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Josh Manson Brings the Playoff Boost the Avalanche Need

Josh Manson might not be the flashiest defenseman, but he's tough to play against and adds to an already strong Avalanche blueline ahead of what they hope will be a lengthy spring playoff run.
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Josh Manson isn't a flashy hockey player.

He'll never wow you offensively. He has 113 points in 454 games, with a career-high 37 in 2017-18. Oftentimes, you'd forget he was there if he wasn't throwing a big hit.

But that's his style. Manson doesn't mind being in the background, doing his job and staying out of the spotlight.

Manson was traded to the Colorado Avalanche on Monday in a deal that sent prospect Drew Helleson to Anaheim, the only team Manson ever knew. Manson impressed in his Avs debut, showing his physicality while helping his team to a 3-0 shutout win over the Los Angeles Kings.

Manson was one of the top defensemen on the trade board this year, mainly for his tough-as-nails approach that makes him hard to play against. Teams love physicality in the playoffs, so Manson coming in to solidify the team's blueline in that regard is huge. Manson has averaged 19:45 in ice time this year and got 18:41 in his debut with the Avalanche, a team he likely won't need to play as much for. 

Again, his offensive numbers will never be fantastic, but he can do a good job of helping to get pucks to the other end. Paired with Cam Fowler in Anaheim, Manson's 53.1 expected-goals percentage was good for 12th of 26 pairs with at least 600 minutes of ice time. The only pair from a non-playoff-bound team with a better percentage is Matt Pelech and Scott Mayfield in Long Island with a 54.8 percent rating, per MoneyPuck.com.

Manson can be a penalty-kill option, and at even-strength, Manson actually helped the Ducks control the shots 52 percent of the time while he was on the ice. So while scoring might not be in the cards, he can hang with the best of them and get his job done.

"All I need to do is just try to come in and fly under the radar and help keep pushing the team in the right direction, doing the little things that I do that a lot of times just go unnoticed," Manson said Tuesday.

On contending teams, Manson isn't a top-pairing defenseman. Cale Makar and Devon Toews have proven to be one of the best defense pairings in the NHL, so the Avs won't need him to be that, anyways. But the chemistry seemed to flow well with Ryan Murray, and that should help strengthen the team's defensive depth. By all accounts, Manson is a perfect addition to a team that could use some defensive reliability and physical play deeper down the blueline lineup.

With Sam Girard out of the lineup for the next month and Bowen Byram out with a concussion, Manson's services were a welcome sight. And if he reverts to the third pair once one, or both, return, that's one heck of a bottom-pairing defenseman. Manson's experience playing heavy minutes in Anaheim should better equip him to fill in if either Makar or Toews misses time with an injury -- or at least better than Jack Johnson could.

Manson's physical play does hurt him often – he has 53 PIMs this season and has hit over 60 on three occasions – which sometimes limits his overall impact. That happens when you're 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds, but he still needs to make better decisions, too. 

"He was physical, moved the puck, threw some hits there," Avs forward J.T. Compher said. "I thought he jumped right in really well tonight, he seems like a good dude. We're happy to have him."

The Avalanche needed a bit of a physical blueline push ahead of the playoffs, something teams really covet. It was an easy gamble for GM Joe Sakic to take, and one that won't hamper them long-term.

If it doesn't work out, he's simply a rental that they didn't mortgage the future for. If it does pan out, then, well, that's likely because the team's chasing Stanley. Manson's arrival won't push them over the edge, but it'll give them a dang good shot.

Are the Avs done on the trade market? Unlikely. They're just getting started. 

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