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Twitter Tuesday: Fixing the special teams, Colorado Eagles updates and potential trades

Plenty of Eagles questions this week, including who is the most NHL-ready and A.J. Greer’s comeback

Greer tosses pucks on the ice ahead of the Eagles contest against the Tucson Roadrunners on Jan. 11
Photo courtesy of the Colorado Eagles

While I was expecting a fair amount of scorched-earth questions on how poorly the Avalanche have been playing over the past couple weeks, I was pleasantly surprised to field more questions regarding the Colorado Eagles, who have been on an opposite trend than their NHL companions in Denver.

Before Saturday’s loss to Tucson, AHL Colorado hadn’t lost in regulation since Dec. 4 and were riding a 12-game point streak. Let’s talk about them, shall we?

The players that look the most NHL-ready are the ones that have already been called up this year. And I’m sorry, I know people want me to say Martin Kaut or Shane Bowers, but it’s just not happening.

If I had to pick one Eagles player who I think would have the biggest impact for the Colorado Avalanche it would be Logan O’Connor.

OC just looks like an NHL-caliber player. He has incredible speed and puck-handling ability and he’s been a hidden gem since his days at the University of Denver as far as his special teams abilities go. He’s an incredible penalty killer and he’s relentless in the corners and on the forecheck. I love the tenacity he plays with night-in and night-out. Statistically speaking, he’s pretty solid in that regard, too, chipping in seven goals and 17 points in 27 games this season.

O’Connor would most certainly help the Avs stagnant penalty kill and would bolster the team’s speed and defensive prowess if he were to be called up.

Bonus answer: Sheldon Dries. He leads all Eagles with 14 goals and 25 points in 33 games this year.

The short answer is no.

After a slow start to the season, in which he recorded just one goal and four points in his first 14 games, and then missing three weeks to injury, Bowers has flipped the script a bit and has been playing very well since his return. He’s putting up a point a game since then (five goals, 12 points in 12 games).

Still, we need to see more consistency out of those players. As it stands now, Bowers is playing more of a third-line/second-line role and doesn’t get much power-play time. Though recently, he has earned some PK minutes. But until a guy plays in all three zones and all three areas of the game, it’s hard to call them “NHL-ready.”

I’ve been super impressed with Greer as of late, too. I tweeted this out a few weeks ago that since his 40-minute tirade and subsequent suspension against Milwaukee, Greer (at the time of my tweeting) had only taken one penalty in a two-month span. Since then, he’s amassed a couple more since the return from the holiday break, but overall, that’s only six minutes of penalties since Oct. 19. And for a guy like Greer, that’s saying quite a bit for a guy who has become pretty notorious around the AHL for his sometimes over-the-top grittiness.

He’s now tied for fourth on the team with eight goals. He’s certainly turned a new leaf.

Story on Greer’s turnaround coming soon...

Speaking of Greer, Avs 2019 third-rounder Alex Beaucage has been putting up some crazy numbers of Greer’s QMJHL alma mater, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.

Beaucage currently sits second in The Q with 30 goals in 42 games. His 51 total points is also top-10 in the league. He helped the Huskies to the QMJHL title and a Memorial Cup win last season, while being one of the younger draft-eligible players before the Avs drafted the 17 year old with the 78th-overall selection.

So to answer your question, Beaucage is pretty good.

Given he just turned 18 before the season started, I’d expect him to realistically still be a few years out of competing for a spot on the Avalanche. Also given he’s a CHL prospect, he won’t be eligible to play in the AHL with the Eagles until he turns 20. That said, we won’t be seeing Beaucage in Colorado until the 2021-22 season at the earliest.

I do get the feeling the Avs will look to make a trade, as we’re a little over a month out from the NHL’s Feb. 24 trade deadline day.

The biggest rumor circulating seems to be around the Avs seeking some goaltender help, with names like Henrik Lundqvist and Carey Price being attached to Colorado. While Philipp Grubauer has struggled lately, I’m not sure going out and getting an older veteran goalie is a move the Avalanche would make. The way I see it, it’s Colorado’s porous defense that needs help.

The PK sits in the bottom-third of the league; the Avs have allowed the seventh-most shots per game on average (33); and since the return from the holiday break, Colorado’s allowed 30 goals to its opponents (tied for the seventh-most). Offense has never been an issue for this team. The Avalanche average the second-most goals per game and have scored the fourth-most all season. It’s special teams and team defense that needs some help.

That said, I could see GM Joe Sakic getting a veteran right-handed D-man, of which the Avs have very few. This team won’t survive long in the playoffs without a shutdown defenseman. Our own Tom Hunter has Montreal’s Jeff Petry as a target the Avs might take a flyer on. I also wouldn't mind that. Petry would be inexpensive and would likely only require a draft pick and a conditional to acquire the 32-year-old blueliner with 28 points (six goals) in 47 games. Also of note, he has not missed a game since the start of the 2017-18 season, while averaging 44 points a season in his last two years.

Big Z has been in the doghouse this season and, to me, his play is too inconsistent to warrant him staying on this team. Zadorov hasn’t played more than 20 minutes in a game since Dec. 21 and has since averaged just around 15 minutes a game since the return from the holiday break. He could be a guy the Avs look to move, as his contract will expire at the end of this season and could pull in a draft pick if another team wants him as a rental.

I think Zadorov has been a polarizing player for Avs fans this season. Some people love him and others not so much. I want to hear your opinions. Comment those below and let’s talk about it.

If it were that easy to fix, I’m sure it would have been resolved by now, however, special teams tend to be inconsistent as opposing teams watch film on this and quickly understand the tendencies of the league’s various teams. For the most part, the team’s with top special teams units tend to make good runs in the playoffs and there’s certainly a correlation there.

Teams work on special teams a lot in practice and clearly it’s not an easy thing to fix. Rarely would a team relieve a coach of his duties during the season, but I could see Colorado moving on at season’s end from assistant coach Nolan Pratt, who is in charge of the team’s penalty kill and defense. The unit is a far-cry from the fourth-best PK that it was in 2017-18. That’s the best answer I can give to you, it’ll likely require a new coach with fresh ideas because Pratt’s have grown stale and stagnant.

In the meantime, the Avs will continue to practice it and hope it turns around.

More questions, comments or concerns? Hit me up on Twitter anytime @0ffScottFree. See you next Tuesday!