Colorado Avalanche Season: The Slow Collapse

Feb 27, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov (1) makes a save 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 goalie Semyon Varlamov (1) makes a save 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 Colorado Avalanche season turned for the worse starting with the Stadium Series Game, showing the team struggles with big games.

For Colorado Avalanche fans, the activities surrounding late January to late February — the All Star Weekend and Stadium Series Game — distracted us from how the team had started to decline. Sure, we saw that the numbers weren’t as great as they had been during the playoff push, but they weren’t nearly as bad as the slow start.

Yet that transitional period led to the eventual disappointing end of the season. For me, it all started with the Stadium Series Game, and for that reason I purposely left it off of the last post. I’m going to start with that game as part of the team’s slow collapse.

That slow collapse is telling as to why the team has failed to live up to expectations. The issues that started with the Stadium Series Game continued until the Canadian road trip, which was sadly the last highlight of the season.

Anyway, as we continue dissection the Colorado Avalanche season, let’s look at the 3 1/2 weeks of slow collapse that eventually led to total implosion during the last nine games.

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Stadium Series & Minnesota Games

I will always be mad at Semyon Varlamov for blowing the Stadium Series Game, especially since he followed it with a dismal performance against the Minnesota Wild.

I realize hockey is a team game, and the Colorado Avalanche were all but patenting the third period collapse, but this allowed goal by Varlamov set my blood to boiling:

Not only does Varlamov drop way too early, but he’s moving lethargically. When the shot comes his way, he freezes like the proverbial deer in the headlights. It was the game-tying goal.

The next two goals he allowed in were equally bad, but it was that goal above that ruined the game for me. But, like I said, the team as a whole were on their way to perfecting the third period collapse.

Like I said, Varlamov followed this performance with a stupidly bad game against the Minnesota Wild directly afterward. In the first period, Varlamov allowed three goals in 12 shots. Coach Roy started Calvin Pickard in the second period, but the damage was done — the Avalanche lost the game 6-3.

Now, both of these games were big. The Stadium Series Game, of course, was on the national stage and was attended by much pomp and circumstance.

At the time, the Minnesota Wild were chasing the Colorado Avalanche for the final wild card spot. That game against Minnesota didn’t decide which team went in, but it did allow the Wild to take over the final spot.

Colorado was unable to win when it counted most. And I’m going to say it plainly — Varlamov doesn’t step up in big games. He may throw a 45-save shutout when the game doesn’t matter, but he’s downright awful in big games. (Think Olympics. He got pulled.)

Canadian Road Trip

The road trip the Colorado Avalanche took through Canada in the middle of March marks the end of the slow collapse — which is weird because Colorado won three of the four.

However, this is when core Avalanche players started dropping like flies. First, captain Gabriel Landeskog took a horrible penalty against Simon Depres of the Anaheim Ducks, and he was suspended for the first three Canadian games. Colorado lost the first, to the Winnipeg Jets, but won the next two (Vancouver and Calgary).

Matt Duchene then suffered a knee injury late in the game against the Vancouver Canucks. He missed the last two games in the trip, meaning the Colorado Avalanche started the game in Calgary without either Landeskog or Duchene.

Nathan MacKinnon got injured in the third period of the Flames game, so the Colorado Avalanche finished that game without any of their three top forwards.

Landeskog returned for the fourth game of the Canadian road trip, against the Edmonton Oilers, which they won.

The team came together in the face of adversity. However, something happened between that Canadian road trip and the home game three days later against the Philadelphia Flyers. Because after that Edmonton Oilers game, Colorado didn’t play a cohesive game the rest of the season.


Until the implosion at the end of the season, when they won only one game in nine, the Colorado Avalanche were still technically in the playoff race. However, the collapse in the Stadium Series Game, followed by a dismal performance against the Minnesota Wild, showed they didn’t have it in them to win the biggest games.

Make no mistake, Colorado suffered some bad luck with Duchene’s and MacKinnon’s injuries coming on the heels of Landeskog’s suspension. It’s hard for any team to lose its three best scorers, but especially difficult for a team that’s as thin as Colorado.

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The slow collapse really was pretty slow — the Colorado Avalanche got 10 points in the nine games of that time period. And if they’d followed it with anything other than a 1-8 record, I wouldn’t perceive it as a collapse at all.

But they did, so I do. And next time we’ll look at one of the toughest times in 20 years I had being an Avalanche fan.