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Avalanche Mailbag: Acquiring Hamonic, changing systems, depth players, and more

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November 24, 2015


Well well well, I said at the start of the Avalanche’s newly-finished road trip that there might be some big changes if they didn’t manage to string some wins together. So of course, they end the trip with a narrowly positive record of 4-3. Whether that’s enough to stave off any roster shakeups is anybody’s guess.

One of the bright sides of the team finishing the trip with a winning record is that not every mailbag question this week was about who to get rid of or how many goats to sacrifice to generate some wins. Instead, we’ll look at a possible acquisition, changing team systems, and depth players.

If you’re wondering how to contribute questions of your own, you can tweet us with the hashtag #BSNMailbag or email BSNAvalanche@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing from you!

Any guesses what it would take the Avs to get Travis Hamonic? I know he wants western Canadian teams, but if the price were right… – Tom via email

TSN’s Darren Dreger seemed to be pushing the idea that Colorado were going all-out to acquire Hamonic, although to my knowledge there wasn’t ever any speculation of what the Avalanche were offering. As far as what it would take, Hamonic is a capable top-pairing right-handed defender on a friendly contract that keeps his price well below market value for four years. Taking that into consideration, I think if the Islanders did agree to a trade with Colorado, it would be similar to the Ryan O’Reilly trade that saw Nikita Zadorov and Mikhail Grigorenko come to the Avs.

The Islanders know that losing Hamonic makes them worse immediately, so unless they can acquire a one-for-one swap, they’ll go for a trade that will make them better in the near future. The Avalanche don’t have anyone they could afford to swap one-for-one, despite what some people said about a trade including Tyson Barrie, so here’s my idea of a potential deal:

A talented, highly-ranked prospect like Chris Bigras plus the Avs’ 2016 second-round pick to NYI in exchange for Hamonic.

Both teams fill a need in that Colorado gets better on the short-term and the Islanders get a player that may develop into a guy that could fill Hamonic’s shoes.

The people suggesting a straight swap of Matt Duchene for Hamonic are being ridiculous, by the way.

The Avs: a change in philosophy or just Duchene? They’re more aggressive on offense, but still bad on defense. Is Roy finally adjusting? – @rhetorix

There are signs that Roy is making adjustments to the team’s systems, especially through the neutral zone, although the Avalanche still struggle badly through the NZ against certain teams. Duchene’s contributions certainly haven’t hurt, nor has his shift to the wing, in my opinion. Duchene looks more confident on Nathan MacKinnon‘s wing than he has up the middle all year. Although caveat to that is the sample size is small.

The shot-blocking strategies implemented by new assistant coach Dave Farrish did not seem to be doing the team any favors, especially when defenders pull themselves purposefully off the man they’re supposed to be covering to block shots. This in my opinion is one of the main contributors to the defense still being rough when puck-moving and moving into the offensive zone seem to be coming a little easier.

I can’t say whether or not there’s been a change in philosophy as such because I can’t read Patrick Roy‘s mind, but there have definitely been changes. On the road games against the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins, for example, the team played an obvious 1-3-1 trap system which isn’t their usual strategy.

It’s possible Roy’s just in “throw things at the wall and see what sticks” mode, but with the team on the road, a lot of what we’d normally discover in morning skates and practices is a mystery at the moment. I’d be quite curious to see what the team is practicing differently now that they’re back in Denver. I think that will reveal whether or not these adjustments are meant as quick fixes or part of an actual ‘change in philosophy.’

Who do you think will win the Avs scoring race? @colinsullivan_9

Nathan MacKinnon. Full stop.

What are your thoughts on the Avs’ depth? Avs’ message to fans was more but seems like 34, 14 & 25 haven’t been what they hoped. – @jorsmith13

First off, as of today, Mikhail Grigorenko has seven points in his last seven games. Now that Grigorenko has been promoted from the fourth line, he’s been improving considerably. He’s also getting penalty kill time and though he still has rough patches, he is not struggling in his role as a skilled third-liner.

Carl Soderberg got off to a rough start. I was initially quite excited by the signing, then worried as he failed to gel with any linemates Roy stuck him with. He showed flashes of brilliance but never really got there.

Now? He’s also been quietly racking up points. He’s obviously not as valuable defensively as O’Reilly, but I feel like much of the fanbase’s ire stems from people making direct comparisons. They aren’t players who can be directly compared. The front office knew Soderberg wasn’t an O’Reilly-caliber player, which is why he isn’t getting O’Reilly-level money.

The team as a whole got off to a painful start, but a few of us at BSN were talking just today and agreed that Soderberg has looked better and better every single game he’s played in an Avalanche sweater.

Blake Comeau got off to a fantastic start and showed a lot of energy, but hasn’t shown the steady improvement of Soderberg and Grigorenko. Although I’d state for the record that his constant cycle of linemates hasn’t helped. He looks great with Grigorenko and Jarome Iginla. He looks not so great with McLeod.

I’m not sure how realistic people’s expectations were, but the way I see it is this: Grigorenko is going to be a fine replacement for Jamie McGinn. Comeau is a John Mitchell-type player who does well to adapt to the circumstances the team needs him in. Soderberg for me is kind of the wild card at the moment. If he continues to improve, he could be a real difference-maker. He’s on pace for a roughly 40-point season, so even if he doesn’t improve at all and finishes the year with 40 even, that’s still an improvement over his seasons with the Boston Bruins.

Overall, I wouldn’t say I personally am disappointed in the contributions of any of these three players any more than I was disappointed with the entire team at the start of the season. They may not be what people are used to, but they are contributing in their own ways.

Do you think Zach Redmond stays in the lineup? – Ken via Facebook

He made a case for it during yesterday’s game against Winnipeg, for sure. Redmond has occupied a nebulous place in the Avalanche lineup but I’m tentatively optimistic because he and Brandon Gormley appear to work well together. Again, small sample size, but they move the puck and cover distance better than either one of them plus Nate Guenin.

One of the most frustrating aspects of watching the Avalanche last season was watching Redmond get frequently scratched in favor of Guenin and Brad Stuart. Some people are quick to bring up the fact that he’s no Duncan Keith, but that’s beside the point. At the time, he had the slight edge of being a superior option in many ways an the Avs didn’t take it.

I would love to see Redmond stick around. Like I said, tentative optimism.

To those who sent questions that haven’t been answered yet: fret not! There were a couple that were truly worthy of group discussion, so look out for more feedback on those next week. Or maybe if I can corral enough people we might do a mailbag double dose this week. Stay tuned!

As always, we welcome further questions, comments, and feedback on our dedicated #BSNMailbag hashtag.

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