Hey, I haven't penned a post here before. First time for everything.
With Johnson and Wilson on the mend there's a lot to consider on the Avalanche blue line. In their absence we've seen some inconsistent performances from the defense corps at both ends of the rink. With The Denver Post reporting that Johnson could be ready to play against the Red Wings on Tuesday and that Wilson skated Sunday morning, two defensemen are going to have to leave the lineup. Lets break down what might happen player by player (stats I think matter most are included):
13 games played/ 17 shots/ 1 goal/ 5 assists
21:06 time on ice/ 2:58 powerplay/ 0:57 shorthanded
12 blocked shots/ 5 giveaways/ 7 takeaways
The kid has looked good back there after a shaky start. He's provided an offensive spark that the stats are beginning to show, and- though there have been some mistakes- he's been effective defensively. Obvious upside and his recent play should keep him in the lineup.
4 gp/ 7 s/ 0 g/ 1 a
16:42 TOI/ 2:00 pp/ 0:02 sh
5 b/ 2 gva/ 1 tka
It seems to be a foregone conclusion he'll be sent back to Lake Erie, considering his status as a healthy scratch against the Blue Jackets. His lack of production in limited minutes indicate a lack of both opportunity and trust earned from the coaching staff since returning from injury.
19 gp/ 21 s/ 0 g/ 6 a
20:08 TOI / 0:06 pp/ 3:03 sh
52 b/ 17 gva/ 7 tka
Hejda has been the only consistent presence on the blue line for the Avs thus far. Offensive production isn't his strong suit, though his limited production follows the team's general trend. His knack for blocking shots has been impressive and a big help to goaltenders already facing a whopping 32 shots per game. His 17 giveaways alarmingly leads Avalanche defensemen, but won't force him into the pressbox.
16 gp/ 13 s/ 0 g/ 2 a
21:08 TOI/ 1:29 pp/ 2:28 sh
22 b/ 10 gva/ 7 tka
Hunwick has played big minutes for Coach Sacco lately, getting some time on the powerplay and more on the penalty kill. In the defensive zone Hunwick has displayed sound positioning and been effective in starting breakouts. He hasn't produced offensively,however, despite strong skating and a willingness to join in on the rush. His minutes will likely to decrease to around 17-18 per game but he'll stay in the lineup.
9 gp/ 10 s/ 0 g/ 2 a
16:07 TOI/ 0:24 pp/ 0:21 sh
11 b/ 5 gva/ 4 tka
After clawing his way out of Sacco's doghouse by watching his teammates get injured, O'Brien has seen limited minutes with barely any time on special teams. He has been assertive in joining and leading offensive rushes, but merely productive to the tune of 2 assists. Though his skating and tenacity have been good contributions, his frequent penalties and lack of production will be replaced by Johnson hopefully as soon as Tuesday.
20 gp/ 13 s/ 1 g/ 3 a
19:16 TOI/ 0:05 pp/ 2:50 sh
36 b/ 12 gva/ 8 tka
The Byrner is one of two D men to have suited up in every game this year and that shouldn't change going forward. His offensive numbers won't ever be large, but O'Byrne is strong on the penalty kill and very effective defensively 5 on 5.
20 gp/ 13 s/ 0 g/ 1 a
18: 33 TOI/ 0:08 pp/ 3:08 sh
60 b/ 9 gva/ 4 tka
The Beard has been very conspicuous in the defensive zone so far this year. Every game there seems to be a Homer Simpson "DOH" moment, yet his shorthanded contributions have been stellar and he racks up the blocked shots. Unfortunately the miscues will likely force him into street clothes. He's forced collective sighs of relief/ fits of rage too many times
I think a lineup of Barrie, Hejda, Hunwick, Johnson, O'Byrne, and Wilson was the plan going into the season and with Barrie and Hunwick's surprisingly strong showings it seems like a good one. Having a guy like Zanon or O'Brien as an insurance 7th defenseman is a good position to be in, but do they need both? Talk of a trade would require a team to be interested in one of them... but during this season's accelerated schedule both could find their way back into the lineup so the safe play would be to keep them. Elliott has not shown enough to void such concerns, though if the team falls out of contention quickly he's likely to get more opportunities.
Stats from NHL.com