Yesterday couldn't have started off worse for Colorado Avalanche Nation. After riding high for a couple of days with the return of Peter Forsberg, even two back-to-back losses had people excited because of Forsberg's play. Then came the abrupt word that Peter Forsberg would be retiring from the game of hockey for good.
The emotional press conference, at which everyone involved in Forsberg's latest and final attempt at a comeback was obviously disappointed, couldn't have been a more appropriate omen for the game that was to be played later that night.
"Glad to see that Forsberg's announcement didn't affect the Avs effort," tweeted Adrian Dater in the middle of a 9-1 shellacking the Avalanche received at the hands of the Calgary Flames on Valentine's Day evening.
Whether or not Forsberg's announcement had anything to do with the clear lack of preparation and intensity from the team masquerading as the Colorado Avalanche last night, one thing is absolutely clear about this Avalanche team: something needs to change.
So what do they do? The Avs could become sellers in the trade market as the trade deadline approaches. It is possible they might unload some folks in hopes of getting more draft picks in the upcoming entry draft. At this point, making a trade to try and make a playoff push is not only wishful thinking, it's just downright unrealistic.
What do the Avs do to solve their losing ways?
Something that might benefit the team on a more immediate level is a coaching change.
I've been slow to jump on the "fire Sacco" bandwagon, but after last night's debacle, somebody really needs to be held accountable. Mark Rycroft put it really well on the Avalanche Post-Game Show last night: "How many times have we heard this in the past two months? 'We didn't start the game on time'....it's just unacceptable."
He absolutely hit the nail right on the head.
This has been a huge problem for the Avs ever since Flash went out with his blood clots. The Avs just have not been able to come out of the gates with any type of intensity.
They glide around, dig themselves a two or three goal hole, and then really come on in the last five minutes of the game when it's already too late to fix. Last night, not only did the Avs not start the game on time, they never bothered even showing up to the arena.
Now, obviously you have to hold the players accountable for not competing at the same level that a pee-wee league team does, but when that is your team's trademark for the better part of the last two months of the season, then you have to look at the coach. This type of consistent staggering out of the gate points directly to a lack of preparation from the coaching staff.
Joe Sacco is all about holding his players accountable and sending messages to them, well somebody really needs to send him a message right now.
Don't get me wrong, by and large I like Joe Sacco as a coach. I like the fast paced style of play he brings, and I like that he holds his players accountable for their poor play, with the exception of Matt Hunwick. But whatever messages he's sent to the team right now is either just not working or falling on deaf ears. This team is playing like a team who doesn't have any respect for their coach.
Do I think that a coaching change will light the necessary fire under the Avs to make the playoffs? No. Not even a little bit. But it might send a message to the rest of the team and begin to stir things up. It might even provide a type of relief for a team that is clearly squeezing their sticks way too hard right now.
In the end, the point here is that you can only bench players for so long before it becomes clear that the problem is something deeper than personnel. I'm very grateful to Joe Sacco for starting this rebuilding process in the right direction, but something has happened on that road map that has the team way off course right now. And when your driver gets you that far off track, then you need to find somebody else to man the wheel.