In the 2009 NHL Draft, the Colorado Avalanche selected Tyson Barrie, hoping the young prospect would blossom into a solid presence on defense. After spending some time with the Lake Erie Monsters (Colorado’s AHL affiliate team), Barrie seasoned himself into the player the Avalanche had envisioned when they picked him up in the third round.
The 2013-2014 season saw Barrie play in roughly three fourths of Colorado’s games, and experience what was a breakout season in the NHL. Despite being a defenseman, he became a key contributor with the Avs point production, tallying 38 of them in 64 games. What the Avalanche had not bargained for, was Barrie’s emergence as a clutch goal scorer late in close games. In the second half of the season, he became somewhat of a fan favorite in Colorado, coming up big with 5 game winning goals (3 of which came in overtime). And even though Barrie missed 18 games, he was third among all NHL defenseman in GWG.
In the first round of the playoffs, Barrie fell victim to a dirty knee on knee hit from Minnesota Wild Forward Matt Cooke in Game 3. Cooke was suspended for 7 games by the league and would eventually return to the lineup in the 2nd round of the playoffs for the Wild, but Barrie’s season was effectively over, as team doctors ruled him out for four to six weeks.
In the offseason, Avalanche fans wondered if and when the team would re-sign the defenseman, as he had become a key contributor to the team’s production. On September 4th, the nervousness was finally relieved when the club’s twitter feed announced that they had agreed to terms with Barrie on a two year, $5.2 million dollar contract.
So why does this deal matter?
For starters, Barrie was the second highest scoring defenseman on the team. That offensive output was sorely needed when key forwards such as Matt Duchene were going through a rare scoring slump. Sometimes the puck just doesn’t bounce your way and such slumps can be unavoidable in the long 82 game seaso, but when players on the defensive side can step up and contribute goals as Barrie did, it vastly improves the team’s chances at success.
Barrie’s coaches and peers repeatedly tell the Colorado sports media that they continue to see more and more improvement in the young player, who last year was already believed by many to be one of the most improved players within the franchise.
And then there’s that clutch factor.
For some reason, when things are tight and the seconds on the game clock are waning, the puck always seems to find Barrie’s stick … and often afterwards, the back of the opponent’s net. Barrie himself would probably chalk it up to luck, and who knows? Maybe that is the case. But fans of any team would be more than happy to have that luck on their side when they’re in a sudden death OT situation.
As a close follower and ardent supporter of the franchise, I know that I am just one of many who anticipate that this new 2 year agreement is just one of the beginning chapters in a long, fruitful relationship between player and team. If Tyson Barrie picks up where he left off last year, healthy and conditioned, Colorado’s opponents better take notice when his skates touch the ice.
This cardiac kid is one of the cogs in the machine known as the AvsNewAge, and that cog is needed just as much as any other. Good move Avs. Good move.