Twelve shutouts. 131 goals in 68 games (1.93 avg) and only 87 at 5v5 (1.28 avg). How? There's plenty of blame to go around, poor play, apathetic play, clumsy ineffective offensive strategy, defensive strategy that inadvertently oppresses forward puck movement, players in the wrong role, players on the wrong team, players in the wrong league, players with the wrong injuries.
Just for shits & giggles I compared the Avs offensive counting stats with their good friends the Bloos. St Louis is a division rival that is currently in the final WC playoff spot, perhaps somewhere near where Colorado could have been expected to be at this point with a little luck and the bump we hoped for from getting rid of Patrick's non-system. Oddly enough they are very similar. The Bloos and Avs both attempt around 40.5 shots per game at 5v5, both get around 53% on net, miss 21.5% and get 25.5% blocked by the opposition. Weird, eh? The only real differences are in scoring chances, where St Looey gets a couple more per game, and the big one in shooting percentage. The Bloos shoot 8.2% at 5v5 while the Avs shoot 6.1%, which works out to difference of 34 goals or about a half-goal per game. They're no offensive powerhouse for sure but are average enough (even in PDO and goal differential) to tenuously hang on to a playoff spot with less than a month left in the season.
Forgetting that they don't leak bad goals on defense constantly for a minute, what does St Louis do offensively that the Avs don't? They create the same amount of shot attempts and get the same amount on net. They're far from a quick team and with the Avs recent acquisitions they might be relatively slower as far as the forwards go. I hate shot quality arguments but the Avs tend to shoot a lot from dumb places like bad angles below the circles and the center-point area. They also struggle massively slipping passes through the "royal road" quickly enough to get easy weak side chances and this lets the opponents remain in the slot area clogging things up most of the time.
I think it boils down to two things, when the Avs have the puck in the offensive zone it's easy for the opponents to track and they get funneled to areas where it's difficult to create good scoring chances. They are passive and don't dictate play. Is this a coaching issue? Some of it is for sure, but these tendencies pre-date Jared Bednar becoming the coach. I can make the argument that the Avs got to a point this season where it was pointless to install new plays and show different tendencies because a) they probably wouldn't work anyway and b) they need as many new tricks in the bag as possible for next season when it might actually matter. Unfortunately, Occam's razor indicates that the Avs simply ran out of things to try that the other clubs couldn't shut down in the matter of a game or two. Either way, if JB is back next fall he needs to do some serious growing as a coach over the summer and the Avs need to hire a sharp offensive mind to run that half of the ice if they want to take advantage of what talent they do have. I applaud the growth the team has made in shot metrics and defensively (sometimes) but scoring zero goals every fifth game is absolutely brutal to watch.