By most standards, Zach Redmond has already overachieved in the NHL. Having suffered a stroke at age fifteen that temporarily claimed his ability to walk and speak, it's a miracle he was even drafted at all, even if it was by the Thrashers in the seventh round. And if that wasn't bad enough, Redmond endured another catastrophic setback in 2013 a month after getting called up to the Winnipeg Jets. A teammate's skate sliced open his left leg, opening up his femoral artery. Again, Redmond recovered far better (and faster) than anyone expected, and he even returned to the ice later in the season.
Zach Redmond is a player you cheer for because he's a fantastic underdog story. But should we also cheer for him because he's a good hockey player? It turns out, according to our player survey, that isn't a very common sentiment.
In 2014-15, the Avalanche were in dire need for more right-handed, puck-moving defenseman, and Redmond fit that bill to a T. Didn't hurt that he was also 6'2" and 205 lbs. After three seasons and 113 games in the AHL, he was exact kind of "upside" player Colorado should have been entertaining at the time. During his first year with the Avs, he scored 20 points in 59 games -- not great, but also fairly respectable for a player with only had 18 NHL games under his belt. Even more impressive was the fancy shot differential thing the statistically inclined love to bring up. Redmond was Plus-3.0 CF%Rel that season, which was good for 3rd among Avalanche defensemen who had significant playing time. Was he getting the touch matchups, say, Erik Johnson was getting? Not at all, but he was also making the most of his time on the ice.
Last year was a bit more of a struggle for the 27-year old. He would only appear in 37 games for the Avs, getting regularly benched for neutral zone turnovers and other unsuccessful attempts at low-percentage plays. Redmond didn't get a lot of consistent playing time and it showed. It's difficult to be as ambitious as he tries to be getting the puck up ice without the necessary rapport with his teammates. Still, his CF%Rel was a less than atrocious Minus-0.1, which was only behind Tyson Barrie, Nick Holden, and Nikita Zadorov.
Again, this isn't good, but it certainly wasn't as bad as the team's other third-pairing options. It's hard to justify the playing time of possession black holes like Brad Stuart, Nate Guenin, Brandon Gormley, and Andrew Bodnarchuk when Redmond, in comparison, is an adequately neutral defenseman. Those four players started 82 games for the Avs last season. Think about that -- it's mind blowing.
Redmond will be a free agent this offseason, and my guess is another team offers him a one-way contract to be a 6th or 7th defenseman. He's perfectly suited for the role and may even have more potential than what Colorado was able to get out of him.
MHH Staff Grade: C-
Explanation? Give me the slightly higher grade for Zach. The results weren't great, but I think he was underrated by the organization last year. The turnovers are frustrating, but I'll take 'em if that means having a defenseman on the ice who can exit the zone and generate shots.