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Colorado Avalanche Blogger Roundtable Day 10: The D

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Assuming everyone is healthy, who do you think will be the six defensemen in the lineup on opening night?

Not surprisingly, answers are all over the place here without any logical way to organize them. So, I'm presenting them as is first and then breaking it down at the end.

Stephen Crociata, Mile High Sticking and SBNation New York: Erik Johnson, Ryan O'Byrne, Jan Hejda, Kyle Quincey, Shane O'Brien, Steffan Elliott.

Mike @ MHH, Mile High Hockey: Hejda, Quincey, Hunwick, ROB, SOB, Johnson

Austin Snow, Avs Chill Zone: EJ, Quincey, O'Byrne, Wilson, Hejda, and Elliott. I think Elliott gets a look through the first 10 games of the season, and he stays if he can play. Otherwise I think Sacco will rotate Hunwick and O'Brien as the 7th d-man.

Derek Bell, Mile High Hockey: Erik Johnson and Jan Hejda; Kyle Quincey and Matt Hunwick; Ryan O'Byrne and Duncan Siemens

Andi D, Mile High Hockey: That's a hard question to answer because it really depends on who shows up to camp.  We have a major backlog on the blueline - there are 14 defensemen under contract in our system, and almost all of them have a shot at breaking the opening night lineup.  But if I had to guess, I'd say our top two pairs will be:

  • Hejda/EJ (almost a guarantee)
  • Quincey/O'Byrne

And our third pair will be Elliott, Barrie, or Hunwick / Gaunce, Wilson, or O'Brien.  If Elliott and Gaunce are ready to jump to the NHL, I think they'll get the spots.  If not, it will probably be a Hunwick/Wilson pairing with O'Brien as the 7th D-man.  But again, since all of the players are pretty close in talent right now, it's near impossible to say who deserves what spot until training camp shows who wants it more. 

Geoff Rosenthal, The Avs Factor: Who SHOULD they be? Or who WILL they be? Oh, the question says "will." In no order: Quincey, Wilson, Hejda, Johnson, O'Brien, O'Byrne. But I'm holding out hope that Elliott, Gaunce, and Barrie all get shots at holding down spots. Hunwick should not see any ice time this season. Holos should but probably won't.

Mike Chambers, Denver Post:

  • Johnson-Quincey
  • Hejda-O'Byrne
  • O'Brien-Wilson

(Hunwick and Elliott make the team)

Aaron Musick, HockeyBuzz: : I have nothing to go on but my gut but the six defensemen should be Erik Johnson, Kyle Quincey, Ryan O'Byrne, Shane O'Brien, Jan Hejda and a surprising Stefan Elliott. Elliott had a great camp last year and if he repeats his performance the Avs will have to make room for him, at least to give him an audition at the start of the season. Expect Matt Hunwick and Ryan Wilson to be moved in and out of the lineup as the season goes along, depending on the matchup or injuries. It is rare to see a team carry eight defensemen but Elliott could force the Avs to.

David from Slovakia, Eurolanche:  Stefan Elliott. We are still hearing odes on him. If he will have good camp, we will see him there.

Pavol from Austria, Eurolanche: : I would like to see Duncan Siemens there, but more possible is Kyle Cumiskey - if he will re-sign. [Note: I think both David and Pavol are giving us their choice for "sixth" defenseman]

Jaye Horbay, Mile High Sticking:

  • Quincey - Johnson
  • O'Byrne - Wilson
  • Hejda - Cumiskey

Angélique Murray, Colorado Avalanche Prospects, Mile High Hockey & Chicks Who Give A Puck: I think it's safe to pencil in Erik Johnson, Ryan O'Byrne, Kyle Quincey and off-season acquisitions Jan Hejda and Shane O'Brien as five of the top six. My feeling is that Matt Hunwick and Ryan Wilson will flip flop between being the 6th and 7th defensemen on the roster. I left out Kyle Cumiskey because there hasn't been any official announcement that he has signed his qualifying offer or that he has signed a contract of any kind with the Avalanche.  Even if that wasn't the case, I'm not confident he would make the team as it is currently constituted. [Obviously, this answer was submitted before Cumiskey signed but I don't think it changes anything]

There is certainly the possibility that one of the youngsters in Tyson Barrie, Stefan Elliott, or Cameron Gaunce could pull off a surprise in training camp, but I expect all three will at least start the season in Lake Erie. While Duncan Siemens has signed an entry-level contract, I fully expect him to be playing for the Saskatoon Blades (WHL) this season. He'll just have turned 18 once training camp starts, no reason to rush the kid.

David Driscoll-Carignan, Mile High Hockey: Johnson, Hejda, O'Brien, O'Byrne, Wilson, Quincey with Hunwick and Cumiskey healthy scratches. Partly because of the numbers game and partly because he has just 5 pro games under his belt, I don't think Stefan Elliott will make the team right off the bat (remember, Shattenkirk didn't last year). Instead, he'll get a little seasoning in Cleveland until the inevitable injury callup.

Sean Payton, Anyone But Detroit: Johnson, Hejda, Quincey, Wilson, O'Byrne, Elliott (Hunwick - scratch)

Cheryl Bradley, Mile High Hockey & Avalanche Breakaway: I see the opening night defensive roster looking thus: Erik Johsnon - Jan Hejda; Kyle Quincey - Ryan O'Byrne; Shane O'Brien - Matt Hunwick with Ryan Wilson munching on some nachos. The EJ - Hejda combo seems like a no-brainer to me, and Quincey is going to bring back BMF. But here's the thing. Neither O'Byrne nor Hunwick are going to keep those spots. Cameron Gaunce will make O'Byrne obsolete; Stephan Elliott will push Hunwick out by mid-season; and O'Brien's tendency towards stupid penalties will give either O'Byrne or Wilson some ice time as the 6th man. Unfortunately, this means either Mack Truck or OB will be leaving the Avs. My personal preference is to keep Wilson. After a month of O'Byrne, I fell off that bandwagon. I don't really think he's that great of a player. He makes bad decisions, mostly when being physical with the opposing team. He has yet to learn the difference between finishing a check and boarding. Wilson's innate ability to time hits perfectly so they are huge and clean is a thing of beauty. He's also improving his puck handling and decision making. No, Wilson will never be a top four d-man. But I think he could solidify himself as a 5-6 guy. That's the highest O'Byrne belongs, in my opinion, and given the choice, I'd take Wilson every time.

AJ Haefele, Mile High Hockey: Obviously the easiest guys to slot in are Erik Johnson, Jan Hejda, and Kyle Quincey. You could probably even put Ryan O'Byrne in the "most definitely going to be on the ice on Foppa Night". That leaves two spots left open and a significant amount of competition to be had. I'm going to count out Kyle Cumiskey for now because he isn't officially part of the team (as of August 26th, anyway) [now signed...but still Cumiskey] so that leaves Cameron Gaunce, Jonas Holos, Matt Hunwick, Stefan Elliott, Tyson Barrie, David Liffiton, Ryan Wilson and Shane O'Brien as the likeliest candidates fighting for the final two spots. Right off the top I'd say Matt Hunwick is one of the seven guys on the opening night roster because the team inexplicably loves him, David Liffiton is still nothing more than a solid AHL veteran, and Tyson Barrie simply isn't ready. Elliott very well could light it up but I think he probably is AHL-bound at first, leaving Gaunce, Holos, and O'Brien to duke it out. I doubt we signed O'Brien to play in the minors so I'm putting him on the roster, as well. I really think Wilson's experience will win him the gig at first and Holos and Gaunce will start the year in Erie (You have fun with that, rest of the AHL!). I see the opening night six as Johnson, Quincey, Hejda, O'Byrne, Hunwick, and O'Brien with Wilson in the suit.

Nic Zamora, Avaholics Anonymous: I'm willing to give Matt Hunwick another chance as his game did start to improve toward the end of the season. My top 6 this year would be Johnson, Hejda, O'Byrne, Wilson, Hunwick and Quincey with O'Brien being the 7th. Throughout the season, I believe there will be a revolving door between O'Brien and Hunwick but for opening night's sake, I'd give Hunwick the nod over O'Brien for some added offense.

Mike Verminski, Put It On Ice: In no particular order - Wilson, O'Byrne, Hunwick, Hejda, Johnson, and Quincey.

Sandie Gauthier, Mile High Hockey: Kyle Quincey, Erik Johnson, Ryan O`Byrne, Shane O`Brien, Tyson Barrie and Jan Hejda and Kyle Cumiskey. Yeah, I'm going with seven.

Ryan Boulding, The Avalanche Guild:

My starting lineup would be along the lines of:

  • Erik Johnson - Ryan O'Byrne
  • Kyle Quincey - Stefan Elliott
  • Jan Hejda - Ryan Wilson

However it will likely be more like this:

  • Erik Johnson - Kyle Quincey
  • Ryan O'Byrne - Matt Hunwick
  • Jan Hejda - Ryan Wilson

I could also see Cameron Gaunce replacing Ryan Wilson in areas but all of this will come down to training camp.

Matt Muzia, SBN Denver: Johnson, Hejda, Quincey, O'Byrne, Wilson, O'Brien. Hunwick is the 7th guy and Cumiskey is not on the roster.

Brett Shumway, Mile High Hockey: EJ, Hejda, Quincey, Hunwick, O'Brien, O'Byrne (damn that's a gnarly defense!)  - although I'd trade an Elliot or Barrie for Hunwick.

Adrian Dater, Denver Post:

I'll go with this: 1. Johnson. 2. Hejda. 3. Quincey. 4. O'Byrne. 5. Hunwick. 6. Elliott. Reserves: Wilson, O'Brien.

It'll be a battle in camp for a top-six spot between Elliott and Wilson. Where does Kyle Cumiskey fit in right now (still unsigned as I write this)? I have no clue, but I think Cumiskey is a fumble-prone guy who doesn't fundamentally know how to play at this level.

To break this down, there were some obvious automatics as everyone picked Erik Johnson, Jan Hejda, Kyle Quincey and Ryan O'Byrne (only one of whom started last season with the Avs). After that, eight different defensemen received a vote for a spot in the top 6 (see below). Add Jonas Holos (no votes) to the mix and this should be a very interesting training camp.

  • Shane O'Brien (12)
  • Ryan Wilson (11)
  • Matt Hunwick (10)
  • Stefan Elliott (8)
  • Kyle Cumiskey (2)
  • Tyson Barrie (1)
  • Cameron Gaunce (1)
  • Duncan Siemens (1)

Just two more days remaining in this year's Roundtable. Tomorrow, we're going to check in one last time on the Avs goalies.