When the Avalanche traded for Brad Stuart two seasons ago, they were trying to acquire a player like Francois Beauchemin. Steady, well-rounded, studious, and vocal — a true professional who could lead a group of young defenseman and still contribute himself. The Stuart experiment, to put it mildly, was not very successful. Beauchemin, however, turned out to be everything the Avalanche had hoped for.
Before free agency opened last summer, fans were hopeful to land one of the big names Andrej Sekera, Mike Green, Johnny Oduya. Instead, they got a name right off the bat that wasn’t commonly on anyone’s radar: Beauchemin. "A 35-year old?!” everyone exclaimed in unison. “I thought we were done poaching talent from bridge games and shriner’s clubs!”
MHH Survey Grade: 78.1%
But upon closer examination, people began warming to the idea. This particular 35-year old was a Stanley Cup champion and a key contributor on a number of great Anaheim Ducks defenses for more than a decade. “Perhaps there was more here than we initially thought?”
The answer came as soon as Beauchemin stepped on the ice for Colorado during September’s training camp. It was immediately clear to anyone in attendance the veteran brought a great deal of strength and skill, and bossed around the young blue liners in attendance like the pee-wee league runts they were when he broke into the league. Beauchemin led drills, got on players for missed assignments, and brought a consistent effort between whistles.
And when the season started, he got off to a blistering start, scoring five points in his first two games and quickly endearing himself to the Avalanche faithful. He played big top-pairing minutes with Erik Johnson, put in time on the power play, and continued being a vocal leader to a defense group that struggled to gain momentum through the first month.
It wasn’t all roses. Many warned early in the year that Beauchemin’s production wasn’t sustainable playing twenty-five minutes a night, and they were right. He only scored eight points in his final forty games and slowly lost special teams time to younger players. But it’s not like regressed into “bad” — just not top-pairing.
Certainly, no one is complaining that he played all 82 games (one of five Avs to do so), and I’d argue the best defensive pairing all year was Beauchemin and Nikita Zadorov for a four-game stretch in January. The possession numbers weren’t pretty, but considering he got every hard assignment and every hard faceoff all season long, is this really the metric by which we should be judging him?
MHH Staff Grade: B
Look, the three-year contract is going to be a tough pill to swallow in 2017, but you can’t ask much more from a free-agent signing. He scored 34 points, which is just two shy of his career high, and did so under the most difficult on-ice circumstances. We’re looking forward to next year, when he might slide down to second pairing minutes and cede those twenty-five minutes a game to someone like Zadorov or Chris Bigras.