Defender Chris Bigras failed to crack the Colorado Avalanche squad even after a promising start.
The Colorado Avalanche was unsuccessful with defenseman Chris Bigras. I know this is backward the way it is usually phrased, but prospects really are not a one-way street.
The Avalanche chose Bigras in the same design as Nathan MacKinnon, 2013. He was their second round player and finished 32nd overall. Though biggas wasn’t big for a defender – 6 feet-1 and about 190 pounds – biggas was a high profile contestant.
At the time, Bigras was scouted as a defender who played wisely with the puck. While not being offensively conspicuous, he was expected to score a few points while being solid in the defensive zone – an epitome of a two-way defender with speed.
Chris Bigras went a pretty traditional route for a defender. He stayed with his large junior team after being drafted. When their season ended, he signed his first professional contract and came in seven games with the Lake Erie Monsters, then Colorado’s AHL subsidiary.
The next year looked like Bigras’ breakout year. He played half a season in Lake Erie before joining the NHL team on January 14, 2016. His game impressed the Avalanche enough to last the rest of the season – he even played in the Stadium Series game.
Unfortunately, Bigras’ transfer of assets began with the change of coach. Coach Patrick Roy liked Chris’ game. Trainer Jared Bednar didn’t like Bigras’ fitness when he signed up for training camp in 2016. He looked impressive in training camp but was sent to the AHL (until then the Rampage).
In November, his fate worsened when he suffered a concussion. The injury lasted for two months – until January. That means Bigras was not available when Erik Johnson went down with his injury, a broken leg.
Even after Chris returned to the San Antonio lineup, he apparently couldn’t impress enough to earn a calling, even as the Colorado Avalanche season worsened so they were just reviewing their prospects.
It’s never been said outright, but I suspect Bednar didn’t like it, that Bigra’s fitness wasn’t up to his standards at camp and that he didn’t feel the need to give him another chance.
Chris Bigras came to this year’s camp and seemed ready to prove everyone wrong. As a 21-year-old at the time, he looked confident and polished. Apparently his fitness was up to date. And in fact, he made the cadre out of the camp. His place in the NHL was assured enough to have an apartment with three of the Avs rookies – Alexander Kerfoot, Tyson Jost, and JT Compher.
Unfortunately, after receiving an assist against the New York Rangers on the opening night, Bigras failed to impress. In 15 games with Colorado he only got this one point. His CorsiFor was 41.9% and he had a Relative Corsi of -8.5. This was on a team that played pretty decently.
His partner changed almost every night. He started with Andrei Mironov, moved to Anton Lindholm for a few games and ran three games with Mark Barberio. And then he started getting scratched here and there. Even when the Avs put up seven defenders, Bigras did not crack the formation regularly.
The Chris Biggas experiment came to an end. His time on the ice was used up on a few games. And then he was sent to the Rampage after the November 22nd 2017 game. That was it for Bigras and the Colorado Avalanche.
He had one goal and five assists in 20 games with San Antonio, but apparently that wasn’t enough to get the NHL team’s attention. Even after the defenders started falling like flies (Barberio, then Lindholm and Johnson in the same game), Colorado didn’t call him.
Then, yesterday, on Trade Deadline Day, the Avalanche swapped Bigras for defender Ryan Graves at the Rangers. Even at the same age, Graves has fewer NHL games than Bigras – none in fact. In their eyes, the Avs traded one AHLer for another.
During a press conference, GM Joe Sakic said of the trade:
“I think both teams thought it was a side deal” [to] give both players a change of scenery. “
Hopefully Chris Bigras can make a fresh start with the Rangers who have just started rebuilding. He’s got NHL-level skills – he just might need fresh eyes for his game.
Side note: I recently caught Flak for saying that the prospects and tips the Colorado Avalanche received in return for Matt Duchene were lottery tickets. UP TO NOW we haven’t had a real return for one of our top scorers. I know the return is for the future, and I have high hopes that Samuel Girard in particular will provide adequate compensation for Duchene and make everything else just sauce.
However, as we see in the Chris Bigras experiment, picks and prospects are lottery tickets until they are found useful at the NHL level. Unfortunately, sometimes they are unable to do this.