Avalanche defenseman Mark Barberio took a moment to reflect recently on the ice at Pepsi Center with a look around at Colorado’s journeymen — a group of players picked up on waivers that discovered a new hockey life in the Rockies.
Montreal passed on Barberio. Philadelphia said “no thanks” to defenseman Mark Alt. Winger Matt Nieto arrived from San Jose. Dallas offered up defenseman Patrik Nemeth. Their common bond is equal parts gratitude and success.
“I think any player individually who gets a second chance to prove that he can play in the league and contribute to a winning team just wants to take advantage of it,” Barberio said. “And prove the (coach) right for showing faith in him.”
The trio of Barberio, Alt and Nemeth make up half of the Avs’ defensive unit in their first-round Stanley Cup Playoffs matchup against Nashville. Their importance is heightened because of the loss of the team’s top defenseman, Erik Johnson, out indefinitely with a fractured, non-displaced patella. Nemeth leads the Avs with a plus-27 rating. Barberio’s plus-six is tied for fifth. Alt has been sharp in seven game appearances since joining the roster.
Nieto, also with a plus-six rating, thrived for the Avs as well this season with 15 goals and 11 assists.
“There are players on every team that probably feel like they want more and deserve more,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “We’re fortunate that our guys that want more and deserve more are happy to contribute in any way they can. That’s the culture that you need to win.”
Bednar drew parallels to the instant success in Las Vegas where the expansion Golden Knights acquired much their talent from the depths of rosters across the NHL. They won the Pacific Division at 51-24-7 in their inaugural season.
“They’re a team full of guys that wanted, probably needed and deserved more opportunity,” Bednar said. “Then they come out and have the year that they had.”
Barberio faced plenty of adversity this season, missing more than 30 games to injury. He is thankful for a second chance in Colorado.
“There are good players in the league. Sometimes you don’t fit with one team and you do with another,” Barberio said. “I’m really happy to be here.”