Everybody in hockey believed the Colorado Avalanche would regress from their 112 point season in 2013-2014 and boy did they. Instead of being Central Division champions with over 100 points the Avalanche finished last in the central with only 90 points. However, the Avalanche finished the season at least 19 points higher then the other three last place teams in each division. The Avalanche missed the playoffs despite having six different 50 point scorers on its roster. The six players include a defenseman, three young guys and two veterans.
The Avalanche season was ultimately doomed by a poor start after only winning two games in the month of October. However when the season was over the team posted an over .500 record and was the only team in the NHL with six players with over 50 points. This collection of six players is about a perfect a mix as the Avalanche brass could have asked for. Sixth overall was up and coming star defenseman Tyson Barrie. Barrie lead the team with 41 assists and chipped in 12 goals in 80 games.
Young Guys Up Front
Three members of the Avalanche young core also finished with over 50 points. Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly both finished the season with 55 points after slow starts. Captain Gabriel Landeskog continued to get more comfortable with his role as captain on a young hockey team and as a result the points began to show towards the end of the season. Landeskog, with 59 points, finished the season tied for the lead on the Avalanche roster.
Last season, Tanguay’s first back in Denver, a hip injury required surgery ended his season after only 16 games. This season Tanguay stayed healthy and produced all season long. Tanguay produced 55 points just like Duchene and O’Reilly but one other stat stands out. Tanguay finished the season with 22 goals on 104 shots. That gave the veteran a shooting percentage of 21.20 which was the highest on the team. Most of the season Tanguay was passing the puck instead of shooting, and when you have the chance to pass to a player like Jarome Iginla why wouldn’t you?
Jarome Iginla was brought to Colorado as a free agent basically to replace the void left by the departure of long time Avalanche center Paul Stastny. Some questioned if the aging, sure to be hall of famer, could play in the west with a team that was built on speed. After the first 20 games of the season it appeared it was fair for people to question the move. Quickly after that however, any concern was thrown out the window.
The 37 year old played all 82 games of the season and lead the young Avalanche in points with 59. More so then the shear number, the impressive part is the consistency to which he produced. 59 points split amongst 30 assists and 29 goals.
In the last game of the season, Iginla added two goals and with an empty net at the end of the game his teammates were working to set Iginla up for the hat trick. Had Iginla scored on the empty net, the veteran would have ended the season with 60 points with an even 30/30 split between goals and assists.
The best news for the Avalanche looking back on a disappointing season is that all of the players mentioned above are under contract through next season. The main focus for the Avalanche this offseason is to get O’Reilly signed to a long term deal or trade him due to two previous contract disputes. Barrie is also currently on a two year deal that expires at the end of next season and all signs point to him being in an Avalanche sweater for years to come.
Also, injuries to big name players played a huge role on this team. Super star in the making Nathan MacKinnon finished with 38 points despite missing time. Defender Erik Johnson had a career high 12 goals before injuring his knee. Depth forward Jamie McGinn is often lost in the Avalanche top heavy lineup and only played 19 games this season after career high in goals and points last season.
The future for this club is extremely bright for next season and beyond. This roster learned that a slow start can mean problems in March and April and they will need to come out firing next season. Yes, the Avalanche probably play in the toughest division in the league but they have the players and staff to do it. Look for this team to return to the playoffs next season after a more consistent regular season.