This second NHL Saturday miniseries takes on the short, albeit storied, history of the Colorado Avalanche, the current defending champions of the league. The franchise began its life in the World Hockey Association during the 1970s before moving to the NHL for the 1979-1980 season—as the Quebec Nordiques. In 1995, the team moved to Denver and immediately won its first Stanley Cup as the Avalanche, and the Colorado organization has added two more Cups since then. Enjoy this stroll through history!
No. 5: 1995-1996 Colorado Avalanche
Speaking of that first champion in team history, here it is. The team posted 104 points on a 47-25-10 record, to win the Pacific Division. The offense scored the second-most goals in the league, while the defensive effort was stout, finishing eighth in goals allowed. However, the mid-season acquisition of goaltender Patrick Roy really helped solidify the Avs, overall. The result? A 16-6 romp through the postseason, including the infamous Western Conference Finals win over the top-seeded Detroit Red Wings.
The high-flying scoring machine was led by a dominant trio: center Joe Sakic (51G, 69A, 44 PIMs, 82 games), center Peter Forsberg (30G, 86A, 47 PIMs, 82 games), and left wing Valeri Kamensky (38G, 47A, 85 PIMs, 81 games). Roy only posted a 22-15-7 record with a 2.68 GAA, but he was an improvement over Stephane Fiset (22-6-7, 2.93 GAA), for sure. In the postseason, Roy dropped his GAA to 2.10 and dealt three shutouts—and the rest is history.
No. 4: 2000-2001 Colorado Avalanche
The second Cup winner in team history, these Avs put up 118 points to win the Northwest Division with a 52-16-10-4 mark (when overtime losses were counted differently). They were fourth in scoring and third in scoring defense, and in the postseason, Colorado rolled over Vancouver in the first round before barely escaping the Los Angeles Kings in the second round. The third round was no sweat for the Avs in a 5-game series win over the St. Louis Blues, but the Finals were a 7-game grinder, for sure.
Sakic (54G, 64A, 82 games) and Forsberg (27G, 62A, 73 games) still led the way in scoring, and at age 35, Roy had lost nothing in net, posting a 40-13-7 record with a 2.22 GAA and a .913 S% to along with four shutouts. With the offense struggling in the playoffs, Roy really upped his game, improving to a 1.70 GAA and a .934 S%. It’s hard to imagine the Avs winning those two Game 7s without him in net.
No. 3: 2020-2021 Colorado Avalanche
The highest-rated Avs team ever, in sabermetric terms, didn’t win the Cup; in fact, this group lost in the second round to the Vegas Golden Knights in six games after sweeping the Blues in the first round. It was a rough ending to a great season, where Colorado posted a 39-13-4 record in a Covid-shortened season for 82 points and first place in the West Division. The Golden Knights dropped the first two games of the series and then ripped off four straight wins to eliminate the Avalanche.
The team was first in scoring, thanks to right wing Mikko Rantanen (30G, 36A, 52 games), C Nathan MacKinnon (20G, 45A, 48 games), and defenseman Cale Makar (8G, 36A, 44 games). That balance was matched by the No. 3 scoring defense, anchored by G Philipp Grubauer (30-9-1, 1.95 GAA, .922 S%). But against Vegas in the playoffs, Colorado was just outplayed by the Golden Knights’ No. 3 offense and No. 1 defense. It happens sometimes, when the matchup is just an unfortunate one.
No. 2: 1994-1995 Quebec Nordiques
This final Nordiques squad was basically the same as the first Colorado roster, with a few changes—and that’s why this team is ranked so high in team history. Quebec was first in scoring and ninth in goals allowed, good enough to finish first in the lockout-shortened season’s Northeast Division with a 30-13-5 record for 65 points. However, they were upset in the first round of the playoffs by the defending champs at the time, the New York Rangers, losing in six games.
Who helped Quebec to the top-scoring offense in the NHL? Sakic (19G, 43A, 47 games) and Forsberg (15G, 35A, 47 games), of course, as well as RW Owen Nolan (30G, 19A, 48 games). In net, the Nordiques were not as strong, obviously, but Fiset (17-10-3) combined with Jocelyn Thibault (12-2-2) to hold opponents to 2.76 goals per game. In the postseason, however, the Rangers scored 25 goals in 6 games to blow Quebec out of Lord Stanley’s Cup chase.
No. 1: 1983-1984 Quebec Nordiques
So, sabermetrics are weird sometimes. These Nordiques finished third in the old Adams Division with a 42-28-10 record for 94 points. But the second-best offense and the fifth-best defense contribute to its high sabermetric rating in our system here. Quebec beat Buffalo 3-0 in the first round before losing 2-4 to the Montréal Canadiens in the second round. Overall, though, when factoring in SOS, this team was the second-best squad in the NHL during the regular season.
Two 100-point scorers topped the team: LW Michel Goulet (56G, 66A, 76 PIMS, 75 games) and C Peter Stastny (46G, 73A, 73 PIMs, 80 games). One unique stat contributor? C Dale Hunter, with his 79 points in 77 games—to go along with 232 PIMs. Whoa! The goalies combined to cough up 3.41 GAA, but it was the era of high scoring. The top goalies were Dan Bouchard (29-18-8) and Clint Malarchuk (10-9-2). Scoring just 13 goals in 6 playoff games against the Habs really hurt in the end, though.