The 2011-2012 season was one of inconsistency, confusion and frustration. That’s grounds for a coaching change, right?
It's fair to question if the inconsistency falls on Joe Sacco, however, the other side of that coin is you can also chalk it up to youth on the roster.
My biggest concern when it comes to the inconsistent play of the Avalanche is their record against Northwest Division opponents under Sacco. The burgundy and white went 8-14-1 this season within their division. Records of 0-4-2 against Vancouver and 2-4 against Calgary raise concern.
Having said that, it was the right move to bring Sacco back for next season.
Avalanche fans are quick to forget that Joe Sacco had a hand in one of the greatest single-season turnarounds in the NHL since 2000. Go back to 2009-2010, Sacco's first season as head coach of the Avs. Sacco coached the Avalanche to the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs posting a record of 43–30–9. They finished 26 points better than the previous season. Not bad for a rookie coach.
Next season will be Joe Sacco's fourth as head coach of the Avalanche. Prior to his experience in the NHL, Sacco only had two years under his belt as a coach in the AHL. He wasn't praised for his team's win-loss record, in fact, he finished his short AHL coaching career with a 60-79 record. The buzz that surrounded Sacco's potential as a coach in the NHL was all about how he developed young players. The Avs and Sacco are the perfect fit in that regard.
If Joe Sacco is to be successful with the organization, ownership (Kroenke Sports Enterprises) needs to bring in a star caliber free agent this offseason.
Only the New York Islanders have a lower payroll than the Avalanche. This is of course from the model of build within with young talent. The Avs also are roughly $15 million under the cap, so they do have the room to spend on a star player.
Zach Parise is exactly who the Avalanche need. Parise will be available when free agency begins July 1, and in order to validate the return of Joe Sacco, Stan and Josh Kroenke need to open up the check book for Parise.
Parise has scored 30 goals in each of the past five seasons when he was healthy. The Avalanche haven't had a 30 goal scorer since the 2006-2007 season, when Milan Hejduk and Joe Sakic both had over 30.
The Avalanche would have to spend around $6 million annually on a deal for Parise. When you consider that Paul Stastny is making $6.6 million annually for production that is no where near what was expected of him when he received his extension, you can see it would be a great investment.
Paul Stastny has failed to produce 60 points in the past two seasons. If that is the most Stastny can provide, it's simply not enough.
Keep in mind that the $15 million available also will be used to re-sign Ryan O’Reilly, Erik Johnson, Matt Duchene, and Steve Downie to name a few.
The bottom line is Joe Sacco is a young coach who is still learning. He needs help from ownership to bring in more talent that can help him succeed.
The perfect mix is young players with veterans who know how to win. Even Sacco could learn from veteran leadership.