We are 53 games into the season for the Colorado Avalanche, and that means it’s a perfect time to re-assess some of the additions the team made over the summer. If anything, it might be a little late, but now that we’re past the All-Star break, we’ve got a really good idea of who these players are and how they fit in the system.
The Avalanche made five additions over the summer, all to their forward core, in hopes of rebuilding a group that struggled down the stretch and into the playoffs last season. Miles Wood and Jonathan Drouin were brought in via free agency, while Ryan Johansen, Ross Colton, and Fredrik Olofsson were acquired by trade. They’ve all had varying degrees of the success with the team, but at this point in the season, how would those additions be graded?
Let’s take a look…
Stats so far: 8 goals, 10 assists in 48 games
The Avalanche did not make it a secret that they love Miles Wood’s game, handing him a six year, $15 million contract.
There’s a lot of that contract remaining, but I’d say their faith in Wood has been rewarded so far.
Wood has been exactly what they had hoped, and maybe a little bit more. He brings energy every single night, generates plenty of shots on net (although finishing will always be an issue), and adds some size and physicality to the bottom six. Where he’s surprised is on the penalty kill. I was skeptical that a guy who had never consistently played on the penalty kill could step in the way the Avalanche had hoped, but he has excelled in that role. That only adds value to his contract.
I’d still argue six years is a bit too much, but at this point, who cares? He’s not overpaid, and Colorado looks like they were correct in believing he’d be a perfect fit in their system.
Re-assessment grade: A-
Stats so far: 10 goals, 20 assists in 51 games
Boy, this one wasn’t looking great early on, was it?
After a great training camp, Drouin’s play dipped in a big way. He started the season on the top line, but was quickly demoted and struggled to earn his place, finding himself in the press box twice during the first month of the season. He was generating chances, but nothing was going in for him.
Then, something clicked.
Yes, he’s spent a large portion of the last two months on the top line with Nathan MacKinnon, but he only got there by earning it. He dug in defensively, used his skating to his advantage, and wouldn’t you know it, the points started to come. In his last 30 games, he’s got 24 points, which is equal to a 65 point pace over the course of a full season. His best play was probably from the middle of December to the middle of January, where he looked like a completely different player. I would argue there’s been a dip in his play of late, but his strong play at least allowed the Avalanche to spread things out a little bit up front.
For $825,000, the Avalanche are getting great bang-for-their-buck, and that factors into the grade. Can he keep it up down the stretch when things start to tighten up?
Re-assessment grade: B+
Stats so far: 10 goals, 16 assists in 51 games
Colton is on pace to set a career high in points, and needs just one assist to tie his career high in assists. There have been some wonky moments for him as he adjusts to playing full-time at center, but he’s gotten better as the season has gone on. He’s centered arguably the most consistent line on the team, with Wood and Logan O’Connor flanking him. That line has been so good that they’ve been thrust into the spotlight of being the team’s default second line, a role they’re probably not best suited for.
The Avalanche view him as a 3C, but right now, he’s being overextended a bit. That’s not his fault, but other lineup issues have forced Colorado to use him that way. If Colorado could find a 2C to push him down the lineup a little bit, that would be ideal. With Colton on the ice, the Avalanche are controlling 54% of the shot attempts, so they’re not spending a ton of time in their own end.
Colton is still generating a lot of shots, but he’s settled into being a 10-11% shooter the last two seasons, whereas his first two years in Tampa Bay he shot at a much higher percentage. These last two seasons are probably a better indication of what he’ll be moving forward.
It’s worth noting that the Avalanche started the season trying him on the penalty kill, but that experiment didn’t last very long. At an increased salary of $4 million a year, they were probably looking for ways to maximize his value, but must not have felt he fit that role.
Re-Assessment Grade: B
Stats so far: 3 goals, 6 assists in 51 games
Olofsson started the season looking great between Andrew Cogliano and O’Connor, but issues with some of the other lines forced him to lose O’Connor to a bigger role. Injuries to some players up the lineup have made the fourth line irrelevant a lot of nights. At times this year, Olofsson was centering Kurtis MacDermid and Caleb Jones. It’s hard to really make an impact in a role like that.
Poor linemates aside, I do feel like Olofsson’s game has dipped a fair bit as the season has gone. He started the year as a regular on the penalty kill, but hasn’t been used as much of late. In the 19 games since Christmas, he has just one assist. His possession numbers are near the bottom of the team when looking at the forwards. He’s been used consistently at center, but face-offs are a real struggle for him, as he sits at just 38% after having taken nearly 400 of them. I like Olofsson. He’s a smart player, but it’s very possible he might be a better fit on the wing.
In the end, the Avalanche brought him in to be the 12th/13th forward, and that’s probably what he is. In a perfect world, I don’t know if he’d be an every night player, but Colorado’s lack of depth at center has made him one.
Re-Assessment Grade: C-
Early on, it didn’t look so bad. He looked like a good fit on the powerplay in that bumper spot, scoring four powerplay goals in the first two weeks of the season. Once he was taken off the top unit, the production disappeared, and he’s been a clear miscast in the system.
It’s become pretty obvious that being a good skater is essential to fit the way the Avalanche like to play, and Johansen just isn’t a good skater at this point in his career. We saw the system didn’t fit Tomas Tatar, and he’s gone to Seattle and played fine. Maybe Johansen would fit on another team, but I think it’s pretty clear he hasn’t been a fit here. He’s a great guy, and is loved in the locker room, but I don’t know what kind of role he can play down the stretch. Historically, he’s been a strong playoff performer, but his underlying numbers aren’t pretty, so I don’t think you can bank on him flipping the switch come late April.
Still, and maybe this is an indictment on the forward depth of this team, his 11 goals are the fifth most on the team. That counts for something, right? It’s really the only saving grace at this time, and why I can’t go with an F, even though it’s about as close as you can get and many will disagree. The $4 million cap hit hurts right now, and really could hurt this summer if things don’t suddenly turn around. It’s certainly trending (fast) towards that F, to say the least.
Re-Assessment Grade: D-
There’s really no need to dig into any more than we did. It was a wise move to take a chance on Tatar, given the contract didn’t exactly cost much, but it just didn’t work. Tatar never fit the system, didn’t earn the trust of the staff, and it was wise of the Avalanche to realize that both sides needed to part ways.
At least they got a 5th round pick.
Re-Assessment Grade: F