Tyson Barrie was one of the better players on the Colorado Avalanche last season.
Quite frankly, though, that’s a very low bar.
Yesterday, we looked at some of the reasons why Barrie should be expected to have a great 2017-18 season. Now, here’s a look at why that may be easier said than done.
First thing’s first, Tyson Barrie is a very good NHL defenseman. He’s in a weird space that he seems to be overrated by some, while criminally underrated by others because of his style of play.
So why won’t he have a good season this year?
The numbers suggest that last season, Barrie was one of the more successful blueliners from a defensive perspective. Though that’s the case, coach Bednar should be given a lot of the credit for putting Barrie in a position to succeed.
Statistics over the past three seasons
Last season, Barrie fell in the middle of Erik Johnson and Nikita Zadorov in terms of possession numbers for the big-3. When in the lineup, Johnson was significantly better than the other two, with Barrie slightly above Zadorov.
The issue with looking at these numbers in a vacuum, though, is that Tyson Barrie was deployed in a way that made him a lot more likely to be put into offensive situations. Barrie’s 58.2% offensive zone starts was the highest on the team. To put that in perspective, both Zadorov and Johnson were in the 45% range.
Despite starting nearly 60% of his shifts in the offensive zone, Barrie had his worst offensive season since he was a rookie. Part of that can be attributed to the fact that he shot a career low 3.8%, just over half his career norm. It can be expected that Barrie’s shooting percentage will bounce back, and that would account for another 5 goals, putting him right around his usual total for a season.
Still, he was given a rather easy shot at producing good numbers. Even though a bounce-back is likely, it’s worth wondering why he struggled given his deployment this past year.
Another major factor in Barrie’s offensive decline last season was the Avs powerplay. The team had a league worst 12.6% conversion rate. The question, though, is whether the powerplay horrible because Barrie was bad, or was Barrie’s production down because the PP was atrocious.
The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. Not a lot has changed and the Avs aren’t likely to have a very good poweplay this season, so I wouldn’t expect a huge increase in Barrie’s production there.
Beyond the actual goal and assist numbers, the biggest concern is Barrie’s lack of ability to generate shot attempts. His CF/60 this past season was up marginally from the past, but it was not nearly reflective of how he was deployed. Bednar used Barrie as an offensive defenseman. He put him out there in offensive situations as much as humanly possible and more than anyone else on the team. Barrie’s play didn’t reflect that. He was team average when it came to generating shots - and on a team as bad as the Avs, that’s pretty bad.
Add to that the fact that he played the most per game of his career and it’s clear that Tyson Barrie can’t excel in the role the coaching staff wants him in.
Ideally, Barrie’s ice time would drop back down to the 21 minutes/game range, and he would get a few less 5v5 shifts every night. The problem is that the Avs just don’t have that luxury. The blue line is a mess - and if anything, Barrie is going to be counted on to play an even bigger role this season (unless, of course, Matt Duchene is traded for an impact top-4 between now and training camp).
The simple fact of the matter is that Tyson Barrie is being asked to play over his head with the Avalanche. This defense group is incredibly thin, and as long as that's’ the case, Barrie is going to struggle. There are a number of reasons for fans to be excited about Tyson Barrie as a hockey player - his raw talent chief among them - unfortunately, on this Avs team, it’s hard to see how he will be able to play up to his capabilities.