Colorado Avalanche Season: The Doom of a Slow Start

Oct 8, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Minnesota Wild left wing Thomas Vanek (26) shoots and scores past Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov (1) in the third period at Pepsi Center. The Wild defeated the Avalanche 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 8, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Minnesota Wild left wing Thomas Vanek (26) shoots and scores past Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov (1) in the third period at Pepsi Center. The Wild defeated the Avalanche 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Avalanche regressed again — a series of posts starting with how the slow start doomed them.

The Colorado Avalanche season is dead.  There haven’t been any locker clean out interviews, but presumably the players are off to their Vegas or beach vacations. The playoffs have officially started, so we know another Colorado Avalanche season is dead.

We had such high hopes for the 2015-16 season. Last year the team was plagued with injuries and the predicted regression from having over-played in the golden Why Not Us season. Management made big moves in the off-season, and the team looked stronger than ever. Needless to say, a season that showed further regression despite players being healthy for most of it is not what any of us wanted or expected.

So, the Colorado Avalanche season is dead. Time to start the autopsy. First up, let’s analyze the slow start.


The Colorado Avalanche got off to a brutal start for the season. In October the team went 3-6-1. In that time, they won just once at home, a 6-3 victory over the Dallas Stars. They lost three times at home in regulation and recorded an overtime loss against the Carolina Hurricanes.

In October, Colorado looked to be having problems both scoring and preventing goals — which, of course, leads to losses. The players scored just 24 goals but allowed 29. The shots on goal differential was -36, meaning the Avs allowed 36 more shots than they took.

The power play started being exposed as a problem as the Avalanche scored just seven power play goals in 42 opportunities. However, the penalty kill was a rare bright spot in October — 78.9%, which really isn’t too shabby.

The fragility of the core also got exposed as an issue. The most obvious culprit was center Matt Duchene, who recorded just one goal and one assist in that time. However, the team didn’t get much help from premier offensive defenseman Tyson Barrie, who recorded just two assists.

Wingers Jarome Iginla and Gabriel Landeskog had atypically hot starts. Iginla scored a goal each in the first two games. Landeskog got four goals in the first three games. However, both tapered off right after and finished the month with seven (3 goals, 4 assists) and eight (5 goals, 3 assists) points respectively.

Nathan MacKinnon was equally sporadic, limping along with a goal or assist every other game or so. He finished the month with four goals and six assists for 10 points.

That means the Colorado Avalanche’s scoring core of Duchene, MacKinnon, Landeskog, Iginla and Barrie combined for just 13 goals in 10 games

Opening Night

Opening night was a brutal microcosm of the entire Colorado Avalanche season. Blown third-period leads, inability to win at home and team implosion all got foreshadowed in that opening night game same as they would in any Shakespearean tragedy.

Of course, we had our villain as well — the Minnesota Wild, the bane of the Colorado Avalanche’s existence.

Colorado played solid hockey for 55 of the 60-minute game. They led in faceoffs, hits and blocked shots. For 45 whole minutes from the first puck drop until early in the third period, it looked like the Avalanche were finally going to put a stake in the heart of the Wild.

Instead, the Avalanche collapsed for 5:07 seconds in the third period, allowing the Wild to come back from a 4-1 deficit to a 5-4 lead. For 5:07 seconds, the Colorado Avalanche skated around like timid amateurs facing confident professionals for the first time in their careers. It was the first time we saw this ugly adaptation of out team. It wouldn’t be the last.

Colorado tightened up their game for the last ~10 minutes of the game, but it wasn’t enough. They couldn’t get a late goal despite pulling the goalie. They got no points in a game they’d been leading 4-1 in the third period.

In case you’re wondering, in all the Colorado Avalanche blew third-period leads nine times this season. That’s at least nine points (if they could have gotten to overtime) and as many as 18 points if they’d just born down. Even nine points would have been enough to make the playoffs.


The slow start doomed the Colorado Avalanche to not making the playoffs. Because the Avalanche collected only seven points of an available 20, they had nothing stored away when the battle for the final wildcard spot began with Minnesota.

One problem could have been chemistry. On opening night, six players were skating in burgundy and blue for the first time in the regular season. This included new draftee Mikko Rantanen as well as summer acquisitions Francois Beauchemin, Blake Comeau, Carl Soderberg and Nikita Zadorov. Jack Skille was fresh off winning his PTO gamble.

Another problem is the Colorado Avalanche is ever a mental team. That opening night debacle got into their heads. They can’t seem to get over getting exited from the 2014 playoffs by the Minnesota Wild. It doesn’t help that the following season they dropped both their first games against Minnesota — indeed, they were unable to score in either game. Then you add the sheer dominance of 2015’s opening night undone by 5:07 of collapse, and the ever-mental Avalanche went into a tailspin through October.

Was leadership the problem? Obviously. But whose leadership? Captain Gabriel Landeskog’s? Veteran, alternate captain and future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla’s? All of the core’s? Coach Patrick Roy’s?

Most likely they answer is all of the above. For some reason the leadership failed to rally the troops after that opening night debacle. Somehow the leadership failed to inspire the rest of the players as the molehill of opening night became a 3-6-1 mountain that was October.

Next: The Truth of the Avs-Wild Rivalry

What’s interesting is who eventually corrected that lack — the coach and the star. Head coach Patrick Roy called out star center Matt Duchene for the first time this season, and also showed him how to be better. The star responded with an historic November that we’ll look at in the next post.