Colorado Avalanche: Coach Joe Sacco on the Hot Seat?

James CriderCorrespondent IFebruary 9, 2011

DENVER - DECEMBER 23:  Assistant coach Steve Konowalchuk (L) reacts as head coach Joe Sacco (R) of the Colorado Avalanche turns away from the action against the Minnesota Wild at the Pepsi Center on December 23, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The Wild defeated the Avalanche 3-1.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

It's been less than two years since the Colorado Avalanche filled its vacant coaching position and mere months since a club captured a surprise berth in the Western Conference playoffs.

Yet it may be time for coaching change.

Right now, coach Joe Sacco isn't getting it done.

In the midst of a four-game losing streak, which includes losing six of their past seven games, Avalanche management may have to look deeper than the players on the ice to figure out why the team is in the funk they're in.

The Avalanche may be getting beaten, but what's more alarming is the way they're getting beaten.

It's one thing for one of the youngest teams in the NHL to have bouts of inconsistency, but there's a difference between losing games because the roster isn't quite there yet and losing games by getting absolutely embarrassed in all areas by the opponent.

Lately, it's been the latter.

Over the Avalanche's last eight games, the club has been outscored 26-12 by opponents. If that wasn't bad enough, seven of the Avalanche's 12 goals came late in the third period, usually when the game was completely out of reach.

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For a team with two All-Star centers and an electrifying offense, the product on the ice has been simply unacceptable.

And as bad as goaltenders Craig Anderson and Peter Budaj have been, and as putrid as the defense in front of them has been, there's no goaltender or defenseman in the league who can come in and simply turn the Avalanche around.

It has to come from behind the bench.

Right now, Sacco's players aren't responding to whatever it is that he's doing to motivate them. He has a tough job trying to succeed with one of the youngest rosters in the NHL, but there's no excuse for the Avalanche's current play.

To be a successful coach in the NHL, one must develop on ice systems by which the team can thrive. In the Sacco coaching era, the Avalanche have mostly played run-and-gun, "live by the sword, die by the sword" hockey.

While it's true they've been successful doing things in the offensive zone, the team simply does not play a system defensivelyunless chasing the puck around and usually getting scored on counts as a system.

One cannot help but compare the Avalanche's 5-9-1 record since the beginning of January to the club's mediocre 20-17-2 record between January and April a season ago.

Last season, the Avalanche's second-half fall from grace was due to Craig Anderson's inability to continue his Superman act between the pipes. This season, it's been the team's inability to keep up it's torrid offensive pace, which made up for big shortcomings by the rest of the team.

And that about sums up Sacco's coaching abilities: His teams are only as good as the talent he's been given. Any time the Avalanche haven't gotten out-of-this-world individual performances from their top scorers or goaltender, the team can barely scrape by.

A season and a half into his NHL coaching career, it's easy to see why Sacco amassed a 60-79-21 record in the AHL. 

It's even easier to see that he won't take the Avalanche very far.


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