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Avalanche Thoughts – No Logic

My thoughts on the Colorado Avalanche management and coaching not using logic when it comes to anything.

Any fan of any team just wants one thing: wins. But if wins aren’t coming, we as fans hope that management and coaches are at least putting the best possible product on the ice.

As it stands, the Colorado Avalanche isn’t putting the best possible product on the ice.

Let’s start with management, where the team failed to sign last years leading scorer Ryan O’Reilly. It doesn’t matter who is right and who is wrong in this situation, all I’m focussing on is the fact that O’Reilly is sitting at home and not on the ice. It’s obvious that “Factor” has played his last game in an Avalanche sweater, so why is it taking management so long to move him? There are plenty of teams interested, but based on reports, no one seems to know what the asking price is for the young center. Is it a roster player, a young player, and a pick? Is it a young roster player and a pick? Is it a roster player and two prospects? No one seems to know. That speaks to how incompetently Avs management has handled this whole situation.

It seems like Greg Sherman is telling rival GMs to, “make me an offer” and he’ll listen. That’s a tough situation for rival GMs, because they have no idea what the Avs actually want. The New York Rangers reportedly offered Michael Del Zotto as the key ingredient on their end, but the Avs wanted more. If I’m Glen Sather, I’m feeling that Del Zotto for O’Reilly straight up is a fair deal given Del Zotto’s contract and on-ice production. So when the Avs wanted more, I don’t blame Sather for hanging up the phone. It’s tough to negotiate with someone when you have no clue what they’re looking for. Even video games have some sort of “team is seeking” or “team needs” option when you put a guy on the trading block in order to ensure that the CPU doesn’t offer you mid-30’s player with a terrible contract in exchange for a player in his prime who you’re not able to afford to keep or have top prospects who play the same position. And we’re talking about video games here. Where Sidney Crosby and LeBron James can be traded five games into a season if you’re willing to give up half your team.

I’m not saying that the Avs should give away O’Reilly for nothing. Obviously I want the team to get the best return possible. But I want something to be done soon because there’s a player or two who can help this team now, but they’re playing for another team while we’re left with a guy who is trying to control his dad from saying stupid things on twitter.

Of course it’s not Joe Sacco’s job to worry about something that he can’t control. He has to make due with the players who are under contract and at the rink everyday.

Unfortunately he doesn’t know how to do that.

I was against the hiring of Sacco from the moment it was announced and he’s done nothing to earn my respect as the head coach. He overachieved the first year thanks to a young team carried by an outstanding goaltender, and even that team should’ve been better than the 8th seed and first round exit they eventually settled for. Since then the team has failed to make the playoffs in each of the last two years, always faltering down the stretch when the games matter the most. He had a losing record as an AHL coach and is barely above .500 as an NHL coach.

Sacco has always said that he plays the guys who give him the best chance at winning. I don’t believe this to be true. If he played the best possible team, there’s no way that Shane O’Brien would continue to be a healthy scratch, there’s no way Semyon Varlamov would play as many games as he played, and there’s no way Aaron Palushaj would’ve been a recent healthy scratch in favor of Patrick Bordeleau or Chuck Kobasew.

Since being picked up off waivers, Palushaj has played very well for the team, usually skating alongside Paul Stastny and David Jones on the second line. When Gabe Landeskog returned, he took Palushaj’s spot on the second line. Instead of just moving Aaron down, he was instead scratched. Why? Because Sacco thought Bordeleau, who brings nothing to the team except five minutes of ice time, a couple of hits, and maybe a fight, gave the team a better chance to win. Enforcers are a dying breed in the new NHL, so the fact that Bordeleau is playing at all is a bit puzzling, especially when the Avs have Cody McLeod on the team, who is always more than willing to drop the gloves, and actually brings something more to the table than just his fists.

Since being traded to the Avs last season, in a move that was scrutinized by more than one expert, Varlamov has proven his worth as a legitimate number one goaltender. As an insurance policy though, the Avs brought in former Conn Smythe winner Jean Sebastien Giguere. This year I think that Sacco has forgotten that he has “Giggy” as the second option because he’s running Varlamov into the ground. After facing 98 shots and giving up 10 goals, Sacco went with Varlamov for another game. To his credit, “Varly” turned away 33 shots en route to a shutout. But that put his three game shot total at 126, which should’ve been enough to earn him a night off. Instead Sacco stuck with him for another game and Varlamov had his worst performance of the season.

Making Shane O’Brien a healthy scratch is definitely Sacco’s most illogical move of the year though. O’Brien played very good last season and was rewarded with a nice new contract. Now, you can wonder why Sherman re-signed O’Brien and then signed Greg Zannon despite having plenty of depth on defense, but it’s Sacco’s job to handle things like that by playing the best guys. With Erik Johnson and Ryan Wilson hurt, Sacco is not playing the best guys.

Instead of putting O’Brien into the line-up, Sacco decides to play Stefan Elliott, Matt Hunwick, and Tyson Barrie, all undersized offensive minded defensemen. This move would be fine if those guys were producing, but with the exception of Barrie, they’re not. Elliott’s play has been especially disappointing as he’s not contributing in the offensive zone and is making terrible plays defensively. Yet he continues to be in the line-up over O’Brien, who is sound in his own end and underrated offensively.

Now O’Brien is on the trading block because he’s fallen out of favor with Sacco. I’ll never understand Sacco’s reasoning for why a guy is in his doghouse, but once you’re in, you’re probably not out unless you find another team.

I just don’t understand how a team giving up the third most shots in the league and who can’t protect any third period lead with their conservative style can decide to bench a defensive player in favor of more unproductive offense. If the team wants to play an up and down, chance for chance style, then it makes sense. But that’s not the way the team plays. They try to play defense and protect leads, they just don’t have the proper personnel on the ice to do that.

The powerplay hasn’t flourished with Hunwick and Elliott running the point and the penalty kill continues to get burned because they have no size in front of the net to move guys around. I’m not saying O’Brien is going to fix all the teams problems, because he’s not an elite game changing player, but he’s a better option than what the team is going with right now. And when he finally played last night against San Jose, he did everything you expect him to do. He played tough defense, jumped up into the play offensively, and even drew a penalty. He could’ve been doing that all year, but Sacco elected to go with a weaker line-up.

This team is never going to win with Sacco behind the bench. I’m all for giving coaches time to establish their personality and system, but Sacco has had three full years an a quarter of this season and it’s been the same story every season and every game. It’s not that his message isn’t getting through anymore. It’s that he never had a message in the first place.

He can’t keep saying “everything is fine” when it clearly isn’t. He can’t keep putting the blame on the refs or bad bounces. Sooner or later someone in the Avs front office needs to take responsibility by taking responsibility away from Sacco.

It’s sad when the Columbus Blue Jackets realize that they have issues before the Avs and were willing to try and correct those issues by firing their GM. It’s also sad that a proven winner like Lindy Ruff is unemployed while Sacco runs my favorite team deeper into the ground.

There’s just no logic behind anything this team does right now.

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  1. February 28, 2013 at 2:08 pm

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