Could the Avalanche actually miss the postseason in 2014-15? Why you can expect some regression
This may seem like a bold statement, but the Colorado Avalanche are in jeopardy of not making the playoffs this year. At best they will squeak in as one of the two wildcard entries and this is only because the bottom six teams in the Western Conference have not improved enough to challenge last year’s top eight. In Colorado’s case the team is set up for the classic sophomore jinx following Patrick Roy’s and Nathan MacKinnon’s well deserved Jack Adams and Calder campaigns respectively.
Obviously a number of experts have Colorado pegged for another trip to the postseason but a closer look at the numbers suggests they will be right on the bubble come April.
Colorado’s Five-on-Five Corsi and PDO Conundrum
A total of all five on five situations last year shows that the Avalanche somehow managed to outscore their opponents 164-142, despite being outshot 2049-1871. Out of all of the playoff teams in the West, Colorado’s negative shot differential of 178 was the worst at five on five. Minnesota was the only other playoff team from the West last year with a negative five-on-five shot differential, but the Wild’s total was ony negative 47. To put this statistic into perspective, the only team from the West that was worse than Colorado in this category was Edmonton, scary.
Looking a bit deeper at five on five situations using Corsi (total team shot attempts, including shots that were missed or blocked) the Avalanche took a total of 3407 shots versus 3847 against in 2013-14. A negative shot differential of 440 shots which averaged out at 5.36 attempted shots per game less than their opponents. The only teams that were worse in this department were Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton and Buffalo. Even though Montreal had a nice run in the postseason, this isn’t exactly great company to be in.
Sticking with five on five situations and looking at PDO (shooting percentage plus save percentage), the Avalanche had a remarkable year posting a 1018 PDO in 2013-14 which only trailed Anaheim (another team due for a correction) and Boston. Colorado had the second best shooting percentage in the league last year (8.77%) and had the league’s fifth best save percentage of .930 led by the upstart Semyon Varlamov. It may not be realistic to expect a repeat performance in 2014-15.
As mentioned above, Colorado outscored their opposition 164-142 during five on five last year. But let’s put it this way, if the team’s shooting percentage at five on five was bumped down slightly from 8.77% to 8% (which is still good enough to be in the top 10), the Avalanche would have then outscored their opponents 149-142 in full strength situations. If you then slightly bump their team save percentage down from .930 to .928 (still a top 10 team save percentage), all of a sudden Colorado’s goals against in five on five situations jumps to 157 and their edge at five on five disappears and leaves them trailing 157-149 rather than dominating 164-142. This gives us a realistic idea of how regular season success could diminish dramatically for the Avalanche if the team’s shooting percentage and save percentage drop even slightly.
The Career High Conundrum
As young teams grow together, typically players bring out the best in each other. Last season five Avalanche forwards topped 60 points or more. But is it realistic for every player to have a career high in points or shooting percentage in the same season? In the case of the 2013-14 version of the Colorado Avalanche perhaps it is realistic to expect success, but here are a few red flags in terms of shooting percentages.
-Gabriel Landeskog posted a shooting percentage of 11.7% last year, which was well above his career average of 8.2%, leading to a career high of 65 points. -Ryan O’Reilly posted a career high shooting percentage of 13.9%, significantly eclipsing his previous career high of 10.9% from 2010-11, which propelled him to a career high 64 points. –Tyson Barrie posted 38 points in 64 games thanks to an unrealistic shooting percentage of 12.9%, as he scored on 13 of his 101 shots on goal. The only other defensemen in the top 30 in scoring at their position last year with shooting percentages of over 10% were Shea Weber (11.8%) and Zdeno Chara (10.1%). All other defensemen in the top 30 hovered between 4%-8%, meaning Barrie is due for a significant correction. –Nick Holden managed an unbelievable 10 goals and 15 assists in just 54 games with an over the top shooting percentage of 15.2%. This was by far the best shooting percentage in the league for all defensemen who played 20 games or more.
The Personnel Conundrum
While Chicago stayed intact as a powerhouse, St. Louis improved by scooping Stastny, the Stars improved with the Jason Spezza trade and Ales Hemsky signing, Minnesota upped the ante signing Vanek, and the California teams look as strong as last year – while the Avalanche basically swapped Stastny for Jarome Iginla. Perhaps only a slight downgrade in terms of offense, but this change will have a significant impact on the top six. The big question will be whether or not Nathan MacKinnon is ready to step us as a center. At best, poolies should expect a learning curve as MacKinnon (despite having superstar potential) adjusts to his new role.
The saving grace for the Avalanche could be Varlamov if he manages to roll his stellar play from last year into 2014-15. Expecting a goalie with a career save percentage of .917 to match last year’s .927 may be ambitious though. There is no question that Varlamov established himself as a top 10 goalie last year but he has not yet reached elite status by any means. If the expected shift in Corsi and PDO rears its ugly head even slightly, we should expect Varlamov to suffer the most in all categories.
Avalanche Warning - this year’s team either bubbles out or just scrapes into the postseason.
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