When Andrew Bodnarchuk was claimed by the Colorado Avalanche on waivers on January 5th, 2016, general manager Joe Sakic was in a bit of a bind. Top defenseman Erik Johnson had just gone down with another knee injury, top defensive prospects Nikita Zadorov and Chris Bigras were deemed not-yet-ready-for-prime-time, and backup options Brandon Gormley and Zach Redmond were not performing well in reserve roles.
The short-term solution was 27-year-old journeyman defenseman, Bodnarchuk, who had played in five games for the Boston Bruins in 2009-10 and sixteen earlier in the year for the Columbus Blue Jackets prior to being waived. Insert GalleryListed at 5'11 and 190 pounds, he was undersized at the position, but neither was he a puck-mover in the mold of other players with his measurables. Bodnarchuk's style was much more straight-forward, physical even. He was more likely to move a player off the puck or lay a hit than he was to make a crisp outlet pass or skate the puck out of the zone.
Avalanche fans got a full dose of Bodnarchuk right away, as coach Patrick Roy plugged him right into the top defensive pairing with Francois Beauchemin. The result of the first contest was assuring if not promising, but everything quickly went downhill from there. He would see the majority of his minutes after that first week on the third pairing, rotating in and out of the lineup with Redmond depending on who was the most effective through a given stretch.
Bodnarchuk would appear in 21 games for the Avalanche, registering two assists with a Minus-5.6 CF%Rel, which was last among defenseman not named Nate Guenin. Was it the deplorable system the team employed? Not likely, as he was Minus-5.9 CF%Rel with the Blue Jackets. The player we saw on the ice this season is the player Bodnarchuk is: a solid AHL contributor (0.23 PPG) who likely isn't long for the big leagues.
Not mentioned much during the season was that Bodnarchuk was yet another QMJHL addition to the team. He played three seasons between 2005 and 2008 for the Halifax Mooseheads, where he was a 0.63 PPG player. You don't think he caught the eye of a certain Remparts coach during that time, do you?
The Andrew Bodnarchuk experiment might be best remembered, though, by his waiver claim occupying the Avs' 50th and final contract spot. Once the team had reached the maximum allotment, they were terribly hamstrung the rest of the season with what else they could do with their roster. No more waiver claims, no more free agents, no one-for-two-player trades -- nothing. It was frustrating to follow as better players became available throughout the year. Hopefully Joe Sakic learned his lesson.
MHH Staff Grade: F
Explanation? We're going lower here, not just because of his poor level of play and the aforementioned contract spot nonsense, but because he started 21 games for the Avalanche that should have gone to more deserving players. Both Zadorov and Bigras proved to be much more effective options later on, even with their rookie mistakes. And Zach Redmond, despite his own shortcomings, had zero reason to be sitting in the reserve box in lieu of Bodnarchuk. The roster move was confounding from the very start, but was made more so by playing more than a quarter of the year for a team who had playoff aspirations.