Tyson Barrie aims to bounce back on Edmonton’s blue line

Most NHL defencemen would have been happy scoring 39 points in 70 games in the 2019/20 campaign but Tyson Barrie is one of the exceptions. Barrie posted five goals and 34 assists with the Toronto Maple Leafs last season but took a lot of heat in the city and also admitted it was an off-year for him. The 29-year-old native of Victoria, British Columbia scored .56 points-per game in Toronto which was slightly less than his career average of .62 points-per-game.

Barrie was originally drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the third round in 2009 with the 64th-overall pick. He quickly became the club’s top offensive blue liner by racking up 75 goals and 307 points in 484 regular-season games with 14 points in 21 playoff outings. However, Barrie was traded to Toronto on July 1, 2019 along with forward Adam Kerfoot and a sixth-round draft pick for centre Nazem Kadri, rearguard Calle Rosen and a third-round draft pick.

Barrie finished fifth in scoring for the Leafs last season and easily led the blue line in points. But for some reason he was criticized by numerous Leafs’ fans much in the way Hall of Fame defender Larry Murphy was years before. Barrie then made the right move by leaving the city he wasn’t appreciated in and signing with the Edmonton Oilers as an unrestricted free agent this summer as the team was in need of a skilled, puck-moving defenceman.

Barrie enjoyed some high-scoring seasons in Colorado by breaking the 50-point barrier three times and also posting 49 points on one occasion as well as breaking double digits in goals five times. In addition, he anchored one of the league’s best power-plays which featured high-scoring stars Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon. He’s now going to be depended upon to do the same in Edmonton with the likes of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

One of the knocks against the 5-foot-10-inch, 190 lb Barrie is his defensive play as he owns a minus-66 rating in his 554-game career so far. However, he was acquired by both Toronto and Edmonton for his elite offensive skills, which are among the best in the league. Barrie struggled at first in Toronto under head coach Mike Babcock and was relegated to the team’s second power-play unit. Once Babcock was fired though with Sheldon Keefe taking over behind the bench, Barrie’s production and overall play improved significantly.

He was also shuffled around the lineup quite a bit in Toronto and found himself with several different blue line partners, especially after fellow defenceman Morgan Rielly was injured. Once the playoffs resumed after the NHL paused in March due to Covid-19, Barrie struggled like the rest of his teammates and went without a point in five games against Columbus during the play-in round. The writing may have been on the wall for Barrie before the league resumed action, but the Leafs’ failure to make the playoffs basically sealed his fate.

With Edmonton general manager Ken Holland seeking offensive help from the blue line due to the long-term injury of Oscar Klefbom, he inked Barrie to a one-year deal worth $3.75 million in October. Barrie could very well be partnered with Darnell Nurse on the Oilers’ blue line to start the upcoming season but he’ll need to quickly prove himself with the squad since he’s signed for just one season. Barrie is betting on himself to rebound from a somewhat sub-par campaign in Toronto and so is Holland.

If Barrie regains the confidence he displayed while playing with Colorado he could very well be offered a longer contract when his deal runs out. There’s no reason to believe he won’t succeed with the Oilers by helping out McDavid and Draisaitl and he should be highly-motivated to prove his value. Another 50-point season should be attainable for Barrie if the NHL decides to play an 82-game schedule and his talent could help Edmonton win a series or two in the playoffs.

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