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Then and Now: Comparing the '94 Nordiques to today's Avs

Tom Szczerbowski

As the Avalanche continues the rebuild, comparisons to the Quebec Nordiques, a team that struggled mightily leading up to the Big Move to Colorado, have gained momentum. How close is our current Avalanche team to what we saw in Quebec all those years ago? More importantly, do the similarities suggest a Stanley Cup is only a couple of short seasons away?

Key Players

Nordiques Avalanche
Joe Sakic Matt Duchene
Owen Nolan Ryan O'Reilly
Peter Forsberg Nathan MacKinnon

It's really hard to look at the key players of the 1994 Nordiques and think, "Yeah, the current Avs have that kind of talent!" Keeping a straight face while making that comment is near impossible. However, the 2013 Avs aren't lacking in fire power, either. Quebec was driven by the scoring of Joe Sakic and Owen Nolan, as well as the Rookie of the Year, Peter Forsberg. The Avs have Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly, both young players who have shown they have the potential to be elite players. While different style players, the expectations of Forsberg and the Avs' rookie Nate MacKinnon are pretty much the same.

The rest of the players on the teams are quite different, however. While the Nords saw a defense that sported names like Uwe Krupp, Adam Foote, Curtis Leschyshyn, Sylvain Lefebvre, Alexei Gusarov, and Jon Klemm, this year's Avs have a slew of middling players with the only "big" name being Erik Johnson.

Another big difference between the teams can be seen in age and experience. The Nordiques had much more seasoning than the young Avs team.

Coaching & Front Office Staff

Nordiques Avalanche
Coach Marc Crawford Patrick Roy
General Manager Pierre LaCroix Greg Sherman/Joe Sakic

Avs fans are very familiar with Pierre LaCroix's influence on the franchise. He made brilliant decisions over the course of his career  with the franchise that established two Stanley Cup winning teams. He had an eye for talent and knew how to build a team with skills that complimented one another. His moves for the '94-95 season were limited, however.

Greg Sherman hasn't had as much success building a team that's a threat in the league. He inherited a struggling organization crippled by the newly enforced salary cap. While other teams were able to manage winning teams with the constraints, however, Sherman was not. Today's team has another voice in the front office, though, in Joe Sakic. The former star of the Nordiques and Avs already has some moves under his belt, including the drafting of a highly-touted center in MacKinnon, buying out an ineffective defenseman (Greg Zanon), and trading inconsistent players (David Jones and Shane O'Brien) for more reliable ones (Cory Sarich and Alex Tanguay).

The coaching situation between the two teams is similar as each welcomed rookie coaches. Marc Crawford's path behind the bench was more varied as he began his career in juniors and worked his way through the AHL to the big club. Patrick Roy, on the other hand, has come to the Avalanche straight from juniors. Both men, though, were very successful, garnering accolades and respect along the way. Crawford would end up winning Coach of the Year for his work in the '94-95 season. It remains to be seen if Roy can duplicate that effort, but there's little doubt his single-minded focus on winning is a great start to it.

Prior Year's Standings

Nordiques Avalanche
Season 1993-1994 2012-2013
Record 34-42-8 16-25-7*
Points 76 39*
League Standings 19th of 26 29th of 30
Conference Standings 11th of 14 15th of 15
Division Standings 5th of 7 5th of 5

*Shortened season due to lock out

The 1993-1994 Nordiques team was not great. It wasn't as bad as the 2012-2013 Avalanche, but it still was wanting in wins. Both teams were on the outside looking in at the conclusion of the year, and leading up to that season, the teams had similar playoff records. Six of the final eight seasons in Quebec saw the team outside of the playoffs; the Avs have missed the post-season in five of the last seven years. Each team had a quarterfinal and semifinal loss during those seasons.

Final Thoughts

While the Avalanche is trending much like the '90s Nordiques, the team is a bit behind them. This year's team could very well look much like the final incarnation in Quebec, but the defense will make that difficult. To get a Stanley Cup winning team as soon as next season—like the newly relocated Nords did in that first year as the Avalanche—a lot of roster tweaking must take place.