Injuries have plagued the Colorado Avalanche’s entire season thus far.
Colorado currently sits in 14th place in the Western Conference with a satisfactory 17 points—the second fewest and just four points ahead of the last-place Columbus Blue Jackets. Much of the team’s struggles have been due to various injuries.
Rarely has head coach Joe Sacco been able to put whatever lineup he wanted out on the ice. It’s getting to a point where nearly every player on the roster has missed a game here or there, and several players have missed considerable amounts of time.
Captain Gabriel Landeskog recently returned after missing 11 games with a concussion. Steve Downie only played in two games before tearing his ACL. Shane O’Brien has played sporadically, taking the ice just seven times this year. And the list goes on.
But here are updates on three players currently on that list who the Avs desperately need to return as quickly as possible.
Erik Johnson, Defenseman (Concussion)
Colorado’s defense, in general, this season has been lacking a spark. No one has stepped up by any means, and each Avs defenseman is having issues contributing on the offensive side of the puck. Erik Johnson is a part of the problem.
A concussion has limited Johnson to just 11 games this season. In the short amount of time he has been on the ice, he only has one assist. But the fact that Johnson is scoreless on the year isn’t that surprising since no one is scoring. Tyson Barrie is the only defenseman with a goal this season—a statistic that’s more than concerning.
But Johnson isn’t going to score if he’s on the bench—a place he’s been accustomed to lately. Mike Chambers of The Denver Post writes that Wednesday was the first time Johnson skated since sustaining a concussion on Feb. 11. Sacco felt that the skate was encouraging, according to Chambers.
The defense needs a spark, and Johnson could end up being that spark should he return to the ice soon. Since he was able to skate on Wednesday, one would think that he'll be able to play by sometime next week.
That’s just a guess, though, as every concussion is different. If he isn’t back soon, Colorado will be mathematically eliminated from postseason contention before Johnson could even spell concussion.
Matt Duchene, Forward (Groin)
Matt Duchene has been Colorado’s best player this season, and it’s not even close. He currently leads the team in points and assists, picking up a lot of the slack in a year where Landeskog has been sidelined and Ryan O’Reilly has yet to take the ice for the Avs.
Mike Chambers of The Denver Post reported on Tuesday that Duchene was going to miss Colorado’s matchup against the San Jose Sharks. He also noted that Duchene suffered from a charley horse earlier in the year, which could’ve contributed to the injury.
Colorado is coming off a three-game road trip where the Avs came away with two points, one for an overtime loss and another for a loss in a shootout. If the Avs are serious about competing for a playoff berth, they need Duchene on the ice. Duchene is the X-factor who could bring some life to a team that barely has a pulse.
Ryan Wilson, Defenseman (Ankle)
I’ve already talked about the defense’s inability to put the puck in the net, but the fact that Ryan Wilson is tied for the third-most points by a defenseman on the team and has missed the last 10 games is baffling.
Wilson has been out since suffering an ankle injury against the Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 2 and apparently isn’t getting much healthier. Chambers reports that, despite missing so much time, Wilson still isn’t ready to start skating again.
The extent of Wilson’s injury is still in question, but it’s been nearly three weeks, and it doesn’t appear that much progress has been made. That’s not good no matter which way you try to spin it.
Without any sort of progress report, it’s unknown when Wilson will be in game action again. You have to figure that if he’s not even close to skating again, it’s going to be at least a couple of weeks more. First, he has to get cleared to skate. Then, he has to feel good skating on it in practice. And then, maybe, he gets to play again. That’s a long process considering how long it’s taking him to feel better.
The young replacements that the Avs have called on haven’t done a bad job, but Wilson is definitely missed. He’s one of Colorado’s best two-way defensemen, along with Johnson, and without them both, the Avs have quite the hole on their hands.