Sa­kic needs to fol­low Roy out the door

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - Mark Kiszla: mk­is­zla@den­ver­ or @markkis­zla

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.

MARK KISZLA Den­ver Post Colum­nist

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