After improving their team by claiming Matt Nieto last month, the last-place Colorado Avalanche decided to try their luck again, acquiring the rights to defenseman Mark Barberio from the Montreal Canadiens.
Barberio, 26, is a left-hand-shooting defenseman originally drafted 152nd overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2008, for whom he would eventually played 103 games and registered 17 points. He signed a one-way, two-year deal with his hometown Canadiens during the 2015-16 offseason and would score 14 points over 56 games for the big club, bouncing in and out of the active lineup.
On Colorado, Barberio will be able to jump right in and contribute, displacing Eric Gelinas (who was subsequently placed on waivers as a result of the claim). He is likely a Top-4 defenseman for the Avalanche the second he throws on a Burgundy & Blue sweater, both due to the dearth of the team’s defensive depth and because he’s proven to be an underrated possession player during his time in the NHL. Our nifty “HERO” chart from Own the Puck illustrates his ability below:
Don’t know much about Barberio? Our Quebecois compatriots at Eyes on the Prize were kind enough to lend the expertise of Jared Book to fill us in on the Avs' newest player! Our Q&A follows below:
What was the general fan reaction to the loss of Barberio? Is he a player the organization is going to miss?
The general fan reaction was reserved disappointment. Any time you lose an asset in your organization for nothing, it’s disappointing. Mark Barberio is an NHL defenceman, and realistically, he wasn’t going to jump ahead of some people ahead of him on the depth chart. So the reality is the Canadiens are losing their #8 defenceman, who could maybe be bumped up to the 6-7 range depending on who you ask. So it’s disappointing, but in reality if they had sent down Greg Pateryn instead of Barberio, we could be having the same discussion about him. It’s why the waiver system exists. Good teams can’t hoard all of the available NHL talent.
The advanced statistics community is a big fan of Barberio’s possession metrics. What do they tell us about his game? Is he a “passenger” on a good team?
They tell you as much as they would with any other player. He was a very good third pairing defenceman. Obviously, that role comes with a little bit easier competition than it would if he was on the top two pairings, but you can’t fault him for that. He played his role the way it needed to be played. The problem is that when healthy, the Canadiens have guys who are going to be ahead of him for various reasons. I wouldn’t say he’s a passenger, but I wouldn’t expect him to put up the same numbers with an increased role, either.
How is he best utilized to be most effective on the ice?
He’s best used as a bottom pairing defenceman on a good team, but he’s good enough that he can get away with being a serviceable top-four guy. He deserves to be in the NHL. He can give you some time on the power play as well. He’s going to give the puck away because he likes to have it. There’s a lot of value in being a bonafide NHL defenceman, even if that’s on the bottom pairing.
How much veteran leadership will the Habs need on the blue line for their playoff push, and when can Francois Beauchemin get started?
I’m not sure that the Canadiens need any more veterans on defence. That’s part of the reason that Barberio was expendable. They have Zach Redmond, who Avalanche fans are familiar with, who happened to pass through waivers just a few days ago and is in the AHL. With Andrei Markov, Shea Weber, and Jeff Petry as veterans, I wouldn’t expect Beauchemin to be on Montreal’s wish list unless they get hit with the injury bug again. But then again, Marc Bergevin’s favourite saying is that you can’t have enough defencemen.