A year ago, nearly to the day, the Avalanche skated off the ice in St. Louis to end a miserable 48-point season, good for dead last in the NHL and the worst in franchise history. On Saturday, Colorado completed the most improbable turnaround in recent NHL history with a 4-2 home win against the Blues (though it wasn't without controversy) to go from worst-to-first playoff berth in four seasons.
What a difference a year makes.
That's been the theme again this NHL season. Seven teams that failed to qualify for the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs are in the field of 16 this year, including a division champion expansion franchise and two teams that finished last in their respective conferences in the Avalanche and Devils.
Playoff turnover galore
This is actually the second straight year — and third time in four seasons — seven new teams will participate in the postseason after missing out the year prior, per the NHL. At least five new clubs have made the playoffs in 11 of the last 13 seasons.
Last place, not for long
Following the lead of the Oilers and Maple Leafs in 2016-17, the Avalanche and Devils are latest pair of teams to go from last place in the conference to a playoff berth. It's happened on four occasions since the NHL introduced the conference format in 1974-75: Red Wings and Rockies in 1976-77; Bruins and Sharks in 1996-97.
The Avalanche finish the 2017-18 regular season with 95 points. Their 47-point year-over-year turnaround is the fourth-largest in NHL history.
The @Avalanche (43-30-9, 95 points) concluded the season with 47 more points than their 2016-17 total (22-56-4, 48 points), tied for the fourth-highest year-to-year improvement by a team in NHL history. #NHLStats #STLvsCOL pic.twitter.com/Xbcill7B25— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 8, 2018
Colorado's turnaround is most remarkable considering it kept the roster largely intact, with one notable omission. Credit to Nathan MacKinnon, who nearly doubled his 53-point total in 82 games last season to 97 in 74 this year as the front-runner for the 2018 Hart Trophy. His 1.31 points per game tied Edmonton's Connor McDavid for the league lead.