Zanon in his Bruins “St. Patrick’s Day” jersey. Photo: Margaret (cerebusfangirl)/Flickr.
Many Avalanche fans, myself included, were skeptical about the signing of Greg Zanon on July 1. Zanon was added to an already full defensive core, and is seemingly another similarly-styled player to Ryan O’Byrne, Jan Hejda, and Shane O’Brien. He’s not particularly tall (5’11″), and he tips the scales at 201 lbs.
Adrian Dater, of the Denver Post, recently included a link to an older interview between Jan Hejda and the Eurolanche. In this interview, Hejda says:
I just talked with the manager of the Czech team today. Unfortunately, I had to say him I am going to surgery of the wrist on Monday. I though it is possible to delay it after the tournament. But the team has said the clear no. The therapy could take 4-6 months. They had worries I would not catch the start of the new season. I thanked to manager of the national team for the interest. I was also in Columbus recently. I met with the doctor who treated me in the past. He also said me the surgery is necessary as soon as possible.
Dater feels that the possibility of Jan Hejda missing the beginning of the season explains signing Zanon. I, however, still feel that the Avalanche are being overtly cautious. This surgery took place prior to the World Championships (which started in May). If Hejda’s recovery takes six months, he would be recovered in October, just as the season is starting. Should unforseen complications arise, the team still has enough strong defensemen (O’Byrne, O’Brien, Wilson, Johnson, Hunwick are five players with ample NHL experience. Elliott, Barrie, and Gaunce could have fought it out for the sixth spot to take the ice, and the seventh spot when Hejda returned) to play well. Signing Zanon means that there are now seven defensemen who are absolutely NHL players, and three players who are all either very close, or very ready to take the next step and become a full NHL-er. With 10 competent defensemen, the team will be forced to make a trade early in the season.
So which players seem likely to be on the trading block?
Jan Hejda still has three years left on his deal, and it is very unlikely that any teams will be willing to trade for him until seeing him play post-wrist surgery. Shane O’Brien and Ryan Wilson each signed new three year deals, and Erik Johnson just signed a four year extension. It seems unlikely that the team would agree to such contracts, and then just trade the players involved away. If the team wants to stick with Elliott, Barrie, and Gaunce as they develop, that leaves Ryan O’Byrne, Greg Zanon, and Matt Hunwick. Hunwick and Zanon each signed for two years, but I think both could find themselves on the trading block should they have a poor start. Unfortunately, O’Byrne will be on the last year of his deal this season, making him an attractive option for other teams, as they can part ways at the end of the season should O’Byrne not fit in.
To put it mildly, Greg Zanon’s addition has caused quite the pickle on the Avalanche blueline. Still, he has an opportunity to come in and play in a shut-down defensive role-and actually shut down the other teams. If his plus/minus remains solid, and he throws the body around, he could very well be a strong addition. However, if he is on the ice for too many goals against, he does not have the offensive upside to make up for his defensive mistakes.
Either way, welcome to the Avalanche Mr. Zanon. Apologies for your lukewarm reception, but forgive our skepticism. We want a winner. And missing the playoffs three years in a row is unacceptable.