Avalanche Thoughts – The Stretch Run
The Colorado Avalanche are preparing for the playoff push. Unfortunately Joe Sacco is part of that push.
The trade deadline has passed and while Greg Sherman didn’t make a huge splash, he did shake things up a bit by skipping out T.J. Galiardi, Daniel Winnik, and a 7th round pick for Jamie McGinn and two prospects.
The two prospects won’t have any impact on the rest of this Avalanche season, but McGinn will. Along with Steve Donwie, who was acquired a week earlier for Kyle Quincey, McGinn gives the Avs another psychical presence up front who can also chip in offensively.
Downie has already been a hit with the Avs and fans. He’s not only the first guy in the scrum, he’s the last guy to stop talking shit. He’s also developed great chemistry with his linemates Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan O’Reilly. They’re a hard working trio who create turnovers, go to the front of the net, and have the hands to finish. They’ve helped the Avs climb within a few points of the playoffs, although the team suffered a crushing loss on Thursday night to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The loss, which snapped a four game winning streak, didn’t kill the teams hope of a playoff birth, but it put them in the hospital and in need of a transplant. They’re still within one point of the playoffs, but a win would have given them sole possession of 8th place, meaning everyone else had to catch them for the time being. And it’s not really the loss that mattered, it’s who they lost to. They lost to the worst team in the league at home. The Blue Jackets had 7 road wins all season. A good team, who is desperately fighting for a playoff spot, has to beat the last place team in the league at home.
I once again have to blame coach Joe Sacco and his poor choices. Until Chuck Kobasew, easily the Avs worst player and absolutely worthless on the ice, suffered a back injury in practice, he would have played over Peter Mueller, who is a top 6 forward on most teams. Mueller ended up playing due to the injury, albeit on the fourth line at the start of the game.
The Avs have three very good centers and 12 guys who can play big minutes up front. Instead of splitting up Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny through, Sacco insists on keeping Duchene on the wing where he’s just not as effective. He should be at center and flanked by Mueller and David Jones while Stastny would anchor a line featuring Milan Hejduk and McGinn. That gives the Avs three hard working lines who can also produce points. But because Mark Olver has had some good games and shown flashes of brilliance, he remains on the 3rd line instead of being a 4th line spark with Jay McClemment and Cody McLeod.
I said it earlier this season and I’ll say it again, this team won’t make the playoffs. It’s not that the team is bad, it’s that their coach isn’t NHL caliber. He’s a mediocre head coach and who will never be the main bench boss on a contending team. They’ll finish with 80-85 points and miss the playoffs.
The only silver lining to them missing the playoffs, besides the fact that I’ll be winning a bet that nets me $10, is that there’s no way Sacco will be brought back next season. His contract his up after this year and given that management has done everything in their power to put a contender team on the ice, even if they are very young, I would hope that they see the writing on the wall and notice that Sacco is not the guy to lead this team in the future.
Who knows, maybe Thursday’s loss will spark the team and they’ll make a run, they certainly have the team in place to do so, but I have no faith in Sacco and haven’t had faith in him since he was hired. I still joke that Avs management thought they were hiring Joe Sakic, but the phone line was fuzzy and they signed off on the wrong guy. Hopefully they don’t make the same mistake in a couple of months when trying to determine “fire” and “re-hire.”