Human beings will argue about anything. Walk into a room and proclaim the sky to be blue and some laser physicist will walk over to you and explain to you the complexities of the light spectrum and conclude that the sky is comprised of many other colors than the blue it appears. Buzz off, ya contrarian!
So, it's fairly unique that was can all agree the 2015-16 Colorado Avalanche defense was bad. Lets all turn to those on those on your immediate right and left, shake hands, and appreciate this uncommon bond of unity, shall we? Ok, now that we've made that gesture, let's go back to bickering about something related: why the Avalanche defense is bad.
MHH Survey Grade: 67.8%
Nick Holden, after just seven games played in the NHL, won a spot out of camp on Patrick Roy's 112-point 2013-14 team and has been a mainstay in the starting six ever since. That first year he had many of the same defensive struggles as his teammates, but kept himself in the lineup with a surprising knack for making aggressive plays in 5-on-4 situations. He scored 10 goals that season and Avalanche fans have been waiting ever since for Holden to replicate that level of counting production.
Unfortunately, we now know that was mostly a mirage. He's not a double-digit goal scorer in the NHL and not likely to ever duplicate that kind of season ever again. But that hasn't stopped Roy from giving him more and more responsibility. Holden went from playing 18:41 per game that first year to 19:48 the next and all the way up to 21:53 last season. And where before he was earning much of that time on the power play, he's not even getting that anymore -- these are legitimate 5-on-5 minutes. Nearly three and four more minutes per game more at even strength than the previous two seasons.
Like a lot of coaching decisions made last year, many of them were made to accommodate roster deficiencies. Yeah, Holden was going to get top-4 minutes. Who else was it going to be? The problem is he's just not that player and most definitely not the guy who needs to be tethered to unrestrained offensive force that is Tyson Barrie.
Nick Holden, properly used is a third-pairing defenseman who should only be contributing to special teams and high-leverage situation only when absolutely necessary. In that role, he's an adequate player on team who doesn't necessarily expect to win a Stanley Cup, but aspires to make the playoffs. And at a $1,650,000 cap hit the next two seasons, he's not getting overpaid either.
Our survey was pretty down on Holden -- and rightfully so, as he's a big contributor on this defense we all don't like -- but he was second among the team's defenseman in shot differential and most of the time decent defending his own end. Holden's greatest deficiency will always be getting the puck out of his own zone with possession, and a good team can't have that kind of player on the ice nearly 22 minutes a game.
MHH Staff Grade: C-
Holden wasn't good, but he was also far from being the biggest problem of the defense, which we will detail more in later installments. He gets a slight bump over the survey grade because I still think he's performing better than he should be given his role. The good news is I doubt the team will ask him to reprise it.