With the season for the Colorado Avalanche complete, it’s time to take a look back at the individual players and how they performed.
Next up is J.T. Compher.
Let’s take a look at his numbers from this season.
Assists: 35 (career high)
Points: 52 (career high)
Face-offs Taken: 1,665 (fourth most in NHL)
Everything lined up perfectly this season for Compher, and he took advantage of it.
The Avalanche did not go outside the organization to acquire a second line center in the summer. Instead, they banked on some internal guys taking the job. Alex Newhook got the first crack, but the slow start cut away any rope he had. Evan Rodrigues was briefly tried at center, but that didn’t last long at all. While Compher wasn’t getting the linemates to start, he was getting the minutes, as the trio of Compher, O’Connor, and Cogliano was used frequently.
Come December, Compher was entrenched as the second line center. When Nathan MacKinnon got hurt, he was used as the #1. Not exactly an ideal situation, but the team managed to stay afloat (mostly thanks to Mikko Rantanen). When MacKinnon returned, it pushed Compher down to line two, and he stayed there the rest of the season. For a long time, it was really working, as he was producing at the pace you’d expect from a second line center. For a brief time, maybe you wondered if he could be that guy.
It turns out…he’s not, as many figured.
At the trade deadline, the Avalanche only picked up depth, leaving Compher to carry the second line. After that March 3 deadline, his numbers plummeted. His production before (.71 PPG) and after (.43 PPG) the deadline was a sign of things to come. Another key component after the deadline is that Rantanen and MacKinnon were more consistently reunited, leaving Compher to carry the second line. He’s not built for that. His production after the deadline is pretty much on par with what he’s done his entire career, so it’s not terribly surprising that it happened. He’s a solid third line player, but was just asked to do a lot.
He’s also not someone who drives the play. If you look at his individual shot attempts at even strength per-60, he’s way down the list for the Avalanche. The only regular forward to generate less shot attempts than him was Andrew Cogliano. He’s not a guy who creates a ton of chances.
Compher’s defensive metrics were solid this year, and he took a ton of face-offs. And I mean a ton. He’s not a particularly great face-off guy at 48.8%, but the Avalanche just kept throwing him out there for every big draw the team had. The addition of Lars Eller helped ease him out of that role just a little bit, but he was still relied on heavily.
Come playoff time, the wheels fell off. He was a non-factor 5-on-5 against the Kraken, picking up zero points, and generating just seven shots on goal. Depth and performance of the forward core was probably the biggest reason why the Avalanche didn’t advance.
Colorado forwards ranked by scoring chances created per 60 in the first round.
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) May 5, 2023
Season Grade: B-
This was a really difficult one to grade. Through most of the year, Compher was huge for the Avalanche. He shattered most of his career highs, helping Colorado get into position to take the Central Division. But after the deadline, he reverted back to the player he’s been his entire career. Is that really his fault? He was leaned on too much, and naturally, it didn’t work. He still did a lot of the things that made him successful through his career, but sometimes, you get asked to do too much.
Now, he heads into the offseason on the brink of getting paid. Coming off his best year in the NHL, he’ll likely get an offer well above what the Avalanche can match. The absolute low-bar seems to be Pavel Zacha’s four-year, $4.75 million per season deal.
Compher has been a real solid role player for Colorado since entering the NHL, but he’s likely to get paid like a second liner this summer. The team paying him that second line money should not be the Avalanche, but you can still appreciate everything he’s done for the organization over the years.