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Patrik Nemeth knows he wasn’t always your favorite player last season, Avs fan. Hey, he wasn’t always his biggest fan either.
“I think I got caught a little bit at times, last season, where I was just standing still, like a quarterback standing still, and then all of a sudden your options are gone,” the Avalanche defenseman told BSN Denver Saturday. “Then you’re just sitting there, panicking. For me, there was a period of time where this happened, like the middle of the season, (some) games where I was really bad at that. Making that first pass better is something I really want to improve and have worked hard on.”
Nemeth, a Swede acquired on waivers last year from Dallas, gave the Avalanche a pretty good deal for the money spent. He played 68 games, contributing 15 points and a team-best plus-27. He averaged 19:51 per game, fifth-most among all Avs skaters. Those were the numbers that looked good on paper.
Then there were some not-so-good ones in the deeper-dive, analytics department. His even-strength Corsi was 44.9. That means the opposition had the puck nearly 55 percent of the time when he was on the ice. He threw the occasional “pizza” up the middle of the ice, leading to steals and chances against. He made some Avs die-hards really grind their teeth at times when he was out there.
But the Avs thought his value was such that they re-signed him to a one-year, $2.5 million contract – a healthy jump from the $900,000 he made last year. The Avs currently have seven defensemen signed to one-way deals, with Anton Lindholm also in camp, a fellow Swede who played last season but has a two-way deal.
One person who seemingly has never gotten too down on Nemeth is his coach. Jared Bednar, to the consternation of fans and pundits at times, played him regularly and even more after Erik Johnson went down to injury late in the year. Asked if, despite the six other D-men on one-way deals, Nemeth has a presumed spot in the top six, Bednar said: “It’s his job to lose. We’re high on him on the defensive side of the puck. Penalty kill, he’s a huge piece.”
Speaking of teeth, Nemeth spoke his words Saturday with a lisp. That’s because he suffered a chipped upper front tooth at camp Saturday.
“Spittin’ chiclets,” he said.
Nemeth will take praise from the coach anytime. But this is not a guy who is taking anything for granted. He’s been on the other side, too, where he was kind of buried in Dallas, never getting a real chance to play. He also knows he’s only on a one-year deal.
“There are so many good players that are coming in, ready to go. So, you can’t not have a good summer. You’ve got to prove it all the time, and the game is getting faster, so you have to always work on your skating and quickness,” said Nemeth, 26. “Teams are looking for cheap rosters, so you just have to (force) them to make the decision that you’re going to stay.
“But the coaches are going to play the guys that they think give them the best chance to win. Just because I’m newly signed, it doesn’t matter at all. You have to prove yourself all the time. There’s no comfort zone at all.”