth Jones, the Avalanche opted to go with Nathan MacKinnon.

The thing about passing on Jones is that it likely would have been acceptable, had they made other improvements to their blue line through free agency and via trade. However, the Avalanche didn’t appear to explore too many improvements, and they didn’t make upgrades of any kind this summer.

This was a team that came in at 27th in the league in goals against per game, allowing 3.12 goals per tilt. A shaky blue line combined with an inconsistent goaltender is a recipe for disaster. And while the Avalanche boast some serious offensive talent, they head into 2013-14 with a similar issue along the blue line.

Gone are Greg Zanon and Shane O’Brien. At this point, the departures of the two mean virtually nothing, as neither served a key role on defense for Colorado. Cory Sarich stands as the only addition of any significance for the Avs, and he struggled to get playing time in Calgary, of all places.

Which means that the Avalanche will have to rely on young talent in order to keep the puck out of their own net. Erik Johnson leads the way, along with Tyson Barrie. They’re solid players, but not the type you want carrying a defensive corps. Stefan Elliot and Duncan Siemens are also up and comers on the blue line.

In addition to the youth, you have guys like Jan Hejda and Ryan Wilson. None of these pieces represents any sort of significant improvement for the Avalanche heading into the new season. They lack a franchise defenseman, perhaps even a top pairing defenseman. Weird, since they could have had that in Seth Jones. Is Barrie a top pairing guy? Is Johnson even a no. 1 at this point?

There are serious questions on this Colorado blue line. Failing to address the defensive end will likely come back to haunt this franchise, and will likely end up costing Semyon Varlamov a starting gig next season. We’ll see how things shake out for the Avs, but their lack of movement towards improving the blue line doesn’t exactly inspire confidence throughout this fanbase.

This is a blue line group that has the potential to be among the worst in the league, if things fail to come together. We saw how bad they were in 2013, and when Cory Sarich is your only significant addition, don’t expect improvement. Defensive corps? More like defensive corpse.

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