Like a lot of Colorado Avalanche players' offensive numbers did in 2016-17, Carl Soderberg's took something of a, well, a dip.
Soderberg had 51 points the season before, a strong start in the first of a five-year free-agent contract with the club. The follow-up year? Fourteen points. Six goals, eight assists, in 80 games. A drastic dropoff for a guy who had put up 48- and 44-point seasons before his career-high 51 with the Avs.
Soderberg's role with the Avalanche moving forward appears a bit uncertain. He will not dress for Thursday's final preseason game at Las Vegas, though coach Jared Bednar said it's just a normal scratch for a team that still has 29 players on its preseason roster and wants to see prospect hopefuls one last time before final cuts need to be made.
The question is: Can Soderberg get back to being the 40-50 point guy he was before last year?
Well, it depends, the 31-year-old Swede said.
"For sure, I could make 40-50 points again. But it's up to coach where he wants me in the lineup," Soderberg said. "If he wants me higher up in the lineup, I can get 40-50 points. But if I'm lower, it's going to be harder."
Soderberg, believe it or not, is the oldest player on the Avs. He has three years left on his contract, at $4.75 million per, making him the eighth-highest paid player on the club. Right now, though, it appears he's the club's fourth-line center until Bednar and/or management moves dictate otherwise. Soderberg's ice time dropped dramatically under Bednar's first year as coach than the previous one under Patrick Roy. He played 1,477 minutes in 82 games under Roy, but just 1,075 in 80 games for Bednar.
So, Soderberg is in a bit of a Catch-22. He can't put up the points of yore, probably, without the ice time. But if he doesn't put up the points, he won't get the ice time. For now, he's just going about his business and has had a pretty good preseason so far.
"Right now, we like the balance we have on all of our lines. You look at a guy like (Tyson) Jost, he's playing on our fourth line right now," Bednar said. "He (Soderberg) isn't alone in wanting a bounce-back year. We're just trying to get as much offensive production as we can from our forwards. But I will say this: I'm cautiously optimistic about our forward group."
Said Soderberg, of last season: "We have to forget about it, but at the same time, we have a lot of the same players so we have to learn from it for sure. We can't just pretend it didn't happen. But we have some very good young players. Jost is going to be one of the better players in the league in a few years. But, as veterans, we have to lead the way better than we did last year."
Rookie winger A.J. Greer is going through a league-mandated concussion protocol, following a recent fight in a game. Bednar said Greer is participating in some off-ice activities, but it's anyone's guess when he might be cleared for action again.
Goalie Jonathan Bernier tweaked a groin muscle in Monday's preseason game in Dallas and did not practice. Bednar hopes he'll be back on the ice in a day or two.
The Avs will play their final preseason game at T-Mobile Arena against the Vegas Golden Knights Thursday. Soderberg and Gabriel Bourque are the likely scratches at forward for the Avs.
Jared Cowen's time with the Avs came to an end. Signed to a professional tryout contract, the Avs released him after practice Wednesday.