It's time for another question-answer exchange with our friends over at Mile High Hockey. Of all the hockey SBNation blogs out there, MHH is among the best. If you haven't checked them out yet, you really should.
Ethan Fisher was kind enough to answer some questions for us ahead of tonight’s game in Colorado. We did the same for them over at MHH and you can check it out here.
What have you seen out of Mikko Rantanen so far? What does he bring to the table for this Avalanche team?
Rantanen is shaping up to be a really solid NHL player. He's scored a couple goals so far this season, both of which were very pretty, but more importantly he's established himself as a real solid line-mate to Nathan MacKinnon. If there's been one line of Colorado's that's worked consistently well for a good part of this young season, it's the line of the two of them plus Rene Bourque. For Mikko to be apart of that is quite the compliment as to what kind of player he may go on to become. I think he's comparable to Matt Duchene in terms of overall player ability. Fast when he wants to be, has quite an arsenal of moves, but one thing he has that Duchene sort of lacks is a strong ability to play defense. He's had a couple of goal-saving moments defensively already this season.
What kind of coach is Jared Bednar? Being a rookie coach can be tough, how does he seem to be handling it?
Bednar wants to use the team's speed to its advantage, which has its moments, but the one thing we've all noticed it's done as a result is lead Colorado to be very susceptible to odd-man rushes. The amount we've seen already this year has provided me nightmares, and if made into a drinking game, would undoubtedly lead to some tragic deaths. He's handled it pretty well, however, I'm extremely critical of his move to send AJ Greer back down to our AHL squad after a very solid few games with the Avs. He'd been one of the team's best forwards, far better than Jarome Iginla and Cody McLeod, yet apparently playing ability means nothing and name recognition does. You can see the progress in the Avs' stats though. They're not nearly as out-possesed and out-shot now as they had been under Roy.
Semyon Varlamov is having a tough season, but Calvin Pickard has been a nice surprise. Do you see Pickard having a more important role the rest of this season? What does the future look like for this goalie tandem?
Well, a month ago, I was ready for the Avs to make Pickard the team's #1 goaltender and make Varly the benchwarmer. Semyon's rebounded fairly nicely though and been mostly reliable in his last few starts. Calvin's play hasn't been much of a surprise to those of us at MHH. He's a really good #2 goalie, and probably more consistent than Varlamov. The way it tends to go is Varly's best game is a 50 save shutout, yet his worst is a game where he allows 5+ goals. Pickard's best game is one where he surrenders 2 goals, and in his worst game he gives up 3. That's the best way to describe our goaltending stable. You know what you'll get out of Pickard for the most part, while Varlamov is sometimes a complete guess, at least ever since his stellar 13-14 season that netted him a long-term contract extension. On that note, Varlamov's contract extension might be firmly considered come the time teams start protecting players before the expansion draft. I'd protect Pickard, if I'm GM Joe Sakic. Varlamov's deal and his inconsistent play might not be worth it to this team going forward, in my opinion. Pickard has a bright future and as indicated earlier, I can totally see him becoming Colorado's #1 goalie going forward.