When it comes to the Colorado Avalanche, the coaching staff has an easier time than most when it comes to distributing ice time. It’s obvious which forward line deserves more shifts than the rest.
Nathan MacKinnon playing 22:17 a game makes him the only forward in the NHL that leads his team in ice time. Every other team has a defenseman playing the most. Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog naturally make up two of the next three on the TOI list - Erik Johnson being the other.
Every time Coach Bednar throws his big-three on the ice they are a threat to score. They carry the offense for the team, and while it’s an anomaly to see a forward line getting as much ice time as they do, it works for the Avs.
The top line is the best in the league and their ice time reflects it, but how efficient is the rest of the team when it comes to productivity vs. ice time?
As you can see from the above graphic (brought to you by the amazing Sean Tierney of The Athletic), each of MacKinnon, Landeskog and Rantanen are among the most efficient in the entire league.
Alexander Kerfoot is the only other Avalanche forward that produces at a rate conducive with his ice time. He’s been really good this season and is developing into a legitimate second line play-driver. He just needs a couple of linemates that can help him out.
Given the data, the coaching staff does a good job of not overusing any of their forwards. That said, this graph confirms what a lot of Avs fans have been saying for a while: that the team needs to find a way to get Carl Soderberg more opportunities.
Big ol’ Carl is a part of the “underused” quadrant. His 11:06 even-strength TOI/G is 6th among Avalanche forwards. That’s not too bad, but given how well he produces, an extra shift or two a game could help out a lot.
With six goals and 11 points through 17 games, the 33-year-old is on pace for the best offensive season of his career. What makes the point production even more impressive is how Soderberg is being deployed. Playing as the team’s shutdown center, Soderberg only starts about 40% of his shifts in the offensive zone.
Soderberg is always going to be their best checking center, but if the offense ever dries up, deploying the big Swede in a more offensive role could be an option.
There’s also Sheldon Dries. The undrafted rookie was signed to add depth to the Eagles in the AHL this season, but so far he’s exceeded all expectations.
Through the season, Dries is averaging a little more than nine minutes a game, but give his recent usage, it seems that the coaching staff has recognized that he was being overused. Since being called up after a brief stint in the AHL, Dries has seen his ice time climb steadily - regularly getting 12-15 minutes of ice time a game. This might change when J.T. Compher returns to the lineup, but for now Dries is doing an admirable job with the minutes he’s given.
The rest of the chart distribution is really no surprise. Everyone else falls into the “unproductive” quadrant, something everyone who watches the Avalanche could tell you.