Certainly nobody can deny that Nathan MacKinnon is enjoying an excellent rookie season for the Colorado Avalanche. However, you’ll recall there were those who believed strongly that the Avs should have used their first overall draft pick on defenseman Seth Jones, who’s enjoying his own fine rookie campaign in Nashville.
Just looking at Colorado’s roster — specifically, the defensive corps — there are probably those who still believe that.
Even the club’s executive VP of hockey operations, Joe Sakic, admits he had concerns about his defense during the summer. Although those concerns seem to have been alleviated somewhat.
“Going into the season, was it a question mark? Yes, we’re not going to lie about that,” Sakic told ESPN.com. “But the guys have played well. [Erik Johnson] has stepped it up and has become the player we all expected, and he’s expected of himself, he’s had a tremendous year. Tyson [Barrie] has picked it up, Nick Holden has played well … really, our blue line as a unit has done a tremendous job this year. Now, if people are looking at our blue line, I believe our blue line as a unit has earned the respect of being a pretty good group.”
Maybe so, but there’s a risk in assigning too much credit to the defense when a team gets the kind of goaltending the Avs have received this season. Per Extra Skater, no team has had better netminding than the Avs at even strength when the score is close. Last season, that honor belonged to Ottawa. The season before? Florida. And we know what happened to both those teams when the goaltending fell off.
Anyway, MacKinnon is showing that he has superstar potential, so it’s hard to say he was the wrong pick. Sakic may still need to upgrade the blue line, though.