Player Grades Halfway Through the Season

Posted: January 4, 2012 in Roster Talk

With the season now 50% complete, I thought it would be a good time to look back on the past 41 games, and give every player a grade based on their play in the first half of the season. So here we go:

FORWARDS

Matt Duchene: C-

Why: In his third full year of the NHL, I expected Duchene to break out as a star. Really make the jump from good to great player, and he has not. He has not been horrible, but I don’t think he has lived up to the expectations most people had for him this year. Even before getting hurt, he only had 24 points and was on pace for well less than his 67 last year. However, after saying all of that, he still remains the Avs biggest offensive threat.

TJ Galiardi: C-

Why: Galiardi had a rough start to the year, but lately has been turning things around. He has really started to work hard on the ice, and has generated a lot of good scoring chances. However, at the beginning of the year, and during training camp, I heard a lot about how he gained weight and worked very hard in the offseason, and I was expecting a better year from him. Having only 10 points through the first 41 games played is disappointing for someone who I was hearing so much about at the beginning of the year.

Milan Hejduk: B+

Why: I certainly did not expect Hejduk to be the teams second leading scorer halfway through the season, but he has been a pleasant surprise. He continues to give the Avs that steady play, and you know what you are going to get from him game in and game out. He seems to be doing a decent job as the team’s captain. He is on pace for his 11th season with more than 20 goals.

David Jones: D

Why: After a 27 goal season last year, I thought Jones had emerged as a 30 or 35 goal threat when he had some talent around him. Yet halfway through the year, he has only 7 goals and 14 points. He was hurt for a while, but it seems like he has not been a factor out on the ice since October. I think all Avs fans have been disappointed with his play this season.

Chuck Kobasew: D+

Why: When the Avs signed him, I believe they thought they were getting a guy who would score 15-20 goals. I think the fans did too. While Kobasew also missed time due to injury, and has played very well since coming back, he on pace for not 15-20 goals, but points. Especially early in the season, most fans wondered why he was even in the lineup. Bottom line is he has not met expectations during the first half of the year.

Gabriel Landeskog: A-

Why: To start, making any NHL team as an 18 year old is impressive, but to put up 20 points in the first half of the season exceeded just about everyone’s expectations for the #2 draft pick. It’s not just about the points he puts up, but he does everything well. He is leading the team in hits and shots, and is trusted on the ice during any situation. The only reason the grade is not higher is he takes too many goaltending interference penalties when the Avs are on powerplays.

Brad Malone: Incomplete/D

Why: He has only played in 9 games for the Avs, and is averaging only 10 minutes of ice time, and has only 2 assists. When he has played, he has pretty much been a non factor for the Avs.

Jay McClement: B+

Why: McClement has been one of the most consistent Avs this season. He has played very well this year. He always seems to make the right play and nothing bad ever seems to happen when he has the puck. I think he has impressed a lot of Avs fans with his play this year. He is good both offensively and defensively and while he only has 9 points this year, he has scored clutch goals. He is a very good penalty killer, and has turned me into a fan with his play this season.

Cody McLeod: C

Why: I think Cody McLeod is giving exactly what Avs fans expected from him this year. He is there to keep the skilled, young players safe, and has been doing just that. He has chipped in 2 goals and assists, but his job is not to score, and he knows that, the organization knows that, and the fans know that.

Peter Mueller: Incomplete

Why: He has only played 3 games this season. He is still sitting out with concussion like symptoms. He is skating with the team during practices right now and the Avs and their fans hope to see him on the ice, but more importantly healthy, in the future.

Ryan O’Reilly: A+

Why: Ryan O’Reilly has been the best surprise for Avs fans this year. He leads the team in scoring and probably will be the Avs representative at the All Star Game. He has made the jump from solid defensive forward to great 2 way player. He leads the NHL in takeaways, and is another player who is trusted on the ice at any time. He has come up with clutch plays so far this season and has been the Avs best player through the first 41 games. What is more impressive is I don’t think anyone thought he would be.

Kevin Porter: B

Why: He is another player who fans didn’t expect much out of this year. In fact during training camp there were many people who thought he should not even make the roster. He is a very smart player who has also seen time on the ice during every situation. He works hard on the 4th line, and usually makes 1 or 2 great plays that leads to a good chance for the Avs per game. He has worked his way from a healthy scratch at the beginning of the year to a regular roster player at the midway point. That alone should show his work ethic and skill are very high.

Paul Stastny: D

Why: He only has 21 points halfway through the season and even though he is fourth on the team in scoring, it seems like he never contributes when the Avs really need him. The highest paid player on the team should be on pace for more than 42 points. I can’t explain it, other than I don’t think he is that good. Including the first half of this year, Stastny only has 64 goals in the last 4 years. Stastny never seems to be around when something good happens for the Avs, and I think fans are beginning to become disgruntled with his play this year.

David Van Der Gulik: Incomplete/B

Why: He only has played 9 games, so it’s pretty tough/ unfair to give him a grade after only 9 games, but he certainly seems to be a solid player. He was leading the Lake Erie Monsters in scoring when he was called up, and always seems to make smart decisions and good plays.

Daniel Winnik: B

Why: Winnik is under appreciated. He is another very smart player who is very good in his role on the team. He is a solid 3rd liner and is one of the few Avs who will go to the dirty areas to make a play. He is essentially a grinder, but he has the skill to put the puck in the net. This season he has 13 points, and I think most people were expecting a lot less than 26 points (his current pace) this year. He has been a happy surprise for a lot of fans I think.

Brandon Yip: Incomplete/F

Why: Yip has only played 9 games this year, but he has been awful when he has played. He takes terrible penalties and makes bad decisions. He often has terrible turnovers, and has 0 points this year. I think I speak for most, if not all Avs fans when I say, “Keep Brandon Yip off of the ice.”

DEFENSE

Stefan Elliott: C-

Why: In my opinion Stefan Elliott is lucky to get a C-. The only reason it is that high is because he does have 9 points through his 19 games. That is pretty good for a rookie. But Elliott is one of the worst defenders I have seen in a long time. To his credit he has improved during his time with the club, but it seems like once a game he has a terrible turnover and makes a terrible play. He is a C- because after hearing so much about him during training camp I thought he would be a stud on both ends of the ice, and not just one.

Jan Hejda: D+

Why: I didn’t know much about Hejda when the Avs signed him, but when I saw they gave a 33 year old a 4 year $13 million contract, I figured he would be a very good defender. He is average. I don’t if it was chemistry but early in the year he was awful. The Johnson-Hejda paring was a disaster. To his credit he does have 12 points and has scored some clutch goals, but he was signed to be a defensive defenseman and I do not believe he has lived up to defensive expectations so far.

Matt Hunwick: Incomplete/B

Why: No that is not a typo. Hunwick has only played in 10 games, but he deserves a spot in the starting lineup. Never thought I would type that after last year, but it’s true. He might not deserve one over any of the other defenders, but I think trading one for some offense and putting Hunwick in the lineup would be a good thing. He has done everything the coaches have asked, even playing wing a few times this year. He has really smartened up defensively, and I have not seen a terrible play from him this year, which is really saying something given that was all we saw from him, most of last year.

Erik Johnson: C-

Why: Because C- sounds a lot better than D+. Coming into the season there were rumblings that he might be the captain, and he had worked incredibly hard in the offseason. October was a rough month for him, but after that he has not been awful. I’m probably a bigger Erik Johnson believer than Greg Sherman, but he makes it hard sometimes. It seems like he is out there for most of the Avs goals against, just standing in front of the goal. It’s not that he plays bad defense, but he just always seems to pick the wrong man to defend when the puck in loose in front of the net. And every 2-1 he goes down and slides, and it seems like every time they score. I just feel like his game is too predictable right now. Having said all of that- he is nowhere near as bad as everyone says. He still has 14 points in 36 games, and will get better. Trust me Avs fans, give it some time and cut him some slack.

Shane O’Brien: B+

Why: The Avs signed Shane O’Brien late in the free agency time period, but he has been a great addition for the Avs. He is a very smart player, and I rarely see him make a bad play or turnover in the Avs zone. I also love how he plays and sticks up for his teammates. He does not let any opponent off the hook for anything. He also has a solid 13 points so far, and he is on pace for a career year. I don’t think most Avs fans expected much out of him, and has been a very pleasant surprise this year.

Ryan O’Byrne: B-

Why: O’Byrne has been almost exactly what I expected him to be- just a solid defender. He does not contribute too much offensively with 6 points in the first 41 games, but he gets the job done on D. He is not overly physical, but he uses his size well. He has played every game for the Avs this year and is a +1. That really says something when you consider some of the stretches the Avs have had. He is another player who shows up, and effectively does what he is suppose to.

Kyle Quincy: A-

Why: That Ryan Smyth trade keeps getting better and better for the Avs with every game he plays. He is the leading scoring defenseman for the Avs, and is 6th overall on the team despite playing only 35 games. I don’t think many people saw this kind of season coming from him. But he is also good defensively. He is a physical presence for the Avs down low and rarely make a stupid play or has a bad turnover. He is a free agent at the end of the season and is earning himself a nice pay raise with his play.

Ryan Wilson: A

Why: Speaking of great trades, how about that Jordan Leopold trade. Got Ryan Wilson and Stefan Elliott for him. He has probably been the Avs best defenseman this year when he has played. He is currently out with a concussion but is skating with the team. He has 14 points in 28 games which is very good, but he also plays great defense. He is a +5 which shows that he is a smart and he is another player who I rarely see a bad play out of. He is also the Avs most physical defenseman, and probably has the Avs 5 hardest hits this year. I think I speak for all Avs fans when I say we can’t wait to see him back out on the ice.

GOALIES

Jean-Sebastien Giguere: A

Why: I was skeptical of Giguere’s ability when the Avs signed him. His years in Toronto were filled with disappointment and injury. I thought he was being signed strictly as a mentor for Varlamov. He has played a much bigger role than I thought, and has carried the Avs at times, and has kept the Avs afloat in the standings at other times. He arguably could be the most important player on the roster this year, when I don’t think anyone saw that coming this summer. He currently is fifth in the league in goals against with 1.96 (only .02 worse than Tim Thomas to give you a little perspective) and is ninth in save percentage with .927. If teams realized he was going to be this good, I think he would have been a lot tougher to get this summer. He also has been a leader and good teammate for Varlamov. I think he is influencing him a lot more than the public knows. Overall, I think every Avs fan is happy to have him.

Semyon Varlamov: B

Why: You might think it’s wrong to give him a B, considering his GAA of 2.96 and his save percentage of .900, but he has been much better than those numbers. He had a rough stretch from Oct. 28 to Nov. 28 where he went 2-8, but aside from that he has been very good, 11-5 to be exact. He has single handedly gotten the Avs 6 points from shootouts, where he is amazing. Of those 16 starts outside of his bad stretch, he has allowed 2 goals or less 10 times. That is giving the Avs a much better chance of winning than they have had in recent years. He is capable of stealing games as we have seen in Boston, and LA this year. He makes saves that most goalies can’t make, and while he lets in some easy ones now and then, he usually makes up for it later in the game. Aside from that month, there is not a negative thing I can say about him. He will be worth the first and second we gave up to get him, and 10 years down the road, Washington will wish they could do it all over again…assuming the Avs keep their pick outside the top 10.

Well, after a couple of hours and over 2600 words, the first half grades are in. Here is to looking forward to the next 41 games, and the Avs making a push for a playoff spot. Go Avs!

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