My conclusion after reading posts from hockeybuzz, hfboards and here, is that most Avalanche fans are concern with our defense for next season and the future. I read an article yesterday from hockeybuzz where Arron Musick commented that our future D appears to be the following:
My vision for future defense is this:
Johnson-UFA (I REALLY want Suter)
I kinda agree with him but it might take a couple of years until this group is fully capable. I'm a strong believer that the young guys got to play, and there's no better time than the present. There going to get pushed around, make mistakes, take penalties and be in consistence. While growing into their frames they will gain experience and confidence to compete regularly at this level.
The biggest question is what's the organization plan and how do you get there properly. I'm an Avs fan just like everyone else and have my opinions on what the organization should do. Unfortunately, us as fans don't always see the greater plan.
The Johnson trade was a risk, but I believe that management and scouts did there homework before pulling the trigger. In the off season they knew Johnson needed a #2 D-man. I believe they assumed like everyone else that Suter and Weber were going to resign in Nashville. They didn't want to take the chance, or maybe they had no intentions going after them. I figure Hejda was going to fill this spot until they could develop someone into this role. This could be someone that's already in the organization, trade for the player, UFA signing or a player that's not even drafted yet. The Hejda project didn't work. Even though he makes a decent pairing with OByrne, a good PKer, it don't completely justify to keep him. He takes a roster spot from one of the kids and the $3.25 million cap hit for 3 more years could go towards a true #2.
Now that Suter might hit the open market, Sherman should do everything in his power to get Suter and then dump Hejda and his contract. If Suter do sign else where, should they target another UFA, make a trade or keep Hejda? The consensus I gather is that the only other notable UFA's to target are Matt Carle and Jason Garrison. Carle formerly played at the University of Denver. He would be a more reasonable cap hit. He knows the city and I'm sure he still got friends in the area. Is he a true number two, or could develop into that role. Did he get the best opportunity to fully develop and succeed in Philly. Garrison I don't really know about so I can't say.
Trading for a #2 D man. Sounds easy enough. We have a log jam on D with a few good D prospects. Not counting some of the forwards that are always expandable to the general public. As a fan I believe that Sherman and Co. are doing a good job bringing in the proper talent to build a successful team for the future. What people have to realize is that the organization has a plan and it will take time. It's not like there not addressing any areas that need improvement and they surely got the nerve to make controversial moves. If you evaluate the players traded to what we gained, the organization are conducting the proper assessment to trade non core depth players to continue building a strong foundation for the future. Our goalie situation is very promising. We got our #1 D man, and have some good talent coming up. There building character and depth with our forward group. It might be another year or two before we start seeing the final results, but it will come. Trading away some of our young talent before they fully get the chance to develop and show what they got is not the right way to do things. My biggest concern about making a blockbuster trade for a true #2 or a sniper is that every team in the league is looking for the same thing. Therefore it will take a over payment to get an already established player. Let the scouts, whom seem to be great at what they do, find that struggling player needing a change of scenery, or hasn't been given the opportunity and make the appropriated moves.
Concentrating on multiply year contracts, I'm sure that all organization would like to honor all the contracts they give to their players. why would they offer a player the term and money if they weren't in the organization plans going forward. Realistically some of them just don't work out or an trade opportunity arrives that they cant refuse. As I mention earlier, does Hejda fall into this situation? Is he sustaining enough of his game and current playing abilities, could the roster spot be utilize better, or a more efficient way to use the cap hit? Hejda is still a capable D man that has experience, a overall decent game, and allows the organization to not hinder or rush developing prospects.
Therefore one would assume signing Wilson, and Hunwick, one year contacts was to evaluate their attributes and also be used as fillers until the developing prospects are ready. Hunwick spent most of the year in the press box, worked on his game and appeared to be a good team mate. He's was a serviceable 7th D man, but nothing more than a bottom pairing guy. Wilson was having a good year before injuries. Can he handle playing next to Johnson for a full season? Is he better suited as 2nd / 3rd pairing guy? What will these injuries mean to his career? O'Brien could also be put into this filler category. He has a decent game, brings some experience, and toughness. If he realize his limitations and with a limited role he could be a great bottom pairing guy. Do management have any plans on retaining these guys?
The Ryan O'Bryne trade. That didn't go over well either. He became a heart and soul player that turned around his game and was awarded a two year extension, that he deserved. No one will forget last year finishing a shift after taking a skate to the face or how he blocked 3 shots on the PK not to long ago. You could assume he will be part of our shut down pairing or a filler until Gaunce / Siemens is ready.
Going back to Aaron Musick vision for the future defense and why I kinda agree with him. There's a couple of scenarios that could play out or be justified. With the current log jam on defense, 10 players, this off season should shape what the future defense will be.
Johnson is our number one guy, and needs someone to compliment his game.
Trading Shatty showed that management are confident in Elliott's development and that he will be one of our offensive D man. This off season he needs to bulk up and work on a couple areas. Next year he will be partner with a vet to help complete the transition to becoming a NHL regular. Drafting Siemens can say a lot as well. He should spend another year in the WHL to fill out his frame and continue developing new aspect to complete his overall game. Elliott and Siemens have chemistry and are projected to be high quality players. With approximately two season under Elliott's belt, this should help Siemens transition to the next level. It appears management do plan on them being our second pairing. So, stop putting them in trade proposal.
Barrie is another offensive D prospect that played well in the AHL and gain some NHL experience. Like Elliott he also needs to bulk up a bit and work on some aspects of his game. He could be projected as a 2nd pairing guy, with good passing abilities, decent defense, and quarterback the power play. Gaunce did his dues in the AHL and deserves a shot with with the big club. He has some NHL experience and he can hold his own. From my understanding he worked on his footing and overall speed this year. Some compare him to be a Foote type player. Do this mean he might develop into a guy that could work with EJ, or a 2nd pairing guy. Both of these players should get playing time next year. They should be rotated with a vet as the 3rd pairing until they adjust to the NHL level. With Elliott and Siemens as our 2nd pairing, this would make one hell of a 3rd pairing.
2012 - 2013 Season Defense: Johnson - #2, Elliott - Vet, Barrie/Gaunce - Vet,
It wouldn't be wise to have 3 rookies with full time duties so with three position to fill who are the odd men out? O'Bryne is already under contract, fills a vet position, solid defense, PKer, and can help with Gaunce. I can see Hunwick let go. He worked hard to get his game back, I'm sure he's going to look for more of a role with another team. Wilson is a RFA with injuries issues and uncertainties. The organization are patient with these type of players. Get him on a good one year contract to further evaluate him. That leaves us with Hejda and O'Brien, both serviceable players. They could bring both back. One as a vet, the other as the #2 guy. Then there's always the case Wilson has issues returning from injuries, they still have seven defense. Now if they sign a #2 UFA, O'Brien could walk, Hejda traded or both. With a #2 UFA signing to play with EJ, Elliott and Siemens as our future 2nd pairing, does that make Gaunce or Barrie expandable? A couple of vets could hold down the 3rd pairing. Maybe that's why Hejda got the contract he did. Bringing O'Brien in to see how he would fit with the team. Playing Hunwick towards the end of the season.
The conclusion of my rant. Trust the front office and the owners, they have a plan in place. It may take another two years but we will be fighting in the playoffs soon and competing for a cup in the near future.
It could worst. An organization that don't realize when they should start rebuilding, how to do it properly, or take ten years to complete one. I'm sure most of you can figure out what teams I'm directing this towards.