The NHL regular season wrapped up just over six weeks ago and the NHL playoffs have provided hours of entertaining hockey for the everyday hockey fan. While providing an adequate hockey fix, the playoffs left Avs fans everywhere wishing they could see their favorite players playing meaningful hockey.
Once again, in comes the IIHF World Championships to give Avs fans a final dose of Avalanche hockey before the offseason officially begins. This year’s tournament featured nine Avalanche players playing for their respective countries and provided us all with plenty to analyze and over-analyze in regards to Colorado Avalanche hockey.
Not having the pressure of being captain must have been relieving for Landeskog. As an assistant, he could focus less on being the leader of the team and more on fulfilling his duties as a forward. As a natural leader, it is likely Landeskog still displayed the traits that have earned him his Avalanche captaincy, but being a captain wasn’t his focus.
Landeskog contributed two goals and three assists in Sweden’s road to winning the gold medal and he did so playing in true Landeskog fashion. His net-front presence was a useful asset throughout the tournament and his physical play was at its best. The Avalanche captain regained some of his confidence in this tournament and it is good to see Landeskog enjoying some sort of elation after such an arduous year that rested heavily on his shoulders.
He also has no regard for his equipment after jumping in a hot tub in full gear following Sweden’s shootout victory.
Spending most of the tournament at right wing, MacKinnon showed us how well he does with comparable talent and skill around him. In Colorado, he is depended on for a large portion of the offensive contribution, but obviously, with team Canada, the pressure is divided.
Six goals and nine assists in ten games is certainly positive even if some of the talent Canada faced wasn’t exactly NHL caliber. MacKinnon tallied a couple of powerplay goals which raised some eyebrows amongst Avalanche fans due to where he was positioned on the ice when he scored.
The Avalanche power play was designed with MacKinnon quarterbacking from the half-wall. Team Canada had a similar powerplay setup but had MacKinnon in the weak side circle instead, allowing him to quickly rip his powerful shot with some time and space once the puck is moved to his side of the ice.
With Nathan MacKinnon we have learned that something must be adjusted within the Avalanche to help him succeed. Perhaps it’s moving him to right wing, or perhaps a simple adjustment on the power play, but the World Championships reaffirmed our belief in Mackinnon’s capabilities and that we have yet to see MacKinnon at his absolute best.
Much like Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen showed us that he has a knack for producing points, even more so when he is forced to shoot the puck. Rantanen was capable of four goals and six assists in this year’s tournament including the game winner in Finland’s first game in the elimination round against the USA.
The Finnish squad was essentially Finland’s B-team so Mikko Rantanen was forced to take over as one of their leaders in offensive production. His ten points were good for second highest for Finland and eleventh highest for the tournament as a whole.
We already knew Mikko Rantanen was good at producing points, we now see he is capable of leading a team’s offense and can be heavily trusted and relied upon.
Calvin Pickard didn’t truly get tested until late in the tournament, but he had himself an adequate tournament overall. Posting a 93.82 save percentage and a 1.49 goals against average, Pickard is one Avalanche player that we learned nothing about in this tournament. He was exactly who Calvin Pickard is; he can make the big saves when needed and keep his team in the game and every once in a while he lets in a softie.
Calvin Pickard has had a lot of opportunities this year to show us who he is at a high level and we found that, much like his showing at the tournament, he is adequate. He isn’t going to come and steal the show, but he will do everything necessary to give his team the opportunity to win and typically he has more big saves than slip ups.
We learned that Calvin Pickard is extremely consistent and we have seen everything he has to offer.
Matt Duchene’s struggles from the season carried over into the IIHF World Championships. Going into the tournament each of the Avalanche players were hoping to rid themselves of the memory of this past season and hit the refresh button on their hockey lives. Matt Duchene was only able to score one goal in the entirety of the tournament and instead of refresh button working for him, he got the dreaded spinning pin-wheel signifying that his game has gone nowhere.
The trade rumors surrounding Duchene are still percolating through the hockey world and the Avalanche are not helped by his struggles. Duchene is showing that he isn’t the offensive players he was expected to be and, therefore, has lowered his stock lower than it has ever been. The Avalanche will have to work hard at wheeling and dealing Duchene now that he has shown some major inadequacies in the last calendar year.
We have learned that Matt Duchene’s inability to score was less about coach Jared Bednar’s offensive schemes and more an issue with Duchene. Perhaps a complete change of scenery is the last lifeline for Duchene to continue being considered an elite player.
The same fiery J.T. Compher we grew to know towards the end of the season was on display for team USA. J.T. Compher was playing more of a depth-center role, much like he is expected to play for Colorado, and he was one of the more exciting players to watch on the ice.
Scoring two goals in the tournament, and one being a game-winner, Compher ended the tournament with a plus-4 plus/minus rating. He was solid in front of the net and played with the grit everyone loves to see out of J.T. Compher.
Compher is the third-line center of the future and can score big goals under pressure when called upon. He is fearless and wants to be on the ice in any situation.
Andrei Mironov just recently signed his contract with the Colorado Avalanche moving from the KHL, so not many people knew what Mironov has to offer. The World Championships were a perfect opportunity for Mironov to show us what he brings to the table.
His size isn’t imposing, but he certainly knows how to hit and loves doing it. The Avalanche need more of a physical presence and Mironov certainly adds to that. Mironov’s time was limited at this year’s tournament due to a few bigger Russian names were added to the roster as they exited the NHL playoffs, but Mironov had a decent showcase. He moves the puck quickly, is precise with his decision making and has a decent offensive game.
Mironov will be a great addition to the defensive depth and, in time, will be at the heart of the Colorado defensive core.
Of all the Avalanche to have struggled and underachieved this year, Carl Soderberg may be the worst. Soderberg’s atrocious 14-point season was followed by one assist at Worlds and by being designated a healthy scratch in Sweden’s final two games of the tournament.
A lot like Matt Duchene, Carl Soderberg’s awful play is on him and not so much on the systems the Avalanche ran this past season.
As of now, Soderberg is Colorado’s fourth highest-paid forward and his contract lasts until the end of the 2019-20 season. The Carl Soderberg problem is one of the biggest facing the Avalanche.
Tyson Barrie had a short stint at Worlds this year, playing only three games before sustaining his reported wrestling injury. In those three games, however, Barrie scored two goals and had five assists. This was in Canada’s early stages of the tournament where they faced light competition but seven points in three games is still a feat.
Barrie needs to revive his offensive game if he wants to last in Colorado and this tournament was a solid step in the right direction… up until he went Captain Insane-O on us.
Tyson Barrie may have some maturing to do off the ice, likely meaning he has maturing to do on the ice as well. If that’s the case, then Barrie’s ceiling has yet to be seen and Tyson Barrie still has a lot to show. If his offensive game resurrects, Barrie could continue to progress and be the defenseman the organization and fans expected him to be.