Avalanche Thoughts – Old Face. New Beginning
My thoughts on the Colorado Avalanche officially promoting Joe Sakic and the direction of the team.
Joe Sakic is back. Instead of wearing a Colorado Avalanche sweater though, he’s wearing a Colorado Avalanche suit. On Friday the Avs announced that Sakic would take over as the executive vice president of hockey operations while Josh Kroenke, son of team owner Stan Korenke, took over as president. Greg Sherman retained his job as the general manager, but he’ll have less authority when it comes to making personnel decisions and is essentially just a numbers guy for the team. And Joe Sacco is still gone.
All of these moves are steps in the right direction for the team. When a team has gone through such a miserable stretch in the past five years as the Avs had, things had to change. In life, things change by building from the ground up. In sports, you have to start at the top. The Avs started at the top, cleaning up their front office and bringing in smart hockey people with a passion for the sport. Sakic knows what it takes to win as a player, which will hopefully translate to him winning as a team vice president. Kroenke has been around money his whole life, and while he’s labeled by some as a spoiled rich kid, it also sounds like he’s the type of person who wants to leave a legacy for himself. He doesn’t want to be a failure and he wants to make money. Putting together a winning team accomplishes both.
Before Sakic took over, there were talks that the team would promote AHL coach Dean Chynoweth to take over the big club. What a mistake that would’ve been. Chynoweth coached the Lake Erie Monsters for one season and failed to make the playoffs. The last time the team promoted from the AHL, fans got stuck with four seasons of Joe Sacco. How did that turn out? Sakic quickly put those rumors to bed, stating that he wants a guy with NHL experience behind the bench. That right there told me that Sakic already knows what he’s doing.
Maybe Sakic lacks front office experience, but fans trust him, which is huge when trying to win back a fanbase that has disappeared over the years. As a player, Sakic never steered them wrong. He brought the city 2 Stanley Cups. He’s the best player in franchise history. He was the captain for his entire tenure. When he played, he was one of the most respected players in the league and will go down in history as one of the best to ever lace up skates. That kind of clout isn’t earned over night and is something that can’t be matched by other teams.
Joe Sakic isn’t going to fix everything before the start of next season. He’s been left with some bad trades and bad contracts that he’ll have to work around, but the pieces are there for him to build upon. To go along with this year’s number pick, which will no doubt be stud defenseman Seth Jones, the Avs have good young players like Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, and Ryan O’Reilly. The team also has a fair amount of cap room and, if they can find a GM dumb enough to take some bad contracts for under-performing players, some decent trade pieces.
At the end of every season, there’s always optimism leading into next year as long as proper changes are made. Even though this NHL season isn’t over, the Avs have made the proper changes in the front office. Now it’s time for those changes to trickle down to the team, starting with the right head coach, and continuing with a few roster changes. By the end of July, we’ll know whether or not Sakic and the new group have started to change the losing culture on the ice with who they hire, who they draft, who they sign, and who they trade.
When the Avalanche season ended on April 27th and the team finished last place in the western conference, it looked like things couldn’t get much worse.
Everything changed a day later when the team fired incompetent head coach Joe Sacco. Things improved 24 hours later when the team won the NHL draft lottery, guaranteeing them the #1 overall pick. Two weeks later, the new regime was announced.
It’s been tough since the glory days of Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Patrick Roy, Adam Foote, etc…, but things are finally looking up for Avalanche fans.