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MHH Offseason Mailbag: Kamenev, Defense and the Ryan O’Reilly trade

Who might crack the Avalanche blueline next season

Colorado Avalanche v San Jose Sharks Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The summer has started for the Colorado Avalanche. The team exceeded all expectations and turned into one of the most exciting in the NHL. It was a great season and has created a ton of optimism in the fan base.

Through the offseason, we are going to be engaging our readers in order to put together a weekly mailbag. Some weeks it will be me answering questions, some weeks it will be one of our other writers. Keep an eye out for our tweets and Facebook posts asking for your questions. Also, feel free to submit questions via email at any time.

Here is part 1 of this week’s mailbag:

I think that Vladislav Kamenev is absolutely ready to be a full-time NHLer next season and it will likely be at center. Kamenev is a big, strong two-way center that is perfectly suited to be the eventual replacement for Carl Soderberg. He’ll eventually end up as the team’s checking center that will be able to provide more secondary scoring than the big Swede that currently fills that role.

I’m not sure about this one. In terms of Rychel specifically, I’ve spoken with people around the OHL and that one doesn’t sound likely.

As far as other additions to the front office go, we know that Joe was looking to make a big splash last summer when he tried to hire Kyle Dubas away from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Dubas was offered the chance to run all hockey operations but was pulled back then Brendan Shanahan enforced his contract with the Leafs. Now Dubas is set to be named the General Manager of the Leafs, so he’s out of the picture, but I bet Sakic is still looking for a little help, especially with a new AHL franchise to manage.

A new Assistant GM would make a lot of sense. Someone like Dale DeGray of the Owen Sound Attack would make a lot of sense. He has built a heck of a team in the OHL and has a lot of experience as a scout in the NHL.

That said, Joe is probably a lot more confident in his ability to run the franchise with the team he has around him than he was a year ago.

These two go together because both Nicolas Meloche and Conor Timmins are going to come into training camp looking to win a spot on the right side of the Avs blueline. There isn’t going to be room for both - there might not even be room for either of them.

After a rocky start to the season, Meloche found his footing once the coaching staff in San Antonio finally gave him regular minutes. He finished the season on the top pair with the Rampage and was starting to show the kind of high-end play that will win him a spot as an impact NHL defender. He would probably benefit from another half (or full) season playing as the top guy in the AHL, but if he shows growth this summer, there’s no reason to hold him back.

As for Timmins, there were members of the coaching staff that wanted to keep him in the NHL this past fall. He looked great in training camp and made the decision to send him back to the OHL a tough one. He missed a large chunk of the season due to injury but has looked great in the playoffs. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him jump Meloche on the depth chart and start next season with the Avs. That said, he’s only going to be 20 when next season starts, so a few months in the AHL might be a good first step.

Barring a major signing this offseason, I would bet Meloche and Timmins will enter camp knowing that they are in direct competition. One will be the 3RD with the Avs and the other will be on the top pair with the Rampage.

I love getting questions from other fanbases. It’s ironic that we’re talking about Ryan O’Reilly now considering how the past few weeks have gone for him in Buffalo. He made some comments during locker clean out day that rubbed a lot of Sabres fans the wrong way. It sounds like he’s not happy in Buffalo and now there is a lot of talk that he could be traded this offseason.

As far as the last trade goes, J.T. Compher is a very fine piece, but he’s not going to end up being as valuable as Nikita Zadorov. Big Z proved this year that he is a legitimate top-4 defender in the NHL and he’s going to be a key piece for the Avs for a long time.

Compher had an ok season, but personally, I was a little underwhelmed. He was billed as a two-way forward that can fill in as a good second liner. He definitely is not that. He finished the season with only 23 points in 69 games, but more importantly, he had one of the worst CF% among Avs forwards. Think what you want about corsi, but the numbers show that Compher was below team average when it came to limiting scoring chances against.

He was a rookie, but not exactly young. At 23, most top-6 forwards in the NHL are starting to (or have already) established themselves. Next year might be a make or break season for Compher.