The Debate: Colorado Avalanche Coaching and Management


Feb 28 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco talks to his players early in the first period of the game after giving up two goals to the Calgary Flames at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Denver hockey fans are becoming impatient with the Avalanche’s lackluster performance, and they’re not being unreasonable.  Since coming into the league in 2009, Joe Sacco has only had one playoff appearance — which ended in the first round — and two winning seasons.  With Colorado in 29th place in the league, the Avalanche appear to be heading down a very familiar path. To be fair, Sacco has yet to be given a chance with an NHL caliber team,  Since coming into the league, speculators have pegged Colorado at the bottom of the standings year after year.  Although, he has only proved them wrong once, in his opening season.

The three years of downtrodden performance have yielded fantastic prospects in the draft, picking up top NHL centerman Mat Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly, as well as Landeskog the year before last.  We also traded our #1 pick for young goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who has proved worthy of the steep price. Even this year, we saw injuries to important players in Steve Downie and Gabriel Landeskog, as well as the contract holdout by O’Reilly, which was no doubt a distraction to the team.  And to top it all off, our 2nd defensive pairing included players like O’Brien and O’Byrne!  Erik Johnson and Ryan Wilson also saw overlapping injuries, which forced Sacco to play amateur propects Tyson Barrie and Stefan Elliott.  How much can you truly expect from Joe Sacco, when he is forced to play defenseman like Greg Zanon? Fans are so quickly to point the finger at Joe Sacco, but could any coach really do any better with the hand that Colorado was dealt?

March 6 2012; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche general manager Greg Sherman watches the progress of the game in the third period against the Minnesota Wild at the Pepsi Center. The Avalanche defeated the Wild 7-1. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Avalanche appear to be the wielders of a 1st or 2nd overall pick in the coming draft, which should be trusted with general manager Greg Sherman, who has proven himself with drafting — This may also be attributed to our scouting.  However, I don’t think we can trust Sherman with another season given the mistakes he has made, such as the Craig Anderson trade, the Varlamov over payment, the Stewart trade, and most recently, the Ryan O’Reilly scandal. I do believe Sacco will not be behind the bench next season, if nothing else but to silence the critics.  Fans, including myself, have been calling for his job since 2011,   However, those who are asking for Sacco to be fired right now should stop and recognize the benefits of examining all of our coaching options in the offseason, instead of making a rushed decision for the hiring of an interim coach right now.  With that being said, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Avalanche hire former Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, demote Greg Sherman to a scouting specific management position and hire (in)famous GM Brian Burke.

Also to note, The Tampa Bay Lightning have just dismissed head coach Guy Boucher, who could slide into the head coaching position as well.  “I’m not satisfied with the direction that our hockey team is going,” Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said.   Boucher led the Lightning to a Conference final in his first season, which they lost in seven games to the Boston Bruins.