When you talk about the offensive stars for the Colorado Avalanche, the discussion starts (and often ends) with Nathan Mackinnon. The 22-year old is in the middle of a breakout season that is putting him among the elite players in the NHL. Thanks to MacKinnon’s dominance, it’s often overlooked that Tyson Barrie is leading the league in offensive production among defensemen.
Barrie’s 0.84 points per game played is the best in the NHL. Better than Erik Karlsson. Better than Shayne Gostisbehere. Better than John Klingberg.
As we head into Christmas, Tyson Barrie is on pace for 69 points this season - a huge jump from his previous career high of 53. He’s been incredible offensively for the Avs and a big reason why their powerplay - that was a league worse 12% last season - is drastically improved this year.
The biggest knock on Barrie has always been his defensive play. Even now, when he is dominating offensively, if you wade through Avs twitter, you see a ton of fans that still view him as a liability to the team. No matter what he does in the offensive zone, his game is remembered for the mistakes he makes.
It reminds me a lot of the early careers of players like P.K. Subban and Jake Gardiner. When defensemen are as talented as these guys are, they have the puck a lot - something that leads to more giveaways than you see from other players. These players take risks. Sometimes those risks lead to defensive blunders. More often they lead to offensive success.
Thanks to the nature of many fans, Tyson Barrie could have a three-point night, but all anyone remembers is the one bad turnover he had in the neutral zone.
It’s a matter of perception vs reality. A prevalent narrative in Denver this season is that Patrik Nemeth brings the “solid defensive play” that compliments Barrie well. In actuality, Barrie has a far better CA/60 than Nemeth and has actually been better defensively away from him.
There’s also the giant elephant in the room that is plus/minus. There are still many hockey fans - and analysts - that use +/- as a barometer for a player’s defensive play. As a result, Barrie's -53 over the past three seasons stands out as an argument for him being a bad defensive player. The problem is that in actuality, +/- is a useless stat, as we traditionally know it. Many still don’t believe this to be the case, despite studies to the contrary - so there will always be those that use +/- as an argument for Barrie’s deficiencies.
Sure, Tyson Barrie is playing somewhat sheltered minutes. But that doesn’t mean he is as horrendous defensively as some would believe. His xGA, CA/60 and SC/60 are all right in the middle for Avalanche defenders.
He’s an elite puck mover, elite point producer and average defender. That’s a pretty darn good combination.
Barrie’s contribution to the Avalanche this season has been significant - especially for a team that has struggled to get offensive production from anyone beyond the top line.
Despite his play, Barrie’s name is very rarely included when people talk about the future of the Avalanche blueline. Samuel Girard, Cale Makar, Conor Timmins, Erik Johnson, even Nikita Zadorov are thrown around as the foundation for the future. At 26, Barrie is already an afterthought - though part of that comes from trade rumours that have been whispered for the past few seasons.
Now that Matt Duchene has finally moved on, Barrie’s name is the one that will likely be featured as the deadline gets close - and it seems many who follow the Avs are perfectly ok with it.
If Avalanche fans don’t want him, I’m sure there are a number of others that would gladly welcome Tyson Barrie to their team.