Colorado Avalanche Season: All Star Break to Stadium Series

Feb 27, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene (9) controls the puck against the Detroit Red Wings in the third period during a Stadium Series hockey game at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 27, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene (9) controls the puck against the Detroit Red Wings in the third period during a Stadium Series hockey game at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

The period of time between the All Star Break and Stadium Series Weekend was a transitional period for the Colorado Avalanche season, eventually leading the the disappointing end.

Well, NHL teams are moving on to Round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs — and my bracket is a shambles — but the Colorado Avalanche players are playing golf. That’s not a cliche, by the way. Check out this tweet from defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk:

The “average company” is the majority of the Avalanche core — Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie along with Calvin Pickard and Mikkel Boedker. Yep, epic golfing trip for the Colorado Avalanche in late April.

Anyway, here at Mile High Sticking we’re in the process of dissecting the Avalanche season and brainstorming what can make them better. Here are the first three posts in the dissection:

Related Story: Doom of a Slow Start

Related Story: Duchene's Historic November

Related Story: Hope for the Playoffs

Today we’re going to look at a transitional period, a time when the Colorado Avalanche season could have gone either way — that period between the All Star Break and the Stadium Series Weekend. Prior to that one-month span, Colorado was playing like gangbusters. After that time, the Avalanche went through a slow collapse that led to the end-of-the-season implosion.

Let’s see how they got there and what, if anything, could have prevented it.

Transitional Statistics

Prior to the All Star Break, the Colorado Avalanche had outstanding numbers for the two months that comprised the playoff push. They played 27 games and had a wondrous 17-8 record. The big guns were blazing, and the role players were contributing, too.

The team came back down to earth in the month from January 29 to February 26. They played 11 games and secured a dead-even 5-5-1 record.

We were all high off of that audacious two-month push, so we tried to convince ourselves the skid after the break was a fluke. Colorado lost four straight — all of them home games. The lone “bright spot” was picking up a point in an overtime loss to the Dallas Stars.

The core players receded again. Matt Duchene was fourth on the team with just six points (3 goals, 3 assists). Gabriel Landeskog came in at fifth with 2 goals and 4 assists. Nathan MacKinnon was a sad ninth on the team with just 1 goal and 3 assists. Remember, these should have been the top three guys.

Again, there was a lone “bright spot” — Tyson Barrie was second on the team with eight points (2 goals, 6 assists). Those are very respectable offensive defenseman numbers during crunch time.

Jarome Iginla also woke up. He made the best push — 12 points (5 goals, 7 assists).

High and Low around the All Star Break

Center Matt Duchene was the Colorado Avalanche’s lone representative to the All Star festivities. He was even chosen as one of three players fans got to try and vote in for the Breakaway Challenge.

Duchene didn’t get voted in, but the organizers put him into the challenge anyway. And, boy, they weren’t sorry they did so:

Sick moves by Dutchy, hm?

Around that time goalie Semyon Varlamov had to appear in civil court. His ex-girlfriend was suing him for damages. He won the case, but he ended up having to miss the two road games leading up to the All Star Break and the game immediately following. Head coach Patrick Roy and team captain Gabriel Landeskog were also called in to testify.

There’s no question that was a distraction around the time of the All Star Break. It appears to have weighed on Semyon Varlamov’s mind even after. During the time in question, he went 3-4-0 with a save percentage of .902 and a goals against average of 3.32.


The Colorado Avalanche were on a 68% winning streak before the All Star Break. That was probably unsustainable, and the drop to 50% inevitable. This is especially true since the core stopped being a deciding factor.

The team is not built to maintain focus. The core players are incapable of doing so. During those long winter months, the grind of the season was probably monotonous enough for them to keep from getting distracted. However, the All Star Break and impending excitement of the Stadium Series game provided too much distraction, especially when it was coupled with Varlamov’s trial. (He’s the team’s lucky charm, you see.)

The criticism that the team lacks focus may seem harsh. However, one of the road games that Semyon Varlamov had to miss plagued me even at the time. It was against the San Jose Sharks, and Calvin Pickard was set to start, which is normally not a problem.

However, he, Erik Johnson and Mikhail Grigorenko missed morning skate because of an undisclosed “illness.” Pickard still played, allowing four goals on 20 shots. Johnson also played — he was on the ice for four of the Sharks’ six goals and should have gotten an assist on at least one of them. Grigorenko was scratched.

In the post-skate presser, captain Gabriel Landeskog remarked awkwardly, “I don’t know what dinner they went to last night.”

At the time, I wondered about food poisoning — a local fish restaurant once poisoned Chicago Blackhawks goalie Ed Belfour before a game against the Colorado Avalanche. Turns out, it could have been a night spent carousing — I’ll explore that in the next post along with the Player’s Tribune commentary that led to that suspicion.

Let’s give the guys the benefit of the doubt and go with food poisoning, which even took down Patrick Roy before the team’s final road game in Dallas.

Next: Lessons Avs can Learn from Kings' Elimination

In any case, was the team talented and skilled enough to come out of this transitional period and make a run at the playoffs? Absolutely. The schedule even seemed geared to facilitating that run. The Colorado Avalanche played against the team they were chasing, the Minnesota Wild, right after the Stadium Series game before a four-game homestand.

However, the distractions and eventual loss of the Stadium Series game proved too much. After the transitional period came a slow collapse that led to complete implosion at the end of the season. Those two periods will be the topics of my final two posts on the dissection of the 2015-16 Colorado Avalanche season.