NHL Season Review: Colorado Avalanche
Welcome to NHL season review: a series that will breakdown every NHL team this offseason. You can expect to see new posts all summer, starting from the 30th place team, and finishing with the Stanley Cup champions. With so many changes coming in the offseason, some teams will be improving dramatically, while others will be forced to make some tough decisions for the future. It’s going to be a fun summer of hockey talk, so sit down, hold on tight and enjoy the ride.
Year in Review
- Record: 39-31-12 (90 points)
- Goals per game: 2.55 (23rd)
- Goals against per game: 2.72(22nd)
- Power play: 15.0 (29 th)
- Penalty kill: 84.6 (5th)
- Shots per game: 27.9 (27th)
- Shots against per game: 33.2 (26th)
After making the playoffs in 2013-14, the Colorado Avalanche not only missed the playoffs last year, but also finished last in the Central Division. Despite having a number of talented players, they were a below-average scoring team that finished in the bottom half in most offensive categories. The explanation really is simple: they just couldn’t find ways to score goals.
It doesn’t take a math wizard to understand that fewer shots per game will equal fewer goals per game (usually). In this case, it looks to be true. When a team averages almost half a goal less per game and sees their power play decrease by 4% in one year, that usually translates to fewer wins and more losses. After scoring 250 goals in 2013-14, Colorado managed just 219 in 2014-15 (a 12.6% drop) and gave up 227 goals (a 3% increase from the previous season). When you break it all down, the Avalanche weren’t a worse team defensively this year; they just didn’t have the firepower upfront to help them win the close games.
Management decided to add some talent to their team over the summer by drafting Finnish forward Mikko Rantanen with the 10th overall pick. The 18-year-old spent last season playing in Finland with TPS where he recorded 28 points (9G, 9A) in 56 games. Described as a player with exceptional vision and skill, the 6-foot-3 winger should develop into one of the better playmakers in the NHL over the next few seasons. He’s not ready for the NHL just yet, so a return to his Finnish team to work on his game is the most likely scenario.
Offseason Game Plan
Let’s start with Colorado’s goaltending situation, where Semyon Varlamov will be Colorado’s most important player next season. His .921 SV% was top-15 in the league, despite his team giving up the fourth most shots per game last season. If Patrick Roy can get his team to be a better away from the puck and cut down on the number of shots they give up as a team, Varlamov should see his SV% go up, and his GAA go down.
The Avalanche did acquire some help on the blue line, signing veteran defenseman Francois Beauchemin to a three-year deal. The 35-year-old may be getting older, but he brings some much-needed veteran leadership to the team, especially on the back end. Beauchemin tallied 23 points (11G, 12A) in 64 games last season for the Ducks and logged over twenty minutes of ice time per game. I don’t expect Beauchemin to turn this team around and make them a playoff contender, but both Tyson Barrie and Nikita Zadorov are still very young, and they can’t be asked to carry this team defensively every night. This signing makes sense in both the short and long term for the Avalanche.
It’s crazy to see a team with so many good players be unable to score goals. Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon and captain Gabriel Landeskog will be the team’s heart once again this season, and they will need to find a way to produce offensively every night for their team to have success. Both Carl Soderberg and Blake Comeau were brought in this offseason to add some scoring depth and should help provide support towards the bottom of the lineup. This roster is one of the deepest in the league with a good mix of young talent and veteran players that can still contribute.
One of those players is Jarome Iginla, who led the Avs last season with 59 points (29G, 30A) in 82 games. The 38-year-old refuses to slow down, showing he can still be a dangerous goal scorer for his team. His leadership is invaluable, and his style of play is one that young players should look to model. Jarome plays a physical, two-way game that makes him so value to the Avalanche. I expect the former Art Ross Trophy winner to have another strong season.
The Central Division is probably the toughest division in the league. Making the playoffs in the West is a challenge for every team every year, with no nights off. All six teams ahead of the Avalanche won 40-plus games last season, so competition again will be stiff. No one is quite sure what Colorado team will show up next season, but the pieces are in place for them to return to the post-season. By the end of next season, hockey fans will know if the Avalanche are truly an elite hockey team, or if that 2013-14 season was just a fluke.