Chambers: Avalanche lacks a deterrent, giving Blues and Golden Knights a considerable edge
The St. Louis Blues got tougher with the free-agent addition of depth forward Kyle Clifford, the kind of player the Avalanche sorely lacks.
We previously knew the Avalanche’s most difficult player, Matt Calvert, suffered a concussion early last season after unintentionally obstructing a shot behind his best ear in Vancouver. We now understand Calvert missed the whole seven-game, second-round playoff series versus the Dallas Stars with a concussion since he divulged that Thursday after being asked about the tinted visor he utilized in Wednesday’s season opener.
In the very first period of that very first video game against St. Louis, the Blues’ Sammy Blais was whistled for elbowing when he illegally rocked new Avs defenseman Devon Toews, who immediately fell to the ice prior to being accompanied to the locker room for concussion procedure. Fortunately for the Avs, Toews returned to the ice and logged more than 22 minutes in the 4-1 loss.
However there was no push-back on Blais or the Blues. The Avs’ power-play goal was scored with Blais in the charge box, however the Blues most likely started believing what I was at the time– Colorado isn’t hard enough. They don’t have a Kyle Clifford (83 profession NHL fights, 842 charge minutes). And they don’t have a Ryan Reaves (68, 910) of the Vegas Golden Knights.
They do not have a deterrent– a person who can lead his colleagues into the battle. And in this Original Six-type season that has Colorado playing the Blues and Knights eight times each– plus possibly in a seven-game playoff series– group durability is vital.
” In the case of the Avalanche, you’re going to have some pretty controversial video games with the Vegas Golden Knights and the St. Louis Blues, because they appear to be the clear top-three groups because division,” NHL Network expert E.J. Hradek told me. “And they’re going to see each other in the very first 2 rounds of the playoffs, so there’s going to be a lot more meetings with those groups.”
Colorado utilized to be harder. It lost some toughness by trading 6-foot-5, 235-pound defenseman Nikita Zadorov to Chicago in the offseason (although Zadorov was highly inconsistent in safeguarding his colleagues) and replacing him with the 6-1, 190-pound Toews. The Avs ended up being more mobile and more unsafe offensively with the indirect swap however what they lost could offset what they acquired.
They lost a deterrent– a guy you didn’t want to contend.
If Toews runs out the lineup with a concussion from a hit that drew no action, those inexpensive shots will continue. The opponent is going to strike you where it injures, where you’re most vulnerable.
Calvert, 5-11 and 186 pounds, isn’t afraid of anyone, however he’s most likely been encouraged to avoid being struck in the head. Outside of J.T. Compher, the third-line center, there isn’t another forward on the bottom-size who has the natural nastiness that every group requires.
On the blue line, defensemen Erik Johnson (6-4, 225), Ryan Graves (6-5, 220) and Ian Cole (6-1, 225) are huge and hard. But Johnson is 32 and out of the lineup due to the fact that of COVID procedure. Graves has mild-mannered size, and Cole most likely still has problems of Tom Wilson breaking his orbital bone in a one-sided battle on Feb. 7, 2019, in Washington.
Here’s a concept: The Avs must unleash top-size power forwards Gabe Landeskog and Nazem Kadri. Yes, they want Landeskog and Kadri to score goals and make plays– not fight and potentially break a hand or an orbital bone.
But this extremely gifted group can’t have it both ways. It can’t ignore the blood-and-guts strength every Stanley Cup winner should possess.