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Colorado Avalanche

Why Tomas Tatar Was Exactly What The Avalanche Needed



It’s the middle of September. The Colorado Avalanche needed to add a top nine forward to feel a lot better about their group heading into the season, but at this point in the offseason, let’s be honest – it’s slim pickings.

They could have waited on Patrick Kane (I do believe they kicked the tires), but he won’t be ready to play for a few months. Beyond Kane, the options for a top nine forward were incredibly limited: One-dimensional Phil Kessel, 39 year old Zach Parise, 32 year old Tomas Tatar, or…a trade.

Now, I think a move for Parise would have sufficed, as he’s still got game this late into his career, but on Tuesday, the Avalanche decided to go the route of Tomas Tatar.

And he’s exactly what they needed.

No, Tatar is not a perfect player. Like most players that find themselves unemployed just a week before training camp, he has flaws, but they’re flaws the Avalanche can deal with. The 32 year old fills an immediate need for Colorado, and at least during the regular season, makes them a better team.

The Numbers

It’s hard not to like what you see here. With Tatar on the ice, the numbers look fantastic for his team at both ends of the ice. I’m not really sure anyone will mistake Tatar for a defensive dynamo, but he’s someone who generates a lot of shots on net, and has been a pretty consistent finisher throughout his career. He’s never shot below 10% in a season. In fact, the lowest shooting percentage he’s ever had is 11.4%. That consistency is actually kind of remarkable when you think about it, and the hope for the Avalanche is that it continues this season.

Tatar will turn 33 in December, and you never know when father time will finally catch up to him. He did bounce back after a rough 2021/22 campaign, so the Avalanche are hoping they get the player the Devils got last season.

One possible reason why Tatar’s defensive metrics were so strong last year could be his most common linemate – Nico Hischier. The young forward, who is one of the best two-way players in the league, played over 600 minutes with Tatar at even strength. Tatar’s next most common linemate was Dawson Mercer, but even then, they only spent 362 minutes together. I imagine Tatar will move around the Avalanche lineup a lot, but they don’t have a center that’s as good as Hischier is defensively, so it’s something to keep in mind.

Either way, for what the team needed, and considering when they signed him, Tatar fills a pretty big hole.

The Fit

Without Tatar, the Avalanche were looking at Logan O’Connor being the likely candidate to fill out the final spot in the top nine. With the addition of the Slovakian forward, O’Connor, in a fully healthy lineup, ends up on the fourth line. In a perfect world, that’s where he’s best suited to be.

Having just come from the Devils system, where the focus was on speed and skating, Tatar should have no issues fitting in with the Avalanche. Beyond adding size and grit, it’s clear the focus of management this summer was to make sure this team isn’t so top heavy offensively. If you’ll remember, they went into the playoffs with a third line consisting of Andrew Cogliano, Logan O’Connor, and Lars Eller. Two of those players are now pegged for the fourth line, while one has left town. There are still questions in the top nine, but on paper, the team looks a bit deeper this season.

For the most part, Tatar has been able to stay healthy over the course of his career. In fact, only once in the last nine seasons has he played less than 90% of his teams games. After what the Avalanche dealt with last season, adding a player with some durability is a big plus.

But perhaps the most important thing Tatar will add to the team, beyond additional depth, is insurance. Listen, everyone would love to see Jonathan Drouin light the world on fire on Nathan MacKinnon’s wing, but it’s far from a sure thing. Now the Avalanche have another backup plan if the reunion doesn’t work out. And even if Drouin does play well, he’s not really been a durable player in the NHL, so Tatar is a perfect candidate to slide into the top six in a pinch.

The Contract

You can have questions about the player, but I’m not sure how you can dislike this contract. Adding a player coming off a 20 goal season at just $1.5 million is tremendous value. Tatar has his flaws, but you will find no complaints from me with a contract like this.

The Verdict: B+

For the regular season, Tatar is exactly what this team needed. He can play anywhere in your top nine, and help drive the play no matter what line he’s on. His presence will push guys like Cogliano and O’Connor into roles that they’re far better suited for, and depending on who snags the final spot in the forward group, you have to feel pretty good about where the Avalanche sit up front. Sure, it’s not perfect, but considering the circumstances with the cap, Chris MacFarland has done a fine job rebuilding a forward group that disappointed in the playoffs five months ago.

So if Tatar is exactly what this team needs, why isn’t the grade an “A”? Simple.

Tatar’s playoff track record.

You can’t ignore it. You just can’t.

This is a team that plans to play late into the Spring, and Tatar is someone whose game has fallen off a cliff once the postseason starts every single year. We’re not just talking about a small dip in production. His offense craters. It really isn’t a stretch to say that he disappears once the playoffs start. In his last 27 playoff games, he has just four points. Yikes.

Maybe this is the year it all comes together, or maybe it isn’t. Until we actually get there, we won’t know, but his track record doesn’t look good.

With this signing, the Avalanche are absolutely a better team than they were two days ago. They’re deeper, more skilled, and just as quick as they were before. At $1.5 million, this move is a no-brainer. The organization just has to hope this is the year Tatar figures things out in the postseason.

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