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Welcome to the weekly Avs mailbag, where we answer whatever Avs questions you have on your mind. If you have any questions for the mailbag, leave them for Evan Rawal on twitter or respond in the comments.
Why is hockey so vague with injuries reported as only upper or lower body? Not enough gambling involved to require like nfl?
— Rick Ponzo 🇺🇸🇺🇦 (@Ozmosis44) November 24, 2019
I guess I don’t pay enough attention to other sports to know what they report in on injuries, but NHL teams, for the most part, tend to not give out a ton of information when it comes to injuries. The Avs have been very vague this year regarding the injuries they’re dealing with, only reporting “lower body” and “upper body” for pretty much everything except for Zadorov’s injury, which was fairly obvious. Colin Wilson has been out for several weeks and no one really knows what’s been going on there.
I don’t know if teams do this because they believe there’s a competitive advantage to it, but the NHL doesn’t really come down on teams for being vague on injuries, so they don’t have to give us the information if they don’t want to. Still, being told it’s a “lower body” injury and then seeing guys like Landeskog and Rantanen in pictures on social media wearing boots on their lower legs doesn’t really give you much of a competitive advantage, does it?
It should be noted that not all teams are vague like this. The St. Louis Blues, for example, have been very open with their injuries this year, explaining exactly what the problem is and the estimated time frame for that player’s return. That takes the guessing out of it for everyone. It would be nice if every team followed suit, but I wouldn’t expect that.
I have to preface this all by saying I don’t have any insider information here, but would just be looking at all of this from a top-down view of who might be moved if the Avs are looking to make some upgrades.
On the backend, I think the two guys you would look at would be Zadorov and Cole. Z signed a one-year deal this summer and isn’t off to the best start to the year, and while Cole looked good coming off the double hip surgery at first, he’s slowed down significantly. Usually, teams in playoff positions don’t want to move a defenseman because you never know when you’ll need the depth, but the Avs do have Calle Rosen (just called up) and Conor Timmins waiting to jump in if needed, and that softens the blow. Both of those guys also add a different dimension to the Avs blue line.
Upfront, the one guy that I always look at is Tyson Jost. He’s looked better at center this year, but you have to wonder what the long term view of him in this organization is. He’s still very young at 21-years-old, but the offense just hasn’t clicked yet. He might be a guy other teams value and could be a piece the Avs use to get an upgrade in their forward core. Other pieces would have to be thrown into the mix there for that to happen, but he’s the forward on the team that seems to move all over the place without a real role.
The Avs have a few pending unrestricted free agents in Colin Wilson and Matt Nieto, but Sakic has never really been one to move those guys out at the deadline in his tenure, so I wouldn’t anticipate that happening. I think anyone that gets moved they’re going to look to move in a package for an upgrade somewhere.
Why won't the Avs give Greer playing time and why is Tynan still in the line-up?
— Colin Rennie (@ColinRennie14) November 24, 2019
The Tynan thing is interesting. I don’t think he’s been bad, but he’s a 27-year-old who has been very successful in the AHL and never come close to cracking the NHL full time. These are guys you sign with the intention of helping your AHL team out, rather than needing them in the NHL. After all, he’s making $425,000 just when he’s down in the Eagles lineup, and was their top offensive player. I get why they called him up, as maybe they were looking for help offensively with some big guns going down, but he hasn’t provided that. Sometimes, as good as guys are in the AHL, they just don’t have that extra bit in them to become full-time NHL guys. I really think a guy like Tynan should be back in the AHL helping the Eagles at this point because that’s why you brought him in. Tynan has a history with Bednar, so maybe there’s just a level of comfort there.
As for Greer, I thought he had a decent training camp, but he’s only got two goals in nine AHL games, and we can’t ignore the fact that he got suspended for six games for leaving the penalty box to fight someone. It’s not exactly been the best start down in the AHL for him, so I can see why he hasn’t gotten his shot yet. That said, if you’re going to be playing either of these guys on your fourth line, would you rather see Tynan, who you know isn’t going to be an NHL guy, or Greer, who may be one down the line? I’d lean towards Greer, personally, although he’s running out of time to prove he belongs.
JT Compher. 2 goals. 1 PP pt in 45 PPM. We should worry, right?
Has he plateaued, or is there a decent chance he'll improve? And does he get a pass from fans because he's got a cool name and seems like a cool dude? Would we be so easy on him if his name was John Smith?
— Dan Winkler (@Jhondeaux) November 25, 2019
The goal production from Compher so far this year is disappointing. His shooting percentage is lower than it was his first two seasons, but I also don’t believe he’s a 13.6% shooter like he was last season. He has a good shot but that seems a little high to me. The weird thing about Compher is that, while his goal production is down, his assists are up and I’ve been impressed with some of his playmaking. That’s been my biggest issue with him since coming into the league. I think there’s going to be some regression there, though, as the Avs have a very high shooting percentage with Compher on the ice, higher than anyone else on the team, and I don’t expect it to stay that way. The power play production is certainly disappointing, because they run a lot of that second unit through Compher. I’m not sure that’s the right call.
Where I’ve been disappointed with him is in the defensive end, and I do think that gets overlooked with him. I really expected him to be better than he is defensively, given how he was touted as a two-way player, but I think there’s a lot of room for improvement there. Just the other night against Toronto he got exposed pretty badly on a few goals with some poor reads defensively. The Avs need a lot better from their forwards defensively, and Compher is one of them.
Seeing as how Compher will be 25 by season’s end, I’m not sure there’s really going to be a ton more improvement there. He’s still a valuable Swiss army knife type player, but I wouldn’t expect a big jump in production.
Can you explain the rules on the face off. Also, what causes a person to get kicked out of the circles?
— Jeff (@avalanchejeff) November 24, 2019
Alright, I’ll try my best to explain this one. Usually, the defending center has to put their stick down first, and the center for the other team can do so after that. Both players have to keep their feet inside the “L” shaped lines on the ice, as those lines are there so that no one starts inching close to the face-off dot, or angles themselves to the point where they have more leverage. Beyond that, you can’t put your stick over the other players stick before the puck has been dropped.
What gets a player kicked out? Well, violating any of those things above will get you kicked out, for the most part. The big one seems to be cheating on when the puck is going to be dropped, as when you play with the same linesmen over and over, you tend to get an idea of when they’ll drop the puck. You guess wrong, and you’ll get kicked out. The other thing that can get you kicked out is your teammates cheating on their positioning. They’re “supposed” to stay outside of the face-off circle. Players don’t always listen to that, and getting kicked out because of your teammates doesn’t seem to happen a ton, but it can.
But the reality of the whole situation is that even the best face-off guys in the world cheat. It’s hard to be near 60% in the face-off circle without cheating just a little bit. Some guys just get caught doing it more than others, and some just have a better reputation around the league with linesmen. If you aren’t cheating, you aren’t trying. I’d be okay with linesmen being a little less strict on some of this. No one came to the game to watch them kick guys out of the face-off circle.
From Mary Pace: For those of us still learning hockey: how do coaches decide which player is a left (or right) side defender? Or a left (or right) winger? And are the sides that different that it’s hard for players to switch?
Typically this comes down to a player’s preference. Some players are more comfortable playing their off side than others. You will see a lot of the European players are the guys comfortable playing their off side because they practice that a little more over there.
If it were up to the coach, I think they would prefer most players to play on their strong sides, particularly on defense, but some players are just more comfortable playing on their off wing. Mikko Rantanen is one of them. We’ve seen him play left wing at times, and you can tell he just doesn’t have the same vision on that side of the ice. When he’s on the right wing, as a left-handed shot, he’s able to open up and see the ice more, and as a playmaking winger, that helps him more. It also makes it easier for him to cut to the middle and be on his forehand for a better shot.
What is the ideal lineup when all are healthy? Last few weeks have been naturally up and down, but hard not to be real excited about this team’s potential at full strength.
— Aaron Halvorsen (@aaronmhalvorsen) November 24, 2019
Alright, I’ll give it a shot…
Donskoi – MacKinnon – Rantanen
Landeskog – Kadri – Burakovsky
Wilson – Jost – Compher
Nieto – Bellemare – Calvert
Girard – Makar
Zadorov – Johnson
Cole – Timmins
Yeah, that last one requires some player movement, but that’s what I’d like to see. Both Nichushkin and Kamenev have played well, but I just don’t know if there’s room for them. That third line is far from ideal, in my opinion, but that’s what they’re dealing with at the moment.
But really, given what we’ve seen so far, can we expect the Avs to actually be 100% healthy again this year?