When one veteran suffers an injury, oftentimes, another has to be able to step up and take the reins.
For the Colorado Avalanche, after defenseman Erik Johnson fell to injury last week — an injury that may keep him out for the remainder of the season — added responsibility now falls into the lap of fellow Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie — who, prior to his injury earlier in the season, was tied for the league lead in points for defensemen with Dallas Stars defenseman John Klingberg.
How can Barrie step up?
As an offensive defenseman, the natural way for Barrie to step up is to contribute offensively for the Avalanche — something that they will desperately need as they continue to fight for a wild-card spot in the playoffs.
Since returning from his injury a few weeks ago, Barrie has been able to get back to his old form, putting up 10 points since his return to the lineup on January 30th — including his five-point performance against the Vancouver Canucks on February 20th.
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Now Barrie will have to be stronger on the defensive side of the game, as well as being able to lead by example for the younger players who have been called up to replace Johnson and Lindholm.
Although being able to contribute offensively, one area of Barrie’s game that falls under constant scrutiny is his defensive ability. In the past five games, Barrie has accumulated a plus-minus of -6, bringing his season total plus-minus to -13, second-worst on the team behind Avalanche forward J.T. Compher (-17).
What will the Avalanche miss with the injury to Johnson?
A lot. With the Avalanche still looking to become stronger on defense, Johnson’s absence leaves a gaping hole that the Avalanche may not be able to fill.
- Defensive Stability
With 56 games played this season, Johnson has been able to hold a +3 in terms of plus-minus — keeping pace with fellow Avalanche defensemen Mark Barberio, and Anton Lindholm.
Along with his ability to remain positive in terms of plus-minus, Johnson has been able to be one of the top leaders in terms of blocking shots for the Avalanche with 117 blocked shots on the season.
The Avalanche don’t have a player who is specifically utilized to add grit — such as Ryan Reaves, Cody McLeod, and Zac Rinaldo.
The Avalanche — and possibly the entire league as a whole — have been moving away from ‘enforcers’ for some time.
However, it sometimes proves useful to have a player who can drop the gloves and provide some much-needed toughness to the team. For the Avalanche, Johnson has been able to provide this form of toughness on more than one occasion.
3. Offensive Surprise
This should come to no one as a surprise, as Johnson has consistently displayed offensive talent. Avs fans have gotten used to seeing “The Condor” provide plenty of coast-to-coast offensive chances for the Avalanche over the years.
As the second highest-scoring defenseman for the Avalanche with 22 points on the season, Johnson has been key to this young Avalanche defense as they learn the ropes in the NHL.
With Johnson’s injury coming at a bad time for the Avalanche, the team will need more than just Barrie; call-ups Duncan Siemens and David Warsofsky will have to chip in as well. There’s no single player that can replace Johnson’s all-around game; whether the Avalanche can find a way to replace him, even with multiple players, may decide whether they make the playoffs or not.