A couple weeks ago, I wrote part one of this article. It outlined the relationship between cap usage and on-ice performance over the past ten NHL seasons. I’ll pull a section from that article to explain my methods in this respect:
Now to use this method on a single team, I found Colorado’s rank in points percentage (P%) and cap space in each of their last ten seasons (rather than an average over multiple seasons) and plotted that out.
3 Worst Seasons
14/15: According to the standings, there are seasons in which we finished much worse than 14/15, but the fact that this was done when we were in the top third of the league with regard to used cap makes this especially bad. 14/15 was a season of huge disappointment. We were coming off a historic campaign the season prior (finishing second in the Western Conference and winning our division) and our youthful core was firing on all cylinders. What followed was widely-expected regression in the form of lower shooting percentages and less God-like goaltending from Semyon Varlomov. Ultimately, this left the Avs at the 11th spot in the Western Conference and the 10th overall pick (which turned out brilliantly, as we drafted Mikko Rantanen).
08/09: This was the season that marked the end of sustained hockey success in Colorado. That sounds depressing, and it is depressing. This was Joe Sakic’s last season after his bizarre snow-blower accident and it marked our first time finishing last in the Western Conference (unfortunately, this squad was one-upped by the next Avs team on the list). The main thing that this season showed us was that there wasn’t a next generation of core players (other than Paul Stastny, who was injured for a large chunk of the season and experience a sophomore slump) that would be able to carry the torch and replace the aged or retired franchise players from Colorado’s golden era. To top it all off, this Avs team was in the top half of the league in used cap. While this team did spend a lot on their veterans (it wouldn’t be Colorado if this wasn’t the case), they did perform fairly well. The problem here was a lack of forward depth, a weak D-core, and atrocious goaltending. The silver lining from this season is our third overall draft pick gave us one of these much-needed torch-bearers, Matt Duchene.
16/17: Last, and definitely least, is this year’s Avs team. We sucked. According to P%, we were the worst team of the salary cap era. Unbelievably, this same season, we had the third smallest cap space... in the league (behind only Washington and Chicago, the teams that finished first in each conference, respectively). It’s hard to fathom, or even put into words, how bad we were with all this taken into account. The years of irresponsible spending, a lack of growth in our core players, and bad drafting finally caught up to us. Additionally, those in charge of the team put together a squad with no depth past the first two lines and first D-pairing. Coupled with injuries to key members of the team and historic lows for our players across the board, we have this monstrosity of a season. To top things off, we didn’t even win the draft lottery and ended up with the fourth overall pick. Things can only go up from here.
3 Best Seasons
07/08: This season marked the last one in which we won a playoff series. The were so many good things about this team. Jose Theodore seemed to finally have found his form and solidified our goalie position in the post-Roy years. Hejduk and Sakic were in the twilight of their careers but still performing very well. Rookies Stastny and Wolski gave the fanbase hope for sustained success. Understandably so, our cap hit with these aforementioned veterans (plus Foote and an injured Forsberg) was in the top third of the league. We also had a P% in the top third of the league, making this the only season in the blue quadrant (low cap space/high P%). We paid for roughly the amount of success in this season that we achieved and we ended it off with a playoff berth.
09/10: This season marked the rookie year of Matt Duchene and had some awesome moments, my personal favourites being this:
Reminiscent of the next season on this list, we relied on fantastic goaltending (because of a Corsi For % that was second-worst in the league) and luck (we had the third highest shooting percentage in the league). Regardless, we got enough wins to make the playoffs and that’s what counts. All the more impressive is that we did this with a cap space rank in the bottom third of the league.
13/14: This was arguably the most fun season I’ve ever witnessed (as I’m a ‘95, I was a baby and a wee tyke for the Avs respective cup wins). It also contained the most heartbreaking moment in my life as an Avs fan (but we won’t relive that, don’t worry). It started with a bang as new head coach, Patrick Roy, showed us what to expect with him behind the bench:
Thinking back on this season incites mixed feelings. When it was happening, this team looked like it would be one that would continually reach the playoffs - a young, improving core, a stud goalie, a coach employing novel strategies that often worked. But look where we are now... regression sucks. I guess it was inevitable that a team that constantly got outshot and had the second-highest shooting percentage in the league that season would come back down to Earth. All we have now are the memories. Still, it was incredibly impressive that a team with the second-most cap space was the third-best team in the league during the regular season. If nothing else, it gives us hope for this season... anything is possible, folks.
Salary numbers were taken from NHL Numbers
Points Percentage was taken from the NHL website