Here we are, on the cusp on the 2009-2010 NHL season starting, and hockey talk here in Denver is deafeningly silent.
That's strange for this town. Especially considering there's a team here in the Mile High City that's won 2 Stanley Cups and had some of the greatest players to grace the NHL ice on it's roster at some point, Bourque, Forsberg and of course, the real #19, Joe Sakic.
This team has history, this team has firmly established winning ways and it's steeped in NHL and Colorado sports lore. However, now one seems to care anymore.
Why you ask?
Well, look no further than Pierre Lacroix and his group of "yes" men, otherwise known as "The French Canadian Click". THEY are the reason that Avalanche Hockey in Denver is now an afterthought after so many years of dominance, and THEY are the reason the future has never looked this gloom for Burgundy and Blue.
We're now 8 long years removed from the last Stanley Cup the Colorado Avalanche won, and the Avs are further than they've ever been away from getting another one. Just 6 months ago, the Avalanche were winding down what was the worst single season in the short, but storied, history of the Avalanche. Tony Granato was at the helm, and all Avs fans could do was pray that the end would come quick.
Rewind to the end of the 2007-08 season. The Avalanche, or should I say Pierre Lacroix, decided to go a different direction. And, after the firing of Joel Quenneville, there was skepticism, because they had just gotten to the second round of the playoffs, but there was also hope. Hope for something better. The fans were excited and eager for change. There were reasons to believe that the Avalanche would hire someone to come in and rebuild, remold and rework that team. Someone that would make the right changes in the spirit of immediate success and future improvement.
However, the Avalanche threw everyone a curve ball, promoting a guy that was already demoted once (in favor of Quenneville), and nearly fired, in Tony Granato. The fan reaction was not what the Avs had hoped for, and the discontent was evident everywhere you went. People were upset, people felt betrayed and people were mad.
All the talk from the Avalanche, prior to Granato's re-hiring, was that they were going to screen and interview every candidate possible to find the right fit. Well, that didn't happen, not even close. do you know how many candidates the Avs seriously interviewed? You guessed it....0. And, there were some solid candidates available, guys like Todd McLellan, Pat Burns and Kevin Dineen. And that's when people started to seriously doubt Pierre Lacroix and the rest of Avs management.
Sure, there were purists and real hockey fans that looked at some of the contracts Lacroix signed and some of the deals he made, which sent loads of young talent away for veterans and has-beens and had doubts a long time before the Granato situation. But, the casual fan, the guy at the barstool, took notice once Granato was re-hired.
Now, fast forward from the end of the 07-08 season to the end of the 08-09 season. Low and behold, the Avs were right back in the same situation after a failed second go round for Tony Granato. This time the promise was the same, the Avs would interview everyone they could to fill the vacant role and make the right decision, and guess what? For the second time, it DIDN'T happen.
The Colorado Avalanche, or Pierre Lacroix, settled rather quickly (after being turned down by Patrick Roy) on Lake Erie Monsters coach, Joe Sacco. The same Joe Sacco that finished 15th of 15 in his division in 07-08 and next to last in the league, and 14th of 15 in his division in 08-09 and third to last in the AHL.
Those are numbers that should scare Avalanche fans, especially considering there were coaching candidates like Peter Laviolette (who's won a cup) and Craig McTavish among others that had real NHL experience at the highest level. Guys who would be respected, and who would carry much more clout than Sacco.
Now, I'm not in the Avs' locker room, but I have played sports at a high level, and I can tell you, when there's doubt about the abilities of your coach, it hampers your team. Perhaps Sacco is well respected for his 13 years as a player in the NHL, but, as a coach, he has no leg to stand on. His previous record at a lower level would be enough to scare me if I were a player.
In addition to hiring Sacco, they settled on former bean counter and retail sales director, Greg Sherman as the General Manager. A position that was vacated with the firing of Francois Giguere.
The issue there, as many have pointed out, from ESPN to TSN to Spector is that this guy has no real "hockey" sense. He's not an evaluator of talent, nor is he a negotiator, and many believe that handicaps the Avalanche greatly. There were some real candidates out there that could have been hired and at the very least, should have been looked at seriously. Guys like Jay Feaster, John Ferguson Jr., David McNab and Chuck Fletcher, all of whom are true "Hockey Guys".
But, the Avs elected to again stay in house on these hires, and they shorted the fans and their team a chance to make a good hire that made sense and could lead to change.
Pierre Lacroix and the "good ol' boys" network of people he has over on Chopper Drive at the Pepsi Center, are robbing the fans of good hockey. They're haven't done their due diligence in regard to hiring and screening candidates the last 2 times they made a hire. And really, why promote change, if all your doing is following the same model that's failed epically before?
Then comes the topic of player personnel decisions. This last off season, they traded away their leading scorer from a year ago in Ryan Smyth, and got NOTHING of reciprocal value in return. Kyle Quincey looks like a good young D man, but, the Avs strength in the minors is their D. With guys like Williams, Macias and Shattenkirk, they didn't need Quincey. And, they certainly didn't need overrated, overpaid and injury prone D-man Tom Preissing either.
I could go on all day there, but I'll spare you the facts of the Robyn Regehr, Chris Drury, Ryan Smyth and Stefan Yelle trades. And we'll certainly not look at the Darcy Tucker, Andrew Raycroft or any other pointless signing details either. Those are painful memories.....
The end all say all here is this:
Lacroix's model is that of a pre-lockout team, and that model is ancient in today's NHL and something must change sooner than later. Pierre Lacroix has been handicapping the Avs for far too long and it's time that Mr. Kroenke steps in and makes some changes. The bad trades, the worse contracts the draft misses of late, the poor coaching hires and the buddy-buddy network are too much.
It's time for a real change at the Pepsi Center, and it has to start from the top. The fans are being robbed of having a good hockey team. Lacroix must go, and he has to take the FCC with him.