The Colorado Avalanche have the dubious distinction of being the worst team in the NHL. It's not a tight race, either - their 27 points gives them a five-point cushion on second-worst Arizona and a shocking 15 point deficit to the Islanders, who are third to last. This is a really, really bad hockey team. Oddsmakers don't argue with that notion, either - they are +250,000 to win the Stanley Cup, which is by far the highest price in the league. So, are they really as bad as they seem? The short answer is yes. Definitely. Without question. If you need more than that, though, then here are five other factors to ponder:
Coaching mess: The Avs had virtually no chance this year before things even got started. Patrick Roy was an all-time great goaltender, and in his first year coaching Colorado he was pretty elite as well. Things went downhill badly since, though. After winning the Central Division that first year, he was seventh the next year and sixth the year after. Ugly. But then he really bottomed out, leaving town in one of the most classless acts in recent memory. On Aug. 11 coaches are supposed to be getting ready for training camp. Roy instead chose that day to pout about not having enough control over personnel decisions and quit. That left the team scrambling to find a coach when all the good coaches already had jobs. They did the best they could, grabbing Jared Bednar, who had just coached Columbus' farm team to a championship. He can coach, but this is his first time in the NHL as either a player or a coach, and that transition is very tough. He didn't have the time to adjust properly, or build trust with his players, and it shows. They have just quit on him, and it's only January. It's hard to see a path to recovery for him in this job.
Total lack of effort: On Jan. 4 I went to see the Avs play my hometown Flames. I don't think I've seen anything so pathetic. Calgary got off to a strong start, and a few minutes in you could literally see the bulk of the Avalanche roster decide that they had had enough for the night. They knew they weren't winning, and they just didn't care. I don't think I have seen an NHL team care less or play with less passion. There is plenty of talent on this team - Nathan MacKinnon was a first overall pick, and Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene are elite. Tyson Barrie leads a few promising defensemen, and Semyon Varlamov is only 28 and was viewed as one of the best goalies in the league just a couple of years ago. If they are going to play like they played that night, though, then none of the talent matters.
Sale is on: GM Joe Sakic, a Colorado legend who must be disgusted by what this team has become and what his former goaltender teammate did to the squad, made a small deal this week. He sent veteran forward Cody McLeod to Nashville for a prospect. He even retained 40 percent of McLeod's salary. He just wanted to make a move. With that, Sakic signaled that he was open for business - and he went on to explicitly confirm that he was ready to deal. Landeskog and Duchene are both rumored to be available for the right price, and the Avs should be able to get some decent pieces - perhaps a top young defenseman or a prized forward prospect for either guy. The market will be strong for both, though I struggle to imagine Colorado dumping both unless the price is really sweet. The ancient Jarome Iginla is a lock to go, and pretty much any other guy over 25 could be had for a price, too. Or under 25 for that matter - MacKinnon feels like one of the very few untouchables. It's the right approach in the long term as long as Sakic is smart and holds out for the right prices. In the short term, though, a fire sale does absolutely nothing to boost the morale of a squad - unless they bring in a major superstar in a trade, and I don't see Edmonton moving Connor McDavid just yet.
Weak draft year: To add insult to injury, the Avs are struggling at a time when a high draft pick isn't ideal. Two years ago the consolation prize for missing out on Connor McDavid was Jack Eichel. Last year you could miss out on Auston Matthews and still get Patrik Laine. That's four franchise players in two years. This year the consensus top pick is Nolan Patrick, but he is not on the level of those four, and the drop off behind him is steep. Edmonton, Buffalo, Toronto and Winnipeg were all improved significantly just by adding one player. Colorado will not have that luxury - assuming they are even lucky enough to win the lottery.
Betting performance: Not surprisingly, this is the worst betting team in the league. They have burned massive piles of cash on the moneyline - which means they have been consistently excellent to bet against. I don't see that changing. They have just two wins in their last 14, and they needed overtime for both. Bet against them, happily and consistently.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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