Cellar dwellers just a season ago, the Colorado Avalanche have experienced a drastic turnaround and The Denver Post's Benjamin Hochman reports that they are now on track for the NHL's fifth-best season-to-season improvement in points percentage since 1967-68.
Colorado undertook a rebuilding project after the 2009-10 season, and the first two years went about how you'd expect.
The 2010-11 Avalanche finished 30-44-8, before improving to 41-35-6 in 2011-12. With a slew of talented young forwards in the organization, it was reasonable to expect the team to take another step forward in 2012-13.
Instead, the Avs struggled to a 16-25-7 record during a lockout-shortened season, with the team's .406 points percentage marking a low point since the franchise relocated from Quebec to Colorado in 1995. The miserable 2012-13 Avs finished last in the Northwest Division and had a minus-36 goal differential in just 48 games.
With all the young talent still in place, Colorado figured to be among the NHL's most improved teams this season.
Still, nobody expected the turnaround to be this drastic, as the Avalanche have an excellent 46-21-6 record following Thursday's 3-2 shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks.
On track for the Western Conference's No. 5 seed, Colorado has a .671 points percentage, far ahead of anything the team has done in recent years. Unless they somehow fall below .640 before the end of the season, this year's Avs will have the franchise's best points percentage since the 2000-01 team posted a .720 mark on its way to a Stanley Cup.
The improvement from .406 to .671 (plus-.265) would be the fifth-biggest in the NHL since '67-'68, but the Avs still have an outside chance to climb even higher. The fourth-most improved team since '67-'68, the 2006-07 Penguins, noticed a .286 jump in points percentage from the previous season.
To surpass those Penguins, the Avs need 16 points from their final nine games, which may be asking just a bit too much.
The team is certainly capable of such a run, but its remaining slate includes two games against the San Jose Sharks and one game apiece against the Anaheim Ducks, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers.
Call it a hunch, but Matt Duchene and Co. would probably settle for the fifth-biggest improvement and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
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