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Avalanche Mailbag: Drouin Without MacKinnon, The ‘C’, Playing Youth



Jonathan Drouin Avalanche

I guess people just have a lot of questions at this point of the season about the Colorado Avalanche.

Earlier this week, we had one mailbag, which focused on Ryan Johansen and the penalty kill, among other things. But that wasn’t enough, because the people have questions, and I (sort of) have the answers.

No point messing round anymore. Let’s dig in.

From Luke: With the top end of the roster getting very expensive (Mackinnon 12.6, Rantanen due for extension next summer, toews possibly now) how important is it for the NHL coaching staff to develop and coach up and play younger players and prospects (Meyers, JLF, OO, college UFA signings)

It will be very important, but I’ll have to see it to believe it, to be honest. The Avalanche don’t have a ton of young talent, but on a team built to win right now, the young talent they do have is on a bit of a short leash with the staff.

It’s something we kind of saw with Alex Newhook. He’s a talented young player who isn’t perfect, but when he struggled, they went with veterans they just trusted more. I mean, did Lars Eller really perform that much better once he was acquired at the trade deadline? Or was he just a veteran body? Same could be said for Matt Nieto.

That’s not to say that Newhook was great, but at some point, the Avalanche need to find a balance with winning now and developing young players at the NHL level.  It’s a tough balance for a contending team, but with all the pricey contracts on the books, it will be necessary very soon.

From Dada: With all of the film you have been watching, what’s one thing that has stood out to you, that has also caught you by surprise?

I already knew I wasn’t a fan, but I don’t really enjoy watching NCAA hockey. I don’t find it particularly entertaining. I like being in NCAA arenas but don’t love the hockey.

More than anything, I just enjoy being able to watch hockey for a living. The film rooms really don’t bring in a lot of eyeballs, but I enjoy doing them. I hope the people that read them enjoy the content as well.

From Bradley: Do you think Avs add another forward?

Yes. I’d be very surprised if they didn’t add at least one more forward before the season starts. The numbers just don’t add up, and another body is necessary. Foudy is coming off what appears to be a serious injury, and Olausson didn’t have a great rookie year in the AHL. Pavel is someone to watch, but it just makes too much sense for them to bring in someone else to challenge. There are internal options but they’re limited, so I see them adding another forward.

From Anthrax: How long does the MacKinnon/Drouin experiment go if Drouin is a black hole over the first month or so?

That will be fascinating to watch. If Drouin struggles with MacKinnon, what other options do they have? Drouin and Johansen together, on paper, doesn’t seem like a fit, as neither generate a ton of shots and have a clear preference for passing.

If anything, I wonder if he may be a fit with Wood and Colton, if it came down to it. Both of those guys generate a lot of shots and Wood can do a lot of retrieval work on the forecheck.

Regardless, he will almost certainly start with MacKinnon. Why wouldn’t he? But if that doesn’t work out for whatever reason, the next option will be fascinating, and really show if he’s cut out to play on the Avalanche.

And who knows? Maybe he and MacKinnon will pick up right where they left off in Halifax. That’s the ideal situation.

From Jackie: What’s happening with Stienburg? Very little was said about him at dev camp.

I honestly didn’t notice him much at camp, but I’m not sure that matters much overall. It’s a strange situation, though. He was a relatively high draft pick but they haven’t committed to an entry-level contract to him. They own his rights until next year, so he can’t do much else, but just sits in limbo for now. I haven’t heard anything, so maybe an AHL deal is coming.

From Paul: Do you think that since Landeskog is out for the season, MacKinnon should wear the “C” until he returns? I think it will give the team someone to rally around and look up to as their leader

No. For one, the team still expects Landeskog back, so giving a temporary “C” to someone doesn’t make much sense. And second, I don’t think MacKinnon wants that “C” on his jersey. They’ll just go with three players wearing the “A.”

From Headsavvy: Did Taylor Makar look as good as I heard he did in DC?

He definitely looked quicker, but there still appears to be limitations to his game offensively. I think there’s still a ways to go for him to become an NHL regular in the future, but the improvement is encouraging. We all know the Avalanche could use a late-round gem.

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