An Avalanche of ineptitude
There is no other way to put this: The Colorado Avalanche, despite back-to-back victories 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 past 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 Avalanche has a 19-44-3 record (41 points), which puts it on pace for the worst season since it relocated to Denver from Quebec in 1995, where the franchise was fondly known as the Nordiques. As of Friday, Colorado ranks last in the NHL in goals scored per game (1.95), the third lowest since 1999-2000. The Avalanche already has been shut out 11 times in 66 games, putting it 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 fewer 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, has been outshot 114-102 at even strength after adjusting for score effects and has a minus-5 goal differential in 212 minutes played. Swapping out Rene Bourque for Rantanen sees the Avalanche outshot 66-63 with a minus-3 goal differential in 116 minutes played.
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, 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 because of puck luck, Colorado should have allowed 126 based on location. Those extra goals against help contribute to the team’s leagueworst minus-88 goal differential and account for most of the difference between the Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes, the team 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 is in its third year of decline. The only question left is how far it will fall this season.
If Colorado continues to lose at its current pace, it will end the season with the third-lowest winning percentage among teams with at least a minus-80 goal differential. If the Avalanche wins fewer than two of its remaining games, it becomes the second-worst team since 1999 behind the 1999-2000 Atlanta Thrashers, an expansion team with 14 wins on the season.
Colorado ranks last in the NHL in goals scored per game. Gabriel Landeskog, above, is second in goals with 15, and no one has more than 16.