After doing a more serious article for my first piece for Mile High Hockey, I thought it would be good to do my second article on a less serious topic which will hopefully ignite a little lighthearted debate to keep you all occupied during this offseason. Here are my worst five of the last ten seasons of Colorado Avalanche Hockey. A note about the “rules”: the draft and offseason that directly followed the listed season are taken into account in this ranking.
10. The Worst of the Worst: 2015-16
When any hockey fan is ranking the last ten seasons in Avalanche history and the 2016-17 season falls within those ten years, you would assume said season would come in dead last. However, given the rules that were previously mentioned, there’s a good reason for why the ‘15-’16 season comes in last.
At the conclusion of the season, the Avalanche had finished with 82 points, only 5 points out of a playoff spot in the West. Pretty good, right? Not really. This season marked the end of Patrick Roy’s coaching tenure with the Avalanche and provided the team with nothing. The near playoff miss had come only two years after the team had won the Central Division and lost to the Minnesota Wild in the First Round of the playoffs, so it was not a sign of hope for the future. Colorado had received the 10th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and selected Tyson Jost, and no knock on Jost, but he has not quite turned into the player Colorado hoped for when they selected him with their first pick. Of the other five selections the Avalanche made in the draft, only one of them has cracked the NHL roster, Adam Werner, who got a shutout in his first game, lost his second game 6-2, and is now with the Calgary Flames. As far as the offseason is concerned the Avs made no big additions. The only notable moves the team made were re-signing Nathan MacKinnon to his current contract and getting rid of Nate Guenin, otherwise it was just depth moves.
I can remember only one positive from the entire 2016-17 season, a 4-3 OT win (after trailing 3-0) against the Western Conference leading Chicago Blackhawks in the second to last home game of the season. Even with that tiny little positive, there’s no way this season could finish outside of the bottom two. The only reason(s) it didn’t finish in tenth place were the additions the organization made.
As we all know, the Avalanche finished the regular season with the worst record in modern NHL history (at the time), and failed to even crack 50 points, so there’s no need to dwell on that. Instead I’ll dive into what Colorado did that was good that season. Most people remember that this season was Jared Bednar’s first season with the team after he was hired less than two months before the season started. Despite Bednar’s lack of national acknowledgment, most Avalanche fans know that he is one of the best coaches in the NHL and has been a big factor in the team’s recent success. Of course he’s not perfect, and there are a select few amongst the Avs faithful who believe the team is succeeding despite him, but that’s a conversation for a different day. The other big addition Colorado made this offseason was through the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. At the time of the Draft Lottery the team had dropped to the fourth overall pick despite being the worst team in the Salary Cap Era, so it was hard to find an Avalanche fan that wasn’t upset over the drop. The pick, however, ended up being Cale Makar. Cale has since led a mediocre UMass team to the NCAA National Championship, won the Calder Trophy, finished second in Norris Trophy voting in only his second year in the league, and is poised to be the best defenseman in the NHL, but there will be more on him in the Top 5.
This was an odd season in Avalanche history. The team finished above .500 with a record of 41-36-5, however they finished seven points back of the eventual Cup Champion LA Kings, and missed the playoffs.
There’s very little to say about this season. The Avs performed well, but not well enough to make the playoffs, and there were no meaningful additions to the team, although I will always have a special place in my heart for David Jones. Gabriel Landeskog’s Calder winning season was the only notable positive for the Avalanche that season. Landeskog showed that he was going to be able to live up to the hype he had received after he was picked, finishing the season with 22 goals and 30 assists, and was the only player on the team to play all 82 games that season.
Yet another nothing of a season for the Avs, which you can tell was pretty common for the team in the middle 2010s. The team finished the season above .500 with the help of 12 OT losses, but still finished dead last in the Central and missed out on the playoffs.
What made this season especially disappointing was the fact that Colorado just had what many thought was their return to glory the prior season. My sole reason for having this season so high, was again, because of a player they selected in the draft. This time it was Mikko Rantanen. The superstar Finn was selected 10th overall by the Avalanche, and has done nothing but impress since he arrived in North America. Rantanen won AHL rookie of the year the following season after putting up 60 points in 52 games with the San Antonio Rampage, played so well he kept Nathan MacKinnon from winning a Hart, and has been a point-per-game player all but one season in the NHL. Mikko is the only saving grace from this season.
6. The Best of the Worst: 2012-13 Season
The 2012-13 season is the final one on this list where the Avs missed the playoffs. Despite that miss and finishing dead last in the Western Conference, the season was actually pretty solid for the Avalanche, which is why it’s ranked the highest among the missed playoffs seasons. The team finished with a 16-25-7 record in the lockout shortened season, giving them the second worst record in the league. However, this would allow them to win the first overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, a draft that was top heavy with talent, such as Seth Jones, Jonathan Huberdeau, and current Avs star Nathan MacKinnon.
Almost any Avs fan at this time remembers when the Avs ended the Chicago Blackhawks record setting 24 game win streak with a 6-2 win against the eventual Cup Champions. Other than that, it’s hard to point to a single game or moment that was a positive during the season. Besides being the underdogs in one of the bigger upsets in recent history, the other factor in placing this season this high was the aforementioned acquisition of Nathan MacKinnon. There’s not much to say about Nathan MacKinnon that Avalanche fans don’t already know about. He’s a superstar in the NHL, many consider him the second best player in the league, and he has been nominated for the Hart Trophy three times. It’s pretty obvious why he single-handedly carries the 2012-13 season above all the other losing seasons the Avalanche experienced in the last ten years.