#8 / Defenseman / Colorado Avalanche
Jun 18, 1978
2011 Cap Hit: $3,250,000
2012 Status: Signed for 3 more seasons.
During one of the many threads we had here on MHH for the first day of Free Agency last July, I pre-emptively mocked whichever team was going to overpay Jan Hejda in what had been a bananas market for veteran D. Then it ended up being the Avs who signed him...to a totally reasonable contract money-wise. It was exciting to see the Avs take a step towards shoring up their atrocious defense and getting EJ a partner who would play a safer defensive game and allow him to blossom into an offensive force.
While the Hejda-EJ pairing was an utter disaster, it took coach Joe Sacco some time to find the right fit for Hejda as he struggled initially but eventually settled into a comfy role as Colorado's most consistent defender. As Hejda's confidence in Colorado grew, so too did the responsibility handed to him by Sacco. Hejda would end the season as one of the three main reasons the PK improved significantly as the season wore on (Varly and O'Byrne being the other two) and all of his fancy stats (as you'll see below) indicated what a quietly strong year he had.
2012 Outlook: Hejda will return to Colorado's blue line and likely continue to be the anchor of the PK unit and a mainstay in the top 4. Hopefully the Avs make a move to get him some help but should they choose not to, Hejda proved this year he could handle the responsibility of being given the toughest minutes every night.
AJ's Take: I'll leave all the nerdy snortsnort stuff to Steve (<3) and just fanboy out for a minute. I love Jan Hejda. When we signed him, I was totally stoked to be getting a guy who could produce the quietest points ever (how many of those 19 points can you name?) while playing the kind of reliable, shut down defense the Avs were supposed to get from Scott Hannan back in the day. While Hejda didn't set the world on fire at any point throughout the season, he definitely showed the Avs knew what they were doing when they inked him to an extremely reasonable contract (just watch Quincey get paid higher this summer) when the rest of the league was busy falling all over themselves to overpay defenseman (hi, Christian Ehrhoff). Watching his play steadily improve, first with O'Byrne and then with Wilson while O'Byrne was hurt, and make his partner up his defensive game was fantastic for a defense-first nerd like me. I hope come training camp this next summer that Hejda takes Cameron Gaunce under his wing and teaches him to defense like a champ.
Steve's Take: I just thought I'd add some advanced stats from Behind the Net and a couple of conventional stat oddities for Hejda. He was roundly abused by Skipper Joe in that he was tasked with tough competition and too many starts next to Jiggy/Varly. He faced the 3rd-most difficult competition by Qualcomp measures, only behind O'Reilly and Landeskog. He also sported the 3nd-lowest percentage of offensive zone starts (35.9%), only worse than common partner Ryan O'Byrne (32.8%) and Jay McClement (34.3%), but still ended in the offensive zone 47.3% of the time. (That differential is again only third to O'Byrne and McClement.) IN ENGLISH, Hejda faced very tough opponents in his own zone and frequently took them into their zone. He also led defensemen in even-strength TOI (17:33/G) and shorthanded TOI (3:03/G, also 25th in the league among defensemen). Bizarrely, he's even credited with a faceoff win. And speaking of things that make no sense, Hejda was -17 on the year. He was -2 at home and -15 on the road. You can't explain that. (AJ: I can. Plus/minus is stupid)
He hit (142), he blocked shots (134), and he was a stalwart of a very much improved PK that finished 12th in the league (behind 10 playoffs teams btw) despite being called on way too friggin much. For about a third of the year, while the new defense and goaltending collectively adjusted, Hejda earned a big fat D from me. For the second two thirds, I'm looking at an A type of game to be honest. That averages to a B and a very solid acquisition for the Burgundy and Blueline.
|2011 - Jan Hejda||81||5||14||19||-17||24||0||0||1||78|