The Avs are exactly at the half way point of the season. So what better time to award midseason grades? This was Dan's idea. And I think his idea was that I would contribute to it. Silly Dan. We started with roughly the following email exchange: (more, probably very poorly formatted and somewhat confusing crap, after the jump)
Dan: Want to do a back and forth email chain for Avs mid-season grades? Maybe we can write it, clean it up, then put it up on a Fanshot or something. BiB and DiD's Mid-Season Grades. What do you think?
Bob: Sure Dan, sounds like fun. Based on expectations or in comparison with all players? That’s the first big decision. I think it is more worthwhile to base them on expectations. So a C for a VDG, for example, doesn’t mean he is a better player than a D Stastny.
Dan: I agree, we should do it on expectations. Otherwise, we can go right down the points list and give Stastny and Duchene A's, Jones a B...wait, what? But no, seriously, let's do it on expectations.
Dan (from an email that I did not originally receive): How’s it looking on your end? Any luck? I wrote my stuff and grouped it by letter grade, but do you think we should alphabetize it by player name in case we disagree about the grade? We could also throw in some pithy banter if/where we disagree (or agree). Let me know how it’s coming for you.
Bob, after finally receiving the message resent by Dan:
I’ll reorganize by general position then alphabetize below and see how it goes.(A few minutes later) Screw that. I’ll make snarky comments on what you put together and throw in my two cents here and there. And see how that goes.
Now on to the grades, ordered by Dan's grades, because I'm lazy and this editing interface really, really sucks. Dan comments first. Mine follow on each player.
Ryan O'Reilly. Happy to say that I didn't have the vision to ever identify Factor as the stud he has become. The team's MVP, hands down.
BiB: I agree. I really didn’t see it coming. I thought we had a potentially great 3rd line center on our hands; suddenly he’s our best player, on both ends.
JS Giguere. Huge surprise, both on and off the ice.
BiB: Agree again. Great FA signing. Imagine not having to give up a 1st and 2nd round pick for an established veteran number one goaltender?
Jay McClement. Doesn’t score much, but does everything else well. Even when the PK had a rough start, he was excellent on it. He’s got good size and he’s aggressive, one of the few Avs who separates his man from the puck.
BiB: I think your square peg love is showing here. I’d give J-Mac a solid B, but his offensive limitations show themselves quite often, imo. He is what he is, a decent checking forward and good penalty killer. And he’s been good. But not great. And I know we’re basing this on expectations, but he’s not exceeding mine enough to get an A.
Ryan Wilson. I wonder how good this season actually has been for Wilson. He picked up a lot of points early, but scored only one goal. He was sheltered on the 5/6 D pairing and didn't kill penalties. But...he had some memorable hits (hi, Taylor Hall), and he will be known in a little corner of my mind as the guy who pummeled Zach Smith when he dared to fuck with Gabriel Landeskog.
BiB: I’m with you on this one. The best open ice hitter on the team. He was our best overall defensemen for a while there. And I’m surprised how much he stepped it up on the offensive end.
Winnik. Polarizing guy, but I think he’s easily putting up his best season with the Avs. Very good on the PK, not out of place on any line. He plays where he’s asked and chips in here and there.
BiB: I’d bump him up to an A-, based on his performance against expectations. His offensive contributions have exceeded them, and he has been the glue that has held a few lines together. We know he’s not a top line winger on a great team, but he has filled in admirably on ours this season.
O'Byrne. Didn’t expect to grade him so high, and some people I respect a lot don’t think he’s playing very well, but he’s cut down on the penalties taken, and he’s part of the top PK unit, along with McClement, Winnik, and Hejda. Give that group a lot of credit. Even though the numbers are still below the league average, the progress has been impressive. The Avs gave up 14 power play goals in the first 15 games of the season. Since then, they’ve given up 14 goals in 26 games.
BiB: I think he has been noticeably meh on both ends lately, other than on the PK. He’s a nice 3rd pairing Dman, little more. I’d probably give him a C+. Maybe my Wilson love is showing?
Hejda. Has settled in really well after a difficult start. His offense is a pleasant surprise, but it’s his D that’s stood out. Part of a very good PK unit, and he’s the shutdown guy that we were supposed to have for the past 5 years.
BiB: Agree. I think he’s been solid too. And we didn’t think we were getting Chris Pronger or what fricken EJ should someday be for 3.25M per year, so he’s been fine based on expectations.
Quincey. Very good bounceback season. Still has some problems with taking penalties and not playing great defense (poor numbers on the PK), but he’s a competitor, as shown by his comments when he was scratched. Would love to see him be more physical.
BiB: I thought he started off great, then tailed off a bit. But he’s been good again since being back from his injury. Based on expectations established a few years ago when he was fantastic out of the gate, I’d say a B is fair. Based on my expectations for him, he’d have an A+, but my expectations were crap.
Landeskog. He’s got the brain and the game of a seasoned veteran trapped inside a 19-year-old’s body. Isn’t refined, doesn’t have finesse, but he is solid and smart and charismatic and can be the face of the franchise for years to come. Becoming more and more comfortable on the PK, which is an added bonus.
BiB: I’d bump Landy up to an A because I really didn’t expect him to be as good and polished as he has been. Like O’Reilly, mature beyond his years. If we could harness O’Reilly and Landy’s maturity and put it into a few other guys that I’m sure will be coming up here sometime …..
O'Brien. Better puck mover than expected, has done his job in sticking up for teammates. Loves the camera and the camera loves him. Excellent value signing.
BiB: Agree. I really like SOB too. Brings a team toughness that was lacking.
Elliott. The offense is intriguing, the defense sometimes frightening.
BiB: B sounds fair. Expected him to be pretty raw defensively. Does add a dimension on the blue line we didn't have after the big remake.
Hejduk. Was debating between a B-/C+. Went higher because he is 2nd on the team in scoring despite having a down year by his standards, and because he’s the captain. Honestly don’t think it has that big of an effect on the team, and I’m still worried about his near career-low in PPG.
BiB: I'd give Hejduk a B+. I keep expecting him to decline, but he's still one of the few snipers we have, and his overall game is still solid.
The Teej. Not scoring much, but he’s providing energy. He’s a pain in the ass to play against. He sniffs out the puck and the guy who has it like a lean, hungry greyhound. Getting better on the PK. Wondering why it took him this long to play this way and this hard.
BiB: Fair grade. I'm happy to see him back to where he was. He has been a key to our recent resurgence.
Kobasew. I gave him the plus for being decent on the PK and for hitting a guy every now and then.
BiB: I think you're caving in to Kobario's Kobahate. He's been pretty decent for what he is, and on some nights has been one of our best forwards. If square peg gets an A-, Kobasew gets at least a B-.
Duchene. Has stopped growing as a player, with the exception of improving his faceoff skills. Not good defensively, doesn’t kill penalties, and doesn’t score enough. Expected much more from him.
BiB: I want to disagree, but I can't. For this franchise to take it to the next level, Duchene has to take it to the next level as well. He's had exactly one game this season where he showed how dominant he could be someday, in Dallas. Other than that, he's been wildly inconsistent and often times frustrating.
Johnson. Still not the game-breaker many people would expect from the former #1 overall, but he’s been OK. Expected more.
BiB: Agree. And at times he's been noticeably bad. Shows signs of coming around here and there, but he needs to be better.
McLeod. He’s what I expected him to be.
BiB: I'd probably give him a C-. He hasn't been worth much of anything for a long time now.
Varlamov. Too inconsistent, and his numbers need to improve. Expected more.
BiB: Nevermind that comment on Giggy. Oops. Agree with the grade. But he is young, has shown flashes of brilliance, and I still have hope that he'll become our goaltender of the future.
Jones. Agree with those who say the injury has affected him, although he still managed to score 27 goals last year. Expected more.
BiB: Jonesy gets a D from me. He has only had a handful of games where he looked like even a competent 2nd or 3rd line winger. Other than that, he's been brutal. And we know damn well the team was counting on him to be more.
Paul Stastny. The single-biggest disappointment of the season. The only thing keeping him from plunging to D-minus territory is his ability to win faceoffs and play good defense. Ten assists and 12 even strength points at this point of the season is absolutely fucking embarrassing. Expected much more.
BiB: Based on expectations, I have to agree. He's supposed to be our top line center. We've even moved our supposed 2nd line center to his wing. And he still didn't produce like he needs to. Imo, Stats and Dutchy need to save the bang bang dance for when they actually are leading this team to playoff series victories. Not saying it still can't happen, but this has been a rough stretch for both of them.
Van Der Gulik
Of the incompletes, Lindstrom has been the worst, then Yip. Van Der Gulik and Hunwick have probably been the best.
BiB: Lindstrom may be the most worthless waste of a roster spot I've ever seen wearing the A with pride. And the fact that our execs went bottom dollar banking on him to fill a glaring need saddles them with a solid D, imo.