Okay, Peter Forsberg has signed and now the big question is: can the Avs' still make the playoffs? While they are only 4 points out, they do face some fairly long odds to get back into the playoff picture.
Thanks to ShrpSports.com, I took a snapshot of the standings in the Western Conference for each of the five post-lockout seasons after the Avs' 52nd game of the year (a date that fell anywhere from January 28th to February 3rd in any given year). A total of 6 teams not in the top 8 at that point managed to make the playoffs at the end of the year. This also means only 6 teams ended up falling out of the top 8. Oddly enough, 5 of those 6 teams are NW division teams.
In 2009-2010, Calgary was in 8th place after the Avs 52nd game, but did not make the playoffs. Calgary got 30 points from that point on, but it wasn't enough. Instead, Detroit went 19-5-5 (43 points) to bump the Flames out of the playoffs. The 8th place team that year was our Colorado Avalanche, who tallied 95 points.
In 2008-2009, Edmonton and Minnesota were 6th and 7th, respectively...although there actually was a 5-way tie between 6th and 10th. Only one of those 5 teams at 53 points on that day made the playoffs - the Blue Jackets. Edmonton got 32 points the rest of the way to finish with 85 and Minnesota's 36 put them at 89, two short of the 91 needed for 8th place. Meanwhile, Vancouver went 23-7-2 (48 points) to jump from 11th into the playoffs and St Louis went 21-7-5 (47) to move from last place into the postseason.
In 2007-2008, Vancouver had 58 points at the Avs' 52-game mark but finished with 88, 3 behind the 91 by the Nashville Predators.The Predators went 15-11-4 (34 points) to move from 9th to the postseason.
In 2006-2007, all teams in the top 8 after the Avs' 52nd game made the postseason. The Avs, of course, finished with 95 points that year, just one short of the playoffs. Yeah, fond Forsberg memories from that season.
Finally, in 2005-2006, Los Angeles and Vancouver were in 5th and 7th respectively, both with 63 points. Los Angeles tanked (26 points) and Vancouver scored 31 as both teams finished short of the 92 needed to make the playoffs. Instead, Anaheim went 20-10-2 (42 points) and San Jose went 21-8-5 (47 points) to get into the postseason.
So, what do all of these numbers mean? First of all, the points needed to make the playoffs has been 95, 91, 91, 96 and 95. Which would seem to indicate that 94 points would be the minimum the Avs would need to make the postseason this year. With 56 points currently, the Avs would need 38 points to get there...(so 16-8-6, for example). The Avs are currently averaging 1.08 points (in the standings) per game played, but need to average 1.3 the rest of the way.
You can also look at it a different way. The 6 teams that fell out of contention scored 30, 32, 36, 26 and 31 points after that 52 game mark, an average of about 31 points. If you tack that on to the 8th-placed Kings's current 61 point total, the Avs would only need to get to 91 points - or 36 more points. Slightly better.
Method #3, though, is the least rosy of all. Of the 6 teams that came back from this point to make the playoffs, 3 of them only needed to make up one point and one spot in the standings. Altogether, they averaged 44 points to get into the postseason. At most, the Avalanche could lose just 8 regulation games out of their 30 remaining to get 44 points.
So, it is crystal clear. The Avalanche need to get 36 points, 38 points or 44 points over their final 30 games. In case you are curious, the Avs point totals for the final 30 games post-lockout are (counting backward) 29, 18, 37 (Forsberg's last season), 41 (the near miss) and 34. 44 seems out of the question. 38 points has happened once (with no postseason to show for it), but 36 is within the grasp.
Bottom line: the Avalanche are in desperate need of Forsberg's help if they are going to make a run at this. Looking at the numbers, though, they're going to need some additional help - namely, some poor efforts from some teams in front of them. It isn't unprecedented...but it's not all that common. With 88% of the teams in 8th at this point making the playoffs and only 15% of the bottom 7 teams making the postseason since the lockout, the Avs are facing some long odds, Forsberg notwithstanding.