The Colorado Avalanche have been on hard times in recent years. A franchise that won the Stanley Cup in 1996 and then again in 2001 hasn’t won a postseason series since 2008 and has missed the playoffs entirely in four of the last five years, and each of the last three.
Colorado reached back to the glory days in looking for a contemporary answer. Patrick Roy was the hero of those great teams, and the former goalie was hired as head coach. Now in his first season, Roy has the Avalanche positioned where they would make the playoffs if the season ended today.
It’s not by much—they are only four points ahead of the Minnesota Wild, but its substantial progress. Will Colorado finish the job and make the postseason come April?
Colorado has two pretty good scorers in Matt Duchene at center, and P.A. Parenteu on the left wing. They’re currently missing Alex Tanguay with a knee injury, but when Tanguay comes back, he joins James McGinn and Paul Stastny as being decent supporting pieces in an offense that currently ranks 10th in the NHL in goals scored.
Defensively, the Avalanche rank 12th, making them a well-balanced team. The power play needs work on both ends, converting their own and killing the opposition. But if you have to choose, it’s preferable to rank higher in 5-on-5 play, for the obvious reason that there’s a lot more time on the ice at equal strength. Colorado is one of the league’s better teams in the 5-on-5, making them less dependent on how a game is officiated night to night.
That’s the good news. The concern is that these shiny rankings might be an illusion, because Colorado is a subpar team at generating their own shots offensively, and pretty bad at stopping the opponent from doing the same. For a short period of time, this sort of disparity can be managed, but over time it’s likely to even out.
This is especially true on the offensive end. The only teams whose goal production outstrips their shots by any significant degree are teams with a singularly great scorer, one who doesn’t need a lot of shots to light the lamp. The Washington Capitals, with Alex Ovechkin are usually a good example. None of Colorado’s offensive players are in that category.
Defensively, the team’s shortcomings have placed a heavy burden on goalie Semyon Varlamov, who’s currently 9th among NHL netminders in save percentage. It’s not unusual for a goalie to put a team—or at least a soft defense—on his back, and if nothing else, Varlamov has a head coach he can lean on.
Varmalov has done a terrific job and Colorado has a quality veteran backup in Jean Sebastian-Giguere, who won the Conn Smythe Award, given to the MVP of the entire postseason, in 2003 when he led the Anaheim Mighty Ducks to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
So will the Colorado Avalanche make the playoffs? I like the progress, but I’m not optimistic about the final outcome. Minnesota made the postseason a year ago, Dallas isn’t far in the rearview mirror and even Nashville, currently 13 points behind the Avalanche, could get on a run if goalie Pekka Rinne comes back after the New Year. I’m going to say Colorado narrowly misses out this season.