Josh Manson needs to fill some huge shoes the rest of the way for the Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche suffered their first heavy loss of the playoffs as defenseman Sam Girard will not return this playoff after sustaining a fractured sternum in the first minute of Game 3 from a hit by St. Louis Blues forward Ivan Barbashev. Later in the first period, Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington would end his streak with a sprained knee after a net front collision between him, Blues defender Calle Rosen and Nazem Kadri. Evidence of a simmering rage is simmering in St. Louis, and there’s plenty of potential for a wicked Game 4 on Monday night.

With skirmishes expected, many Avs believers are calling on blueliner Kurtis MacDermid to champion Game 4 to stop the Blues from attempting anything nefarious on their star players. The problem is that MacDermid is only good for that. He doesn’t have the skills to maintain a consistent roster spot on this team, especially in the playoffs where every minute of a game is crucial en route to the Stanley Cup. MacDermid is one of the last true enforcers in the game but only finds like-minded dance partners and his 7:23 regular season minutes per game average means he shouldn’t make the lineup unless injuries force him to.

The Avalanche have people who can dish out punches when needed. One of the best leaders in the NHL, Gabriel Landeskog never hesitates to stand up for his teammates. With his knee likely to be the reason for all the maintenance days he’s taken in the postseason, he’s too important in other areas to be the first man in the police line on the ice. Another guy who isn’t afraid to prostrate is newly acquired defenseman Josh Manson. He hasn’t shown it much in Colorado, but Manson is a mean hockey player. He’s displayed a solid physical presence since coming over from the Anaheim Ducks at the 2022 close, but he’s also been very smart about when to use his presence. The Avalanche don’t expect Girard to return this season, which will see one of Ryan Murray, Jack Johnson, and doubtfully Kurtis MacDermid join the lineup. That’s a huge blow to Avs’ defensive depth, making Manson’s toughness all the more crucial as Avs continue their run.

The first real example of Manson’s toughness and willingness to stand up for a teammate came in Game 2 of the first round against the Nashville Predators. There was a late-period scrum behind the Predators’ net and Luke Kunin saw it as the perfect opportunity to try and get Kadri to do something he would regret. Kunin shoved Kadri onto the ice, threw his gloves and grabbed him, and Manson jumped into action immediately, grabbing Kunin from the side and throwing him onto the ice. Officials were able to intervene, separating the players and the situation was contained.

The next stop is February 16, 2020 where Josh Manson is still a member of the Anaheim Ducks. Late in the period, forward Max Jones was rocked after taking a cross check/hit up from Canucks defenseman Tyler Myers. Anticipating retaliation, Myers grabs the first duck he sees coming his way, which happened to be Jakob Silfverberg. Myers (standing at 6’8 and 230 lbs) overwhelms the smaller Silfverberg and Manson (who was in the left corner in a board game with JT Miller) frantically throws his gloves, charges at Myers and violently leads him onto the ice.

With this core, Josh Manson fits the mold of a man that many Avs believers have been calling for. The narrative of years past that they’re too soft, easy to play when they meet physicality, not mean enough, etc. That’s not the case this year. Gabriel Landeskog made that clear, Nathan MacKinnon made that clear, and other guys like Nicolas Aube-Kubel, JT Compher, Logan O’Connor, Andrew Cogliano, and Erik and Jack Johnson aren’t afraid of the physical and will fight back. Josh Manson is a guy who has the size and strength to take over the police if need be (6’3, 215 lbs), while still providing value in the context of the actual hockey game that Kurtis MacDermid just can’t be credited with. As the excitement trickles down to the ice after Game 3 in Game 4, watch out for No. 42 in the Police Department to get more active.

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