It’s been just over four weeks now — 29 days to be exact — since the last Colorado Avalanche game. I believe that 29 days can be quantified as “a lifetime” in quarantine, or so at least it feels. The struggle to provide content in an emotionless, hockey-less, barren wasteland of a world we live in is very much real. But I’m trying.
As has become the norm in quarantine, days, time, sense of place in this world doesn’t exist. I’ve been informed by my laptop computer today that it is in fact a Thursday, meaning I missed the usual “Twitter Tuesday” mailbag. So let’s just do it today instead, since, after all, there really are no rules in quarantine.
Fun fact: This is the 20th Twitter mailbag I’ve done this season, but the first to not be on a Tuesday. Hey, look at us making history together.
AJ Greer. Where will he be next year and how is he thought of by both Avs and Eagles hierarchy?— Gavin (@G__Daly) April 9, 2020
A.J. Greer. Where do I begin.
To answer the first part of your question regarding where he’ll be next season, I’d venture a guess to say it’s not going to be in Colorado.
Nearly a dozen Colorado Eagles players have been called up to the Avalanche this season and none of them were named A.J. Greer. That’s a pretty decent indication of how, at least, the Avs brass views Greer’s position on the organization’s depth chart.
See, A.J. plays a niche role in his game, one that has been slowly fading and forced out of existence in the NHL in recent years. That is, Greer plays more of a physical, intimidator kind of role, and that’s just not the identity of the Colorado Avalanche. Sakic and his staff crave speed above all else, mixed in with high-octane offensive talent. None of those adjectives fit Greer.
Greer’s role has also gotten him into some trouble throughout the years, whether it be 47 penalty minutes in 37 games with the Avs or his 262 PIMs in 199 AHL games. His 87 penalty minutes in 47 games this years, the most in a single season his pro career, ranks as the sixth-most in the AHL’s Pacific Division and is tied for the 15th-most minutes in the entire league. To be fair, nearly half of those minutes came from this fateful October night in Milwaukee.
At times he’s gotten careless, maybe more times than others, and in the pro hockey world, that can quite literally make or break a career.
As far as what the Eagles are saying about him, last time I spoke to head coach Greg Cronin about him in late January, I asked him how he’s seen Greer change since that incident in Milwaukee. He told me this:
“Clearly he’s changed his behavior and there’s been a ripple effect in terms of the stability and the reliability he’s demonstrated as a player. Maybe it was a breakthrough for him...I think he’s done a really good job in his play. There’s certain things on the ice that he does when he’s not locked in and he’s not focused and that jeopardizes his defensive reliability. I think he’s done a good job reeling that in, as well.”
“We don’t have a big team so he’s one of our few guys that’s absolutely physically strong and powerful enough to be a reliable cycle guy. He can get the puck down low; he can shield it, protect it; he can control the puck for four or five seconds, which is a long time. And then when he’s focused, he can make good plays with it. He’s physical, so his visibility is going to come from his forechecking and keeping his stick on the ice and banging bodies and getting the puck back. That’s what he can generate with his physical ability. I think when he’s playing well away from the puck, he’s going to get pucks back.”
And here’s what Avs assistant GM/ Eagles GM Craig Billington told me about Greer at the start of the season and what he wants to see from him, given A.J. is in a contract year. He said this:
“I can’t say specific to him. I would say specific to all players. That given year you’re in (a contract year) is a really important year. This year is a growth year, ideally for your game. Where’s it going to evolve? What did you learn from the previous year? What areas were identified both as a coaching standpoint or a managing standpoint or fitness and conditioning standpoint that you’d like to work on?
“It’s not just ‘well, we’ll see where you’re at in three months. A.J. I would say is no different than any of the other players. It’s ‘what have your goals been’; ‘what have you worked at for those goals in the offseason’; and ‘what are you doing currently to have those goals come to fruition’.”
Long story long, I don't think Greer re-ups in Colorado and perhaps he gets a chance elsewhere. If he does re-sign with the Avs organization, I think it will be a mutual understanding that he’s an AHL depth guy with the Eagles. I don’t think Greer wants that and he’s told me he wants nothing more than to be in the NHL. That said, I think he’d decline an offer and test the waters of free agency in hopes of cracking an NHL roster.
Just took a look at the Pioneers schedule for next season. 4 and a half road series, with two weekends in a row out on the east coast. Who does these schedules? Can they also please be fired?— Bryan Pedigo (@BryanPedigo2) April 8, 2020
In case you missed it, the Denver Pioneers released next season’s schedule and it looks a little something like this:
As Bryan points out, the scheduling gods were not on the side of Denver, or even on this side of the Mississippi — see what I did there? Do you get it, because DU’s on the East Coast to start the season...OK never mind.
Any how, it will be a tough stretch to start the season for the Pioneers. Starting the season against Alex Turcotte (5th overall to Los Angeles, 2019), Cole Caufield (15th overall to Montreal, 2019), K’Andre Miller (22nd overall to the Rangers, 2018), former Avs coach Tony Granato and the rest of the Wisconsin Badgers will be no easy feat, assuming all the aforementioned return to the NCAA next season.
And then to have to go to Boston College and take on our boy(s) Alex Newhook and Drew Helleson, who went pick No. two and three, respectively, by the Avs in the 2019 NHL Draft the following weekend, before returning to Colorado for a home-and-home with Air Force only to then hit the road again is a tough draw. The good thing is, it’s a front-loaded schedule and, in theory, the Pios are well-rested and ready for the challenge considering it’s the first games of the season.
So you could look at it either way — it could be a good thing or it could be disastrous. I choose the former. And either way, non-conference games are always a part of the schedule, so it’s not just Denver that’s getting shafted, every team in the NCAA has these games on their schedule each season.
As the saying goes: Don’t hate the schedule makers, hate the game.
It's been 23 days since school has been closed here. Rank the Avs' 23 seasons by whichever metric you feel most appropriate. Best to worst team dynamic? Heaviest average players? Hairiest to most likely to succeed?— BKS (@gusbeansjr) April 8, 2020
Ok, I’ll bite. While @gusbeansjr offered a number of interesting metrics of comparison, i.e., “Avalanche payroll vs. Oprah’s net worth” and “Percentage of home games in which DIA recorded measurable snowfall,” to name a few, for sanity’s sake, I’m keeping it simple and ranking the Avs’ 23 seasons by average age.
From youngest to oldest:
2017-18 — 25.03
1995-96 — 25.58
2011-12 — 25.72
2018-19 — 25.83
2010-11 — 26.05
1996-97 — 26.36
2012-13 — 26.41
2009-10 — 26.55
2001-02 — 26.66
2016-17 — 26.81
2019-20 — 26.88
1997-98/ 2015-16 — 27.17
2013-14/ 2000-01 — 27.30
2003-04 — 27.38
2014-15 — 27.40
2002-03 — 27.48
1998-99 — 27.65
1999-00 — 27.72
2008-09 — 28
2007-08 — 28.38
2006-07 — 28.59
2005-06 — 29.19
Bonus weird metric stat:
Number of goals scored by the Avs (since moving to Colorado) per resident of Denver.
The estimated population of Denver in 2020 is 716,492. The Colorado Avalanche has scored 5,587 total goals since the 1995-96 campaign.
That means the Avs have scored one goal for approximately every 128 people living in Denver.