The Colorado Avalanche have a five-day break with the NHL All-Star break finally here. Center Nathan MacKinnon is Colorado’s lone representative in the game. The rest of the team will use the time off to rest, recuperate and maybe even do some soul searching.
With 46 games in the books, the Avalanche are on pace to have their worst regular season since coming to Colorado in 1995 by a comfortable margin.
The Avalanche (13-31-2) are last in the NHL in points with 28. They’re on pace for 50 points, which would be the fewest by an Avalanche team in an 82-game season ever. The 2010-11 Avalanche hold the record with 68.
Colorado has captured 30.4 percent of all possible points this season; the 2012-13 Avalanche team, the owners of the worst single-season mark since the franchise moved to Colorado, captured 40.6 percent all possible points. To say this season has been a dumpster fire would be unkind to dumpster fires everywhere.
So what’s gone wrong?
Patrick Roy abruptly resigned as head coach and vice president of hockey operations in mid-August. Roy cited a lack of control over player personnel.
“I have thought long and hard over the course of the summer about how I might improve this team to give it the depth it needs and bring it to a higher level,” he said in a press release. “To achieve this, the vision of the coach and VP-Hockey Operations needs to be perfectly aligned with that of the organization. He must also have a say in the decisions that impact the team’s performance. These conditions are not currently met.”
Read between the lines here, and it sounds like Roy is saying that his players weren’t good enough and that he didn’t have the power to change the roster. The sentiment doesn’t sound crazy a little more than halfway through the season.
The Avalanche actually got off to a decent start under new coach Jared Bednar, an AHL journeyman who broke into the NHL with this job. They started 9-9-0. Over that stretch of games, Colorado won the even-strength shots battle more times than it lost it.
But starting in late November, whatever progress the Avalanche were making under Bednar vanished. The Avalanche lost 6-3 to the Edmonton Oilers on Nov. 23. Colorado has been abysmal ever since then.
The Avalanche have gone 4-22-2 in the 28 games since the Nov. 23 loss to Edmonton. They have 10 points in that stretch of games and a goal differential of minus-52; for a little context, the Phoenix Coyotes, the second-worst team in hockey, have recorded 22 points with a goal differential of minus-37 in that time.
Injuries have played a part in the collapse. Captain Gabriel Landeskog missed 10 games in November and December with what was only vaguely described as a “lower-body injury” by the team. Colorado’s best defensemen, Erik Johnson, broke his leg blocking a shot Dec. 3 against the Stars and hasn’t played since.
Those injuries alone aren’t enough to explain why Colorado has been so woeful since late November, though. From top to bottom, the Avalanche just aren’t a very good team. They’ve lost the even-strength shots battle 23 of 28 times since Nov. 23. They’re getting pounded night after night after night.
The roster could look different soon. The NHL trade deadline is March 1, and the Avalanche are mentioned in trade rumors everywhere you look. Center Matt Duchene, who leads the team with 15 goals, told the Denver Post he’s “open” to being moved. It’s uncertain if he will.
What is certain is that things don’t get easier for the Avalanche from here on out. They’ve only played 46 games at the All-Star break, which is tied for fewest in the NHL. They’ll play 36 games in a 69-day stretch starting Jan. 31. How they fare will determine if they can avoid the distinction of being the worst Avalanche team ever.
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