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Josh Manson needs to fill some huge shoes the rest of the way for the Avalanche

Manson can provide a presence not many on the Avs can, and it’s time to put that presence on standby.

St Louis Blues v Colorado Avalanche - Game One Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

The Colorado Avalanche suffered their first serious casualty in the playoffs, as defenseman Sam Girard will not return these playoffs after suffering a broken sternum from a hit by St. Louis Blues forward Ivan Barbashev in the opening minute of Game 3. Later in the first period, Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington would have his series ended by a knee sprain after a netfront collision between himself, Blues defenseman Calle Rosen, and Nazem Kadri. The evidence of a boiling anger simmers in St. Louis, and there’s lots of potential for a nasty Game 4 on Monday night.

With the expected skirmishes, plenty of Avs faithful are calling for blueliner Kurtis MacDermid to slot in for Game 4 to scare the Blues away from trying anything malicious on their star players. The problem is that MacDermid is only good for that. He doesn’t have the skillset to maintain a consistent roster spot on this team, especially in the playoffs, where every minute of a game is crucial to the road to the Stanley Cup. MacDermid is one of the last true enforcers in the game but only finds dance partners of the same ilk and his regular-season minutes at 7:23 average per game established that he shouldn’t be coming into the lineup unless injuries force him in.

The Avalanche have guys who can deliver a beating if necessary. Gabriel Landeskog is one of the best leaders in the NHL, and never hesitates to stand up for his teammates. With his knee likely being the reason for all the maintenance days he’s taken in the postseason he’s too important in other areas to be the first guy in line to police on the ice. Another guy who isn’t afraid to throw down is newly acquired defenseman Josh Manson. He hasn’t showcased it much yet in Colorado, but Manson is a mean hockey player. He’s delivered a solid physical presence since coming over from the Anaheim Ducks at the 2022 Trade Deadline, but he has also been very smart about when to use his presence. The Avalanche aren’t expecting Girard to be back this season, which will lunge one of Ryan Murray, Jack Johnson, and doubtfully Kurtis MacDermid into the lineup. That’s a huge blow to the Avs' defensive depth, which makes Manson’s toughness that much more crucial as the Avs continue their run.

The first true example of Manson’s toughness and willingness to stick up for a teammate came in Game 2 of the first round against the Nashville Predators. An end-of-period scrum ensued behind the Predators net, and Luke Kunin saw it as the perfect opportunity to try to egg Kadri into doing something he would regret. Kunin shoved Kadri to the ice, tossed his gloves, and grabbed him, and Manson immediately sprung into action, grabbing Kunin from the side and ragdolled him to the ice. Officials were able to step in, separate the players, and the situation was contained.

Next stop is back to February 16th, 2020, with Josh Manson still a member of the Anaheim Ducks. Late in the period, Forward Max Jones was shaken up after taking a cross-check/punch up high from Canucks Defenseman Tyler Myers. Anticipating a retaliation, Myers grabs the first Duck he sees coming towards him, which happened to be Jakob Silfverberg. Myers (standing at 6’8 and 230 Ibs) overpowers the smaller Silfverberg, and Manson (who was in the left corner in a board play with J.T. Miller) frantically tosses his gloves, charges at Myers, and manhandles him to the ice.

Josh Manson fits the mold of a guy plenty of Avs faithful have been calling for with this core. The narrative of years past that they’re too soft, easy to play against when met with physicality, not mean enough, etc. It’s not the case this year. Gabriel Landeskog has made that clear, Nathan MacKinnon has made that clear, and other guys such as Nicolas Aube-Kubel, J.T. Compher, Logan O’Connor, Andrew Cogliano, as well as Erik and Jack Johnson are not afraid of the physicality, and will fight back. Josh Manson is a guy who has the size and strength to police if necessary (6’3 215Ibs), while still providing value in the context of actual hockey play, something Kurtis MacDermid just can’t be trusted to deliver. If the tension following Game 3 leaks onto the ice in Game 4, watch for #42 to be more active in the policing department.