Avalanche Season Postmortem
Less than 24 hours after Colorado closed out a disappointing
2012/13 season with a 3-1 loss to Minnesota, Joe Sacco was ‘relieved of duty’ as the teams Head Coach. This comes as little surprise to a fan base which may have taken its hardest ‘kicking’ since the franchise arrived in Denver.
From the painful saga of Ryan O’Reilly’s contract extension to a cavalcade of defensive woes, the Avs faithful has had little to cheer about over the past 48 games, prompting many to call for major changes both on and off the ice.
Whilst the stunning victory over the Blackhawks, ending Chicago’s remarkable start to the season, was an undoubted highlight for the Avs, the fact that a single game stands as the one of the greatest positive this year speaks volumes.
Summer hopes of making the post season for only the second time in 5 years crashed in to a sea of mediocrity and injury troubles. In simple terms though, it’s been a horrible season.
Perhaps I am being harsh; there were some positives…
Matt Duchene started to play the way fans hoped he would when he was selected 3rd overall in 2009, and free agent signing PA Parenteau finished the season as the teams scoring leader with 18 goals and 43 points.
Tyson Barrie emerged as an NHL defenceman, and Semyon Varlamov started to show flashes that he could be the teams bona fide #1 – filling a hole the club has struggled to fill since Patrick Roy retired.
But both of those ‘paths’ were somewhat tainted by seasons end.
Barries was mysteriously demoted mid-season, to the chagrin of most. Whilst Sacco cited a dip in play, but most felt incensed Barrie was scratched whilst others continued to under perform. Varlamov came under the microscope towards seasons end as well; as a feeling that his head had gone down and that he’d somewhat given up on the team spread.
In many ways that sets a back drop to the teams struggles in their own end, which were frankly embarrassing at times and culminated in finishing bottom of the West.
But ultimately fluctuations in form will pale in comparison to the clear ‘highlight’ of the Avs season – JS Giguere’s ‘I don’t care about your Vegas trip’ rant.
It sparked the club in to some form of life, leading to an improved effort through the final run of games, but represented a sort of punch to the gut no one wanted; even if some people did suspect a few folks might have become a little too comfortable in the Avs plight.
Whilst it wasn’t an insinuations the players ‘liked’ losing, the old saying ‘winning is a habit – so is losing’ seemed apt at the time and Giguere’s outburst was the last thing an already frazzled fan base wanted to hear.
Perhaps the most difficult pill to swallow was the wall of silence from the front office however. Whilst Joe Sacco rarely shied away from his responsibilities in front of the media, even if people did not always agree with what he said, the front office rarely said anything at all. It’s long been a criticism of the club that it carries out too much in secret, with the team losing that style of management did little to ease frustrations.
I could go on, at great length, but it seems pointless in some respects – what’s done is done. Hopefully Sacco’s dismissal will draw a line under the whole messy affair.
Personally I’d like to see Greg Sherman removed as GM as well, perhaps even going as far as removing Pierre and Eric Lacroix as well, but the important thing is that the club finds it’s identity again and gets back on the right path. Not only to make a return to the post season, but to repair a somewhat fractured relationship with its fan base; where many question exactly how much care and attention the team really gets from its owners.
A third top 3 pick in the space of 5 drafts is guaranteed, with a 47% chance of the 1st overall pick. Portland blue liner Seth Jones is the object of most fans affections, which is self explanatory given the Avs defensive struggles, but the team stands to gain a franchise player one way or the other, with Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin also available in June.
The core is there. The chance to grab a top talent is there. But the franchise needs to wake up.
Note/Addition:- Vice President of Hockey Operations Eric Lacroix has also now parted company with the Avs – see The Denver Post