There is no other way to put this: the Colorado Avalanche, despite back-to-back victories on Tuesday and Thursday, are a bad team. Not only are they the worst team in the NHL this season, they could turn in one of the worst performances of the last 18 years, the first time the league awarded two points for a regulation or overtime win, one point for an overtime loss and zero points for a regulation loss.
The Avs have a 19-44-3 record (41 points), which puts them on pace for the worst season in franchise history since relocating to Denver from Quebec in 1995, where they were fondly known as the Nordiques. As of Friday, Colorado ranks last in the NHL in goals scored per game (1.95), third-lowest since 1999-2000. They’ve already been shut out 11 times in 66 games, putting them within striking distance of the 2006-07 Columbus Blue Jackets, who were shut out 16 times that season, the most since the league expanded beyond the Original Six in 1967.
Part of the problem for coach Jared Bednar is his team’s inability to create scoring chances. Colorado is the only team this season creating less than six even-strength chances per 60 minutes and it has a league-low 83 scoring chances on the power play. The team’s most used line, featuring Nathan Mackinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, are outshot 102 to 114 at even strength after adjusting for score effects and have a minus-5 goal differential over 212 minutes played. Swapping out Rene Bourque for Rantanen sees the Avs outshot 63 to 66 with a minus-3 goal differential over 116 minutes played.
The Colorado Avalanche, everybody! pic.twitter.com/bArlqvpDjc
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) March 5, 2017
And that offensive ineptitude overshadows the team’s defense, which isn’t as bad as it looks.
Colorado is allowing 32 even-strength shots per 60 minutes, third worst in the league this season, but only 19 percent of those, fifth-lowest in the NHL, are classified as high-danger shots, those originating in the slot or near the crease. So instead of allowing 150 goals against at even strength due to puck luck, Colorado should have allowed 126 based on location. Those extra goals against help contribute to the team’s league-worst minus-88 goal differential, and account for almost the entire difference between the Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes, the league with the second-worst goal differential this year (minus-54).
But that’s just a silver lining. The Avalanche will miss the playoffs for a third year in a row and are in their third year of decline. The only question left is how far they’ll fall this season.
If they continue to lose at their current pace, they will end the season with the third-lowest win percentage among teams with at least a minus-80 goal differential. If they win fewer than two of their remaining games they become the second worst team since 1999, behind the 1999-2000 Atlanta Thrashers, an expansion team with 14 wins on the season.