Sakic needs to follow Roy out the door
So when does Joe Sakic quit? He loves the Avalanche too much to let this go on. The worst team in the NHL suffered a complete meltdown Thursday night, losing 6-0 to Toronto.
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t frustrating right now,” said Gabe Landeskog, captain of the NHL’s worst team. “It’s probably as frustrating as it’s ever been.”
The Avs are an abomination. The low point in the team’s history? You’re looking at it.
Firing the coach isn’t the answer. Jared Bednar is the poor guy stuck on the Colorado bench, watching players whose spirit has been broken. Trading Matt Duchene isn’t the answer. It’s not his fault the Avalanche’s offense leads the league only in ineptitude.
The problem is too big to ignore, and the stink starts at the top. This is a poorly constructed hockey team, a roster that cannot win.
Josh Kroenke tried to re-create the Avalanche’s glory years by bringing back two superstars, with Sakic in the front office and Patrick Roy as coach. Hey, it was worth a shot. I endorsed the idea.
But it’s not working. The grand plan began falling apart late last winter, when Roy told me he thought it was essential the Avs make the playoffs, while Kroenke preached patience.
When Roy abruptly walked off the job last summer, the alarms should have gone off. The core of Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Semyon Varlamov and Duchene is not as good as advertised.
Yes, the NHL is about speed. But Colorado tries to glide through a tough league. The Avs are soft on their skates. God bless the fight in Cody McLeod, but this is a team that otherwise lacks a real competitive edge. When defenseman Erik Johnson broke his leg in early December, the issues on the blue line that have been ignored for too long exploded in Sakic’s lap.
What a mess. How in the world does Colorado lose a game 10-1 in Montreal? But it gets worse: On home ice, how does the Avalanche trail 3-0 after one period to last-place Toronto, especially when the Leafs offered a 5-on-3 advantage for close to a minute?
All Avalanche season-ticket holders want for Christmas is their money back. This is a proud franchise that twice won the Stanley Cup. But now? The only cup within reach at the Pepsi Center holds the beer that fans cry in.
Could the Avs bring Roy back just to play goalie? For just one game? Would he do it for $100,000? It’s a stunt that might fill the Pepsi Center, which most nights feels as if Denver is trying to ignore its hockey problem.
Sure, Roy is 51 years old. But he might be more reliable than that box of chocolates that is Semyon Varlamov, whose pendulum swings wildly between Rock of Gilbraltar solid and Charmin squeezably soft. You never know what you’re going to get with Varly. But maybe we should not blame him for being squirrelly, after the shell shock he has endured with the porous defense in front of him.
Even more shocking: The Avs have been shut out seven times.
“We have no chemistry,” MacKinnon said.
The pieces don’t fit. If it’s time to blow up the roster, is Sakic really the guy you want putting it back together?
Sakic was named the executive vice president of hockey operations in May 2013. And that first year, when Colorado won the Central Division with 112 points, felt like a miracle. Now it seems like an aberration. The Avs slipped to 90 points during the 2014-15 campaign and 82 points last season. Notice a pattern?
On a night when MacKinnon wondered aloud if the Avs belonged in the NHL, somebody who truly loves this hockey franchise asked me: How much will the Hall of Fame reputation of Sakic be tarnished by the mess he has made in Colorado as a front-office executive?
He will forever be Super Joe as a player, at least in my mind. Nothing can erase the fond memories of Sakic raising the Cup on the steps on the City and County Building or handing it to Ray Bourque. Those snapshots from the good times will never fade.
The Avs, however, are in need of a major overhaul. Watching a hopeless team whose record has dropped to 11-20-1, Sakic has become the ghost of greatness past.
At the end of this sad season, Sakic needs to resign and move on, so Colorado can again move forward.