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Will He or Won’t He? Discussing Carl Soderberg’s 2017-18 season

A look at whether or not Carl Soderberg can bounce back from an abysmal 2016-17 campaign.

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Minnesota Wild Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Cat and Jackie have a back-and-forth on the upcoming season.

When the Colorado Avalanche picked up Carl Soderberg from the Boston Bruins in the summer of 2015, it seemed at first like a brilliant move on general manager Joe Sakic’s part.

He was able to snag the seemingly solid middle-six forward for a late round draft selection, while the Bruins then turned around and dropped a third-round pick on the barely-fourth-line-capable Zac Rinaldo just days later.

His first season in Colorado, Soderberg put up the numbers that would be expected of his new five-year. $23.75 million deal.

He walked away from the 2015-16 campaign with 12 goals and a career-high 51 points, putting up his second straight 82-game season and finishing fourth on the roster in scoring.

Like the rest of the team this past year, though, Soderberg limped through the 2016-17 campaign with barely-recognizable statistics.

Now, the question is which version of the forward Colorado will get next year. Will he bounce back and put up another 50-plus point year, or are his six goals and 14 points from last season more indicative of how he’ll finish out his career?

THE AGE FACTOR

Cat: If we’re being completely honest, I’m not sure he’s going to be able to bounce back for a number of reasons. His age, though, is one of the biggest ones for me.

Kudos to him for his nearly-seamless transition from Sweden to the NHL, but he did hit the NHL at age-27. That’s roughly the average age of all teams across the league, and a blue moon rarity for a rookie. While he’s looked good from day one, that likely has to do with him being an NHL-caliber player who was simply putting up some of his peak years overseas; it’s not that his bell curve got shifted up five years, he just happened to hit the NHL in the middle of his prime, rather than at the start. If it looks like he’s declining now, there’s little reason to believe he’s going to pull a Peter Pan and have a huge bounce-back again.

Jackie: Expecting a bounce back from a guy on the wrong side of 30 seems foolish. But the goal isn't for Soderberg to fill a long term hole as a top forward on the team, it is just to merely get value and contribution from all facets of the lineup. Soderberg does have a few points in his favor in regards to his longevity. He didn't begin playing in the NHL until he was 27 years old and has less tread on his tires than the average 31-year-old at only 323 career NHL games. Soderberg also played three consecutive full seasons healthy and had a 228 game iron man streak ended only by a couple healthy scratches (ugh).

THE REGRESSION FACTOR

Cat: His shooting percentage went down significantly last year, but his shot volume dropped to levels that haven’t been seen since his rookie campaign (which he did in seven fewer games at the time, to boot).

Part of that was a severe drop in minutes. He went from a steady increase in ice time during his first four years, topping off at 18 minutes a night during his first year in Colorado, to just 13 minutes a night last season. Even with that excuse, though, he was also given more favorable zone starts last season, and still managed to be a catastrophe in his limited appearances. Little about that suggested ‘unlucky year’ rather than ‘concerning downward trend’.

Even though he may see his shooting percentage even back out, it’s hard to imagine he’s going to make a full recovery. He put up promising numbers with the Bruins and during his first year in Colorado, but the drop-off of the team’s overall talent level around him suggests that he needs a far bigger motivator and play driver than the Avs have to offer next year.

Jackie: The Avalanche have 14,250,000 reasons to figure out a plan to get Soderberg back to a productive and valuable member of the organization moving forward. This isn't just a one year, ‘avert the eyes until the contract expires’ situation, this is going to be a three-year eyesore or a lengthy and expensive buyout if the Avs can't find a solution.

Even if Soderberg justifiably found himself in coach Bednar's doghouse, though, it would behoove all parties to make something work - and starting with some increased power play time might just do the trick. Soderberg averaged just over 10 minutes of ice time in the second half of the season and averaged just under a minute per game of power play time, which was a shade less than the recently bought out Francois Beauchemin.

When Soderberg played over two minutes on average per game on the power play the year prior he put up 17 points alone instead of the measly three points he saw last year. Giving Soderberg a role he enjoys seems to perk up his play in all situations as well. If Soderberg can rebound his 4.7 shooting percentage and 6.4 on ice shooting percentage then he should see a few more goals go in the net and points on the scoresheet. A little more confidence will lead to more engagement and keep the coaching staff happy.

OVERALL IMPROVEMENT

Cat: If Soderberg can’t find himself above the 15-point mark next year, the team’s going to want a buyout. That’s hard not to imagine. They’re simply paying far too much for a player who, at that point, would be putting up bottom-six numbers and likely sitting in the press box quite a bit.

If he’s a 30-40 point producer, the team is stuck paying nearly $5 million per season for a depth performer for the next three seasons, and he’s already 31. Any bounce-back is far more likely during his years prior to his age-30 season; at this point, it’s expected that he’ll start to decline, but without getting any cheaper.

His penalty kill production is one of the most admirable traits about his game, but he was being coddled last year in order to put up good numbers. He was one of the league’s most effective shot generators in 4 v 5 situations, but did so while starting a significant percentage of his PK shifts in the neutral or offensive zone. If the team’s fourth-priciest forward is not only struggling to produce offensively, but getting sheltered in his defensive situations, he becomes little more than a financial drain and a spot taken up that could go (with that skill set) to a younger, much cheaper option.

Jackie: It certainly can't get any worse for Carl Soderberg, who scored a measly six goals and 14 points in 80 games during the 2016-17 season. Just by showing up, staying healthy and playing with a few better players should pull Soderberg up out of the gutter. The Avalanche can't possibly post a historic low 166 goals for in consecutive seasons and even approaching a still poor 200 goal total would raise all boats. The power play should see improvement from a league worst 12.6% under new assistant coach Ray Bennett as well. How much better will Soderberg be relative to his teammates is the question.

We aren't looking for a monumental improvement here, just a contributing member to society and Soderberg can absolutely achieve that in 2017-18. A return to a 40 point level, which Soderberg achieved in the three consecutive prior seasons shouldn't be out of the question with a bigger role, more ice time and overall improvement in the offense.