On Wednesday, January 13th it all begins again for the 31 NHL teams dreaming of Stanley Cup glory. Some teams are dreaming bigger than others and the Colorado Avalanche fall into that category. The oddsmakers are placing them as the firm favorites for a reason. However, defenseman Conor Timmins knows better than most that nothing in life is guaranteed. The Avalanche defenseman will take nothing for granted as he prepares to start opening night against the St. Louis Blues.
AV’S FELL SHORT IN INJURY HIT PLAYOFFS
The Colorado Avalanche were victims of the injury bug during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. This was never more evident than during their seven-game thriller against the Dallas Stars. While every injury hurts the loss of goaltenders Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz was seen to be the final straw by many. The loss of Defenseman and alternate captain Erik Johnson during game one of the Dallas series was a close second. This, however, was offset by the good form of Conor Timmins until he himself got injured. Now Timmins could be set to once again fill that Erik Johnson size hole with the caveat of hopefully staying fit.
Erik Johnson, a first overall draft pick by the St. Louis Blues in the 2006 NHL Draft, has been the topic of many an offseason conversation for several reasons. His no move clause means unless he waives that right the Avalanche need to protect him in the Seattle Kraken expansion draft. The recent acquisition of Devon Toews from the New York Islanders makes things more interesting. The Avalanche will realistically go the seven forwards and three defensemen option rather than the eight skaters meaning Johnson may be expendable.
So the last thing you want if you are Erik Johnson is to give the team a chance to see what life without you could be like. That will happen after it was confirmed by Coach Jared Bednar that Johnson will not suit up for the season opener on Wednesday. All this means Conor Timmins is very much in the spotlight.
TIMMINS TIME TO SHINE
A second-round pick in 2017 by the Colorado Avalanche it was always hoped Timmins would become at the very least a top-six defenseman. It hasn’t been an easy journey though for the Ontario native who missed all of the 2018-19 season with a concussion. He made the opening night roster for the Colorado Avalanche in 2019-20 but ended up playing most of last season with the AHL affiliate Colorado Eagles. He was one of the fringe players the Avalanche brought to the postseason bubble though.
During the bubble coach Bednar praised the defenseman’s puck-moving abilities on more than one occasion. With the Stars series looking over at 3-1 down he had no hesitation in throwing the youngster into battle during game five. An admirable performance with limited ice time put him back in the fray for game six. However, an injury diminished his growing stardom and the Avalanche lost in seven. Now it seems as if Timmins is again in the frame but he’s not alone.
REINFORCEMENTS ARE ON THE WAY
Bowen Byram is on his way after being the stand out player for Canada in the recent World Juniors. The fact Canada went to the finals meant Byram was always going to be late to the Avalanche training camp. His decision to fly home for a day before heading to Colorado means he is required to quarantine. The mutual opinion is that he will play sometime this year and could likely be at the expense of Timmins.
Then there is Drew Helleson and Justin Barron waiting in the wings. Drew Helleson had an eye-opening World Juniors tournament that saw him claim a gold medal with the USA team. While not an immediate threat to Timmins it would bode well for him if he could establish himself as a major top-four defenseman before Helleson arrives in a year or two.
With Erik Johnson unlikely to play against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday, Timmins is likely to make the opening night roster for a second straight year. Bednar has again talked highly of the young defenseman, but the former Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds graduate knows time could be running out for him in Colorado. With the growing depth on the Avalanche blue line, Timmins needs to show he can stick. Even if it’s at the expense of mentor Erik Johnson.