Why Didn’t The Colorado Avalanche Make The Playoffs?


After a magical first season under Patrick Roy, the Colorado Avalanche took a step back this season as they failed to make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. So what went wrong? Well, a lot. This list isn’t a list of excuses as many things on this list were well within the control of the Avs. It’s just a list of everything, in no particular order, that went wrong for the Avs throughout the long and grueling season.

*A Poor Start: It took the Avs 34 games to get to .500 with a 13-13-8 record. It took them an extra seven games to get above .500 at 17-16-8. So for the first half of the season, the Avs were playing .500 or lower hockey. It’s tough to make the playoffs when you’re playing catch-up the entire second half of the season.

*Wild Shutouts: It’s inexcusable that the Avs got shut out in back-to-back games against the Minnesota Wild in their first two games of the season. They should’ve come out looking to make a statement after the Wild eliminated them from the 2014 post-season. Instead they laid two eggs.

*Their Overtime Record: The Avs performed well in shootouts, going 10-4 in the skills competition. However, they went 2-8 in the four-on-four overtime frame. If they had won more overtime games than they lost, there’s a strong chance that they would’ve made the playoffs.

*A Tough Division: The Central division is by far the hardest division in the NHL. The imbalance is actually unfair. The Avs finished last in the division with 90 points. The bottom two teams in every other division had less than 80 points. For the second straight season, both Wild Card teams came from the Central Division. If you took the two non-playoff teams from the Central Division and replaced them with the top two teams in Pacific, I’d bet they’d make the playoffs the following season.

*Rotating Line Combinations: Until Nathan MacKinnon got injured, it seemed like the Avs had a new line combination every game. MacKinnon’s injury actually brought stability to the top six. For some reason Ryan O’Reilly and Matt Duchene were split to start the season even though they were great together last year. Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla were split despite their obvious chemistry. Then those pairs were put together, but split again if they didn’t produce five goals in a period.

*Nathan MacKinnon’s Slump: The hockey world, myself included, expected MacKinnon to produce big numbers following his rookie year and playoff success. It didn’t quite work out for him as he hit a bit of a wall and struggled in his sophomore season. I don’t think he played as bad as everyone made it out to be, but it was obvious that he slightly regressed.

*Lack of Defense: The Avs never really addressed their defense in the offseason. They added Brad Stuart, but kept nearly useless Nate Guenin and Jan Hejda. Zach Redmond didn’t get nearly enough playing time early in the season and Nick Holden took a big step back. Basically their defense consisted of Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie being awesome.

*Lack of a Power Play: The Avs had the 29th ranked power play. In fairness, the West winning Anaheim Ducks had the 28th ranked power play. However, Anaheim played much better five-on-five and defensively. The Avs needed their special teams to contribute in a bigger way to pick up their defensive slack and it just didn’t happen.

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*Erik Johnson’s Injury: Johnson was a potential Norris trophy candidate and the Avs only All-Star when he was injured in late January. The Avs ended up posting a 19-13-2 record without Johnson, but they undeniably missed his presence on the back-end.

*Jarome Iginla’s Slow Start: Iginla finished with a team-leading 29 goals. However, he only had four goals through the first 24 games. Iginla, like the rest of the team, got off to a poor start. And while he finished strong, it was too little, too late.

*Jamie McGinn’s Injury: The Avs were the only team in the league to have six players post 50+ points. They got good production from their top-end players, but their bottom six let them down. McGinn was supposed to be a third line guy who could post 30+ points. Instead he played just 19 games before missing the rest of the season following back surgery.

*The Odd Scratching of Daniel Briere: Briere was a healthy scratch numerous times during the season. He only played in 57 games, posting 12 points. He wasn’t playing well, but the whole team was struggling early in the season when coach Roy decided to scratch Briere even though he scored two of the three game-winning goals in October and certainly wasn’t playing any worse than some of the other bottom-six forwards.

*Matt Duchene Not Making “The Jump”: Duchene put up 70 points in 71 games last season. He was expected to put up similar, if not better numbers this year. Instead he had just 55 points in 82 games. Not bad numbers, but not “highest paid player on the team” numbers either.

Hockey is an unforgiving sport. The defending Stanley Cup Champions didn’t make the playoffs. The best team in the regular season last year didn’t make the playoffs. Every team except for one will have a list of reasons as to why they didn’t win the Stanley Cup. Again, these lists aren’t excuses. These lists just put into perspective how good, and even lucky, a team has to be to win 40+ regular season games and 16 playoffs games.

Next: Top 5 Avs Moments of 2014-15

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