Reality Check for Joe Sacco: the Checking Line Ain't Working Anymore

James CriderCorrespondent IJanuary 30, 2010

BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 09: Darcy Tucker #16 of the Colorado Avalanche has his shot blocked by Clarke McArthur #41 of the Buffalo Sabres as Cody McLeod #55 of the Avalanche looks on  at HSBC Arena on January 9, 2010 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Insanity: repeating the same actions and expecting a different result.

That's Avalanche coach Joe Sacco's motto when it comes to the Avalanche's checking line, which features Ryan O'Reilly at center, with Cody McLeod and Darcy Tucker on the wings.

The trio has been together for the majority of the season, and fans are left wondering why.

Each player started out the season on a different line, and all three were scoring on those lines; O'Reilly had nine points in the first 13 games of the season, Tucker had six points the first nine games of the season, and McLeod had five points the first nine games of the season.

Since being united, no one is scoring.

McLeod has one goal in his last 32 games, Tucker has one goal in his last 36 games, and O'Reilly has one point—a goal—in his last 29 games. That's three goals from an entire line for over half of the season.

Granted, checking lines aren't exactly known for lighting the lamp, but the offensive production from this line is farcical.

The defensive abilities of the trio have been, at best, questionable. McLeod and Tucker are a combined -14, and O'Reilly has been wretched in the face-off circle, winning only 46 percent of the draws he's taken.

Sacco's hands have been tied somewhat thanks to an onslaught of injuries to the forward group he has available to him, but it's gotten to the point where any combination is better than the current combination.

An injury to left wing Ryan Stoa 19 seconds into his first (and only) shift against the Dallas Stars on Friday night won't help matters—especially when there were already seven defensemen in the lineup. But if Sacco was creative to enough to play defenseman John-Michael Liles at left wing in the 3-2 loss to the Stars—which failed miserably, by the way—I'm sure he'll think of something to jump start the lackluster O'Reilly line.

That is, if he even tries.