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Avalanche Season Grades: Mark Barberio

AJ Haefele Avatar
May 15, 2018

Defenseman Mark Barberio spent his first full season in Colorado after being claimed on waivers midway through the 2016-17 season from the Montreal Canadiens.

Overview

Barberio rolled into this season just trying to prove he belonged in the NHL. The Avalanche claimed him from the waiver wire after the Canadiens seemingly gave up on him and he appeared in 34 games for the Avs at the end of the year. He did enough in those showings to give himself an opportunity to make the opening night roster at the start of this past season and he capitalized. While he wasn’t a set-and-forget presence in the lineup, it was obvious he had the trust of the coaching staff as a versatile player who could fit into several different roles.

Jared Bednar and Nolan Pratt threw a lot of different expectations at Barberio as the season went on. It’s not easy for a player to find a rhythm when his role is constantly in flux but Barberio did as well as could be expected in acclimating to the situation. It wasn’t uncommon for Barberio to go from playing 12 minutes in one game to more than 17 the next. As the season wore on, it became obvious that while Barberio was flawed and had his limitations, he also was an important member of the defense and he really solidified the bottom pairing when he was part of it.

Asking him to be more than a third-pairing defenseman usually results in him being exposed as in over his head but he really produces respectable fancy stats as well as traditional numbers. There’s some frustration to his erratic decision-making and he can be turnover prone when he’s in his own zone but more often than not he was a steady presence who excelled at skating pucks out of the defensive zone. A mysterious injury derailed the second half of his season but he returned just in time for the end of the regular season.

Biggest Moment

Barberio’s true biggest moment might have been simply being on the ice for the empty-net goal against the St. Louis Blues in Game 82 and being part of the adorable dogpile of happy Avalanche players on the ice. But because that’s more of a personal moment than a hockey moment, let’s simply give that one a quick shout out as we all smile thinking back to that moment and how easy it was to be happy for those guys.

Now, Barberio’s biggest on-ice moment for me was his goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins on December 18. The Avalanche were in the middle of a difficult road trip out east and were deadlocked at zero against the defending champs in their barn going into the third period. Barberio changed all of that when a puck popped out to him at the blueline and he blasted one off a Penguins player and past goaltender Tristan Jarry.

The Avs went on to win the game 2-1 on a night that, looking back on it, really served to show what a mentally tough squad it was. Barberio’s goal was his second of the season and came in a four-game stretch where he scored four points.

What’s Next

Barberio literally re-signed with the Avalanche today. It’s a two-year contract where he’ll get paid $1.45M per season. Unlike the deal for Mark Alt, this kind of commitment suggests the Avalanche are planning on him being in the NHL lineup next season. It’s still a crowded blueline and he still has his work cut out for him in terms of holding off some of the youngsters, especially Conor Timmins and Nicolas Meloche early on (and potentially Cale Makar later in the year), but it appears the Avalanche are relying on him to continuing his job as a steadying presence for the NHL club.

One of the other factors in Barberio returning is that he bought into what the coaches were selling 100%. The Avalanche have been in dire need of a culture change for years and last year was a great example of just what can happen when a team that loves playing together hits the ice every night and Barberio was certainly part of that culture change. Instead of aging veterans cashing one last paycheck, there was a guy fighting not only for his career but for the respect of teammates he had grown quite fond of over the year. It turned into an easy decision for the Avalanche to bring him back.

Final Grade

B-. I’m a little bit higher on Barberio than most other people are so I recognize there will be some that disagree with me. His play all across the lineup and the inconsistency of his partners and role is tough sledding for any player but Barberio made it work pretty well. He showed flashes of being a very capable NHL player and while they were frequently matched with disappointing moments along the way (especially game one against Nashville in the postseason), Barberio certainly elevated the defense over the likes of Mark Alt, Anton Lindholm, and Duncan Siemens.

He brought a more dynamic element to the defense and had an 82-game scoring pace that would have given him a 28-point season. As a third-pairing defender, that’s something almost any team would sign up for.

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