16 June 2008
Here's what I wrote about JM-Liles in the season preview Avs blogger roundtable:
Liles is also facing a make or break season. He's been the next great defensemen for a while now. Is he ready to step up and at least be a legitimate one? Or will he become just another journeyman defensemen with great potential. He played well last season until the broken foot, and he played honorably, but not as effectively, when he came back from the foot injury too early last season. The good news is that no one can really question his heart or toughness now, but he needs a good season.
So where does Liles stand after the season?
Strengths: Liles strengths are a highly coveted resource, he's a very solid puck moving defenseman. He's an excellent passer who does a very solid job leading a rush, and joining a rush. Despite the paltry powerplay numbers this season, he seems to be one of the few Avs who can break the blue-line with the puck without just lightly dumping it into the corner, and the only Bluelinier to be able to do so.
Weaknesses He has improved tremendously in his own end this season, and he stayed at home a lot more than he ever has in his career. However when Liles is off in his own zone he is utterly abysmal. He gets pushed off the puck and gets caught following the play entirely too much on his bad nights.
Analysis: Liles season was a strange one for the Avs, where he looked to be worried about being traded the entire season. Once the Trade deadline passed and he wasn't traded his offensive game seemed to open up a lot more, and he had a solid end to the season, and a solid playoffs.
The one area I think the Avs really need to upgrade is their skating ability on the blueline. There were times where opposing wingers just seemed to make some Avs defenders look like pylons. Liles was never burned in that way (or if he was it was very rare) and is probably the best skater on defense (not including Cumisky). The Avs have invested a lot in developing Liles, and it would be a shame to let him get away for nothing.
That being said Liles will probably make a boatload of money on the UFA market, so he may be too rich for the Avs blood. As I stated in the Finger analysis the Avs probably will only keep 2/3 of the Finger, Sauer, Liles trio, and the Avs brass may decide that Cumisky can fill the role that Liles filled with the team.
However if the Avs don't sign him their starting 6 defenders could look like:
Not exactly the most mobile group eh?
Verdict: I think the Avs should work furiously to keep Liles. Defensemen have higher salaries, and especially good young puck moving ones, so I can understand if they think Liles is too expensive for the Avs, but I think a 4 year deal worth $4M-$4.5M/year for Liles would be reasonable, and the smart move.
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