Colorado Avalanche Head Coach Joe Sacco: 'Enough Is Enough' on Poor Officiating

Joey Suyeishi@avrilancheCorrespondent IIMarch 22, 2012

DENVER, CO - MARCH 20:  Ryan O'Reilly #37 of the Colorado Avalanche takes a shot against Mark Giordano #5 of the Calgary Flames at Pepsi Center on March 20, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Flames 2-1 in overtime.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Those were the postgame comments of Colorado Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco after his team defeated the Calgary Flames and snapped the Avs' nine-game losing streak to the Flames. Although it would be fitting, Sacco's comments were not in reference to the Avs' skid vs. the Flames.

The reason why Sacco was upset despite his team's thrilling overtime victory in a huge game against a division rival who is right on the Avs' tail in the standings is because of how the officiating has clearly not gone the Avs' way of late.

The Flames were awarded with three power plays on the night, while the Avalanche had zero. The too many men on the ice call was an easy one, but Mark Olver's slashing call and Steve Downie's tripping call were questionable at best.

Perhaps Olver clearly appeared to slash Curtis Glencross. OK, that one is forgiven. Steve Downie's call came when he was on a forecheck and Matt Stajan went down to the ice very easily. No diving call.  As he was headed to the box, Downie expressed his frustration toward the referees with what was most likely R-rated language.

The most egregious moment of the night came with just over three minutes left in the third period, when Ryan O'Reilly rang a shot off the crossbar and was further rewarded with a Mark Giordano stick in the face, which broke O'Reilly's nose and left a massive pool of blood on the ice.

There was plenty of time for the two referees and linesmen to consult about the call when O'Reilly's blood was being scraped off the ice, but no penalty resulted.

The official rulebook on defines high-sticking, which shall result in a double-minor penalty as:

DENVER, CO - MARCH 20:  Head coach Joe Sacco of the Colorado Avalanche leads his team during a timeout against the Calgary Flames at Pepsi Center on March 20, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Flames 2-1 in overtime.  (Photo by Doug Pen
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

60.3 Double-minor Penalty - When a player carries or holds any part of his stick above the shoulders of the opponent so that injury results, the Referee shall assess a double-minor penalty for all contact that causes an injury, whether accidental or careless, in the opinion of the Referee.

O'Reilly, who was back on the ice and will not even put on a visor tomorrow night due to his broken nose, said he was upset at himself for hitting the crossbar and not scoring more than the non-call on the play.

Had the Avs been awarded the four-minute power play, they would have had an excellent opportunity to defeat the Flames in regulation and send them home without a point.

David Jones eventually beat Miikka Kiprusoff in overtime to earn the Avs the coveted second point. I would be remiss if I did not mention Semyon Varlamov's stellar play as well, as he stopped 31 of 32 shots, including two breakaways by Calgary captain Jarome Iginla. Varly was named the game's first star.

Over the previous 10 seasons combined, the Avalanche failed to get a power play in only one game. Last night was the sixth time this season the Avs were not awarded with a power play. No other team in the league has more than three.

The Avs have the fewest power-play minutes in the league and the fewest number of power-play opportunities. 

Joe Sacco was not pleased with the officiating and said that he's "baffled" by the lack of calls going the Avs' way.

A wry Paul Stastny mused, "I don't know if it's just we're playing some good, disciplined teams."

PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 18: Referee Paul Devorski #10 skates during the game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on February 18, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Image
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The NBA is notorious for giving its star players preferential calls. Players like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James can get calls to go their way. The NFL has even amended its rules to protect quarterbacks, more often than not, the marquee players of the NFL.

So is the NHL falling into the same trend? The Colorado Avalanche do not have any superstar players at the moment. Guys like Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and O'Reilly may all certainly reach that point, but are not yet there at the moment.

Pittsburgh Penguins superstar and the arguable face of the NHL, Sidney Crosby, missed over a year with concussion and neck issues, and you can bet the league holds its collective breath whenever he takes a hit. Would the Avs have so few power-play opportunities if Crosby skated for the Burgundy and Blue? I highly doubt it.

The old adage is that hard work draws penalties. So are the Avs not a hardworking team? Seems unlikely considering their record of late and their ability to win games like the one last week in Buffalo and the fact that the Avs have won seven of their last nine games and five of those games have gone at least into overtime. You do not have that kind of success and win those kinds of games without hard work.

So what's the answer? Honestly, I don't know. Coach Joe Sacco is "baffled" by it. Avalanche reporters and analysts like Adrian Dater, Marc Moser and Mark Rycroft do not have the answer.

I don't think the "superstar league" factor is the entire reason, but it certainly could play a part. I don't think it has to do with the Avs' lack of hard work and it's not like the Avs are the goons of the NHL, taking many, many blatant penalties one-sidedly, but it's sure getting called like that!


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