DENVER - Nine more.
The tragic number for the worst season in Avalanche history: Nine. One for almost each finger, one for each tooth (in some hockey mouths), one for each time I've thought, "How are the Avs this bad?"
There are nine more games in a lost season of hockey at Pepsi Center. The Avs are counting down just like you and me: One MacKinnon, two MacKinnon, three MacKinnon.
"We're working towards something. It's not necessarily just this season. It's beyond that," coach Jared Bednar said.
What else is he going to say?
The end is nigh close enough. It can't come soon enough. At least in past Rockies seasons the sunset is worth watching. During Tuesday's game at Pepsi Center the view was nine open seats to either side. Colorado entered Thursday with 43 points — 20 behind the next-worst team. That's right, 20. Not a misprint.
What it says is that no one can be considered untouchable. No one on the fringe, no one in the core. The Avs' goal differential stood at an eye-popping, stomach-dropping minus-98. When a team is that bad, no player can be considered a player to shield from the trade block.
If he were that good, they wouldn't be this bad.
After nine more, the changes are coming. They must be, they should be. Gabriel Landeskog has represented the franchise as a gentleman. But he can't be untouchable. Same for Matt Duchene, the gold medalist. Same for Nathan MacKinnon, the prodigy. Same for everyone.
No one wants them gone.
No one can watch this season and say anyone — from player to coach to GM to Zamboni captain — is untouchable.
How are the Avs this bad? The draft, mostly. They whiffed more than they hit. More recently the injuries to Semyon Varlamov, the top goaltender, and Erik Johnson, the top defenseman, are not the reasons, but a reason. The new coach arrived in August. That's a problem.
The Avs have lots. Now they have slid so far from the pack, the bottom of the pack, no one should be safe. Patrick Roy famously and humorously said in 2014: "Now it's time, sorry about the words, to put our balls on the table."
Now the Avs are so bad, sorry about the words, nothing can be off the table.