The Burgundy Letter
by Martin Krantz on 11/29/11 at 05:32 PM ET
“Last Olympics, Ireland won a gold medal. Not even a number. A letter of the alphabet amount.”
—Tommy Tiernan, Irish Comedian
This joke hits a bit too close to home right now, as the Avs under Joe Sacco have only managed back-to-back regulation wins once in the last 74 games. He has also led the team to new records in losing and winless streaks. Unlike Paul Maurice and Bruce Boudreau, Joe Sacco still has a job. I’m not a big fan of firing coaches myself, and with the Avs’ track record of hiring coaches I have my doubts as to how a change would impact the team - but Joe Sacco needs to go.
What do you do as a GM when your coach is benching your star players because they won’t play for him, and the rest of the team has tuned out despite your being able to say the f-word an astounding amount of times in less than one minute? For the Washington Capitals (who have a winning record, mind you) and George McPhee, the answer was simple. You fire your head coach.
The question seems to be harder to answer for the Avs - when it should be a lot easier. But apparently Joe Sacco is doing just enough to cling to a job he could’ve lost as early as february/march this year, but not enough to convince either the players or the fans to accept him as a coach. The Avs’ coaching solution right now is just a status quo of insecurity and half-measures, and it’s time for Greg Sherman to do something about it. As someone who has aggressivly tried to fix holes in the lineup by trading or signing free agents (getting bigger on D and getting a better goaltender in Varlamov), it’s unfathomable how Sherman can cling to Joe Sacco like this.
I would’ve loved to give Kirk Muller a chance as the Avalanche’s new bench boss, but now he’s been snapped up by the Carolina Hurricanes. I think several fans would even gladly turn to Bruce Boudreau or Paul Maruice in this situation rather than stick with Joe Sacco. But with the Avs, the likely solution would be to give their AHL affiliate’s (Lake Erie Monsters) coach, David Quinn, the job. Or try to lure Patrick Roy back to Denver in another attempt to hold on to this team’s former glory. But at this point, something needs to be done. If the coach has fought a losing battle in the locker room, and it’s showing on the ice, you couldn’t possibly be worse off with going in another direction to see what happens.
My main issues with Joe Sacco right now are:
1) He’s not getting enough out of Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny. He’s not letting Duchene develop chemistry with anyone, constantly moving him from line to line and even moving him to the fourth line on one occasion. More than enough to make Ovechkin call you a fat ****. He also doesn’t know how to use his players effectively - case in point, Daniel Winnik leads the forwards in TOI.
2) The Avs are too easy to read offensively, and too easily taken advantage of in their own zone. Offensively, the issue is that the Avs always go for a dump-and-chase game, shooting the puck down the left side and hoping to beat the defenders in a race. Even on the power play. Carrying the puck at any time would be a nice change.
3) He’s created a scapegoat in T.J. Galiardi, a player who is getting limited ice-time on the fourth line or is a healthy scratch. Against Dallas last night Galiardi played 10:30 minutes and Sacco said after the game that Galiardi isn’t doing what it takes for the team to win hockey games. In my opinion, Galiardi was just fine in his limited role.
With a 3-7-0 record right now, the Avs risk falling out of the playoff picture completely if nothing happens. And, since their 1st-rounder was traded to the Capitals, that’s not acceptable. They already have a six point gap up to the 8th place. But I think the Avs will show their true colours in the next five games. A winning record means Joe Sacco is safe just a while longer. A losing record, and he should be gone. If he isn’t that probably means the Avs are going to stick with him for the rest of the season, no matter what happens. And it will send the signal that the Avs have given up on the season long before the All-Star break. And it will show that the team doesn’t care about the fans clamoring for a new coach. It might also show that Joe Sacco is the new Tyler Arnason - the one person on the roster that every fan wants gone, but who keeps getting chance after chance after chance to redeem himself.
The only difference is that Sacco doesn’t even dominate against the Oilers.
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