In the battle for last place in the entire NHL, there can be only one worst team out of thirty. Such was the case at the Pepsi Center on Monday night as the Colorado Avalanche did battle with their own ghosts as well as the second worst team in the league, the visiting Calgary Flames.

Road to 30

Photo courtesy of bicameral |

The Avalanche entered the game at a crossroads, a moral juxtaposition which would never be admitted.

Do they lose and keep their last place designation, bringing with it a higher chance at the first overall draft pick in franchise history? Or do they try their hardest to prove to anyone still paying attention that they won’t quit, even on a season that quit on them months ago?

The thing about Colorado’s motivations to win is that, even with hearts full of desire, the club cannot muster the effort required to take home a victory, let alone on the regular.

Given a chance to play spoiler against the Detroit Red Wings and the Phoenix Coyotes, two teams on the playoff bubble, they couldn’t. With no pressure left on the year they dropped a heartbreaker in overtime after failing to convert in the third one night and simply did not show up to what could have been an easy match in the desert during the next.

The shortened season has gone so poorly for the Avalanche that fans aren’t sure whether to cheer on the Avalanche like a child winning a participation award or to outwardly wish them further ill with the hope that help comes in the future one day.

Following a 3-1 loss to the equally lowly Flames, Colorado Avalanche veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere pulled back the curtain, showing the world behind the facade for a minute while allowing fans a chance to see how badly things have gotten.

“Some guys are more worried about their Vegas trip at the end of season than playing the remaining games. Quite frankly I don’t care about your Vegas trip right now. It’s not constructive,” said Giguere following yet another defeat in a string of up and down performances. “It’s embarrassing. I’m embarrassed to be here right now. It’s not even funny.”

Maybe the #SuckForSeth and Road to Thirty movements aren’t too far off of reality. After all, the Avalanche seem content with half-efforts and near misses in the win column.

“We have to find a way to get out of this losing mentality. It starts by me and then the next guy beside me and everybody’s got to do their part,” said Giguere. “We talk about it everyday. At some point we have to understand. There’s no more excuse. It’s not about being young. We have to put our head in the game.”

When asked if it was a of lack of talent or a problem with attitude, the response was simple.

“It’s not talent,” said Giguere.

The issue is both more basic and more complex than that.

“I think it comes down to us not playing very well defensively. We spend too much time in our own zone and that’s hard. That’s why it’s hard. We know we can score some goals. We have some offensive tools,” said Giguere. “We talk about it everyday. At some point we have to understand. There’s no more excuse. It’s not about being young. We have to put our head into the game.”

A funk has settled into the Avalanche dressing room. You can feel it when entering. You can taste it while standing. You can hear it in the silences. It’s everywhere.

There is no light at the end of the tunnel, whether before a game or after another in a long list of losses.

“Nobody wants to be in this situation. Definitely this is not fun. We are losing and losing is not fun. To try to stay loose is kind of easy to say but hard to do,” said Jan Hejda after his club’s morning skate.

Hejda admitted that, while he knows that the team needs to relax and play loose, it just isn’t something that seems plausible right now.

“It feels like it’s not even possible. Of course everybody trying hard to score and win the games but, once we are one or two goals down on the game, it’s like we have everything on our shoulders,” said Hejda. “It’s just pushing and pushing and we can’t score. We have to play more loose but I don’t see how right now.

“Once you win two, three, four games in a row, everything change. You go on the ice, you know it’s going to be a fun game. You know we’re going to score some goals. Right now we just don’t have this. Right now, everybody trying to defend. Everybody just scared to play.

“It’s not time to be scared right now but this is part of the game. Everything is mental.”

Age is obviously an issue. If players are looking forward to Vegas and not the chance to keep an opponent out of the playoffs, it’s not the older guys. To them, every game is important until the season is over.

“We can’t say it doesn’t matter because every game matters. Nobody wants to lose every game,” said Hejda.

For now it seems that playing a full 60 minutes for some is less about the desire to win and more about getting another black stain of a year over with.

Gone are the ‘we won’t lose this game’ rallying cries and comeback efforts. They have been replaced with ‘we’re down early, it’s over’ lamentations.

Those that want to win show up. The rest are mailing it in. So, for now, the promise of
drafting a defenseman – Seth Jones – who can one day shore up a glaring weakness is the only thing that fans have to look forward to.

And even that isn’t a sure thing.

That is unless veterans like Giguere and Hejda can inspire their teammates to do better, want more, and aim higher.

What do you think?