As I write this piece, the Colorado Avalanche sit in last place in the Western Conference, with an embarrassing 26 points. They are only two points ahead of the Florida Panthers in the race for the bottom in the NHL, a position that is completely unacceptable for this team.
At the beginning of the season, hopes were high for this team. The Avalanche had made some smart acquisitions during the off-season, not including Greg Zanon, and it wasn’t out of this world to think that the Avalanche would have a strong change to make a run for the playoffs this year.
Fast forward to today and there is little that you can do but shake your head and just look forward. If things continue as they have for the Avalanche, and there is little reason to assume that any type of change is on the horizon, the Avalanche will have missed the playoffs for the third straight season, and three out of the four years of Joe Sacco’s “Reign of Terror.”
If things stay as bad as they are now, it will be the second time in the last three years that the Avalanche will have a lottery pick. Long story short, if things continue to go this direction, there is no reason that Joe Sacco should keep his job. So what is the future behind the bend of the Colorado Avalanche?
Stay the Course
Probably the least likely of all the options, but Joe Sacco does still have one year left on his current contract. There’s a possibility that the Avalanche could see it through to the bitter, cold, horrifically terrifying end. Though if that does happen, Avalanche fans will revolt. The fan base is already calling for his head on a platter, and the #FireSacco movement only continues to show up more as the Avalanche keep losing.
Keep in the System
This is a movement that the Avalanche love to make and how they generally operate. They like to stay within their system for coaching. The farthest out the Avalanche ever went was when they hired Joel Quenneville after he left St. Louis, but even that wasn’t that far out because Quenneville served as an assistant coach for the Avalanche under Marc Crawford.
David Quinn, who was brought in after last season was the odds on favorite to replace Joe Sacco behind the bench should things continue downwards, but with his recent acceptance of the Boston University job, this is no longer a possibility.
So, the Avalanche would then have to look one of two places. Tim Army, the other current assistant coach for the Avalanche, who does have a coaching pedigree, but not a recent one. Army came to the Avalanche bench after being the video coach for the team, so he is probably not the best option. Leaving Dean Chynoweth, the current head coach of Colorado’s AHL affiliate (Lake Erie Monsters), the only other system option left. This was his first season as Monsters head coach.
For what it’s worth, the Monsters are currently 28-28-3-7 on the season.
Before Joe Sacco ever took the helm in Colorado, Patrick Roy was offered the job, but turned it down. He was coaching in the QMJHL at the time, coaching his sons and enjoying being with his family.
Roy’s name has come up for head coaching vacancies since then, most recently with the Montreal Canadiens, but nothing ever came of that. Might this be the year?
Roy would be a gamble, but he has had success as a coach in major junior. With the youth on this team, it might be a good thing to let Roy take the reigns. We already know how ultra-competitive Roy is, so you can bet that he wouldn’t be the type of coach to let the Avalanche get away with the types of lazy efforts they have a tendency to phone in.
Of course, when you hire a coach, you do have to look forward to the day he is to be let go, with very rare exceptions to that rule. Would the Avalanche want to risk firing Roy in the future and tarnishing his spotless legacy with the Avalanche? It could be worth the risk. If nothing else, wouldn’t be any worse than things are right now.
After spending 16 years with the Buffalo Sabres, Lindy Ruff was fired early into this lockout-shortened season. It would be a shock if the Avalanche went outside the system, but they could do worse than Ruff.
In his 16 years, the Sabres were in the playoffs eight years, saw the Conference Finals four times and also played for the Stanley Cup. His all-time record of 571-432-162 made him the winningest coach in franchise history.
He’s an option that has a very solid resume, but would he be a long-haul kind of solution? Probably not. Let’s not forget that there has been a lot of talent on the Sabres the last couple of years, and they had been known to fall short of their potential as a team.
The most recent coach to be fired this season was Tampa Bay’s former coach, Guy Boucher. Boucher had not spent a long time behind the bench in Tampa Bay, but did make an impact early on as he took the Lightning to the Eastern Conference Finals in his first year as the team’s coach.
Boucher is known for his 1-3-1 super defensive system that caused the Philadelphia Flyers to stop playing at one point. He also has a very fiery personality and has been known to be very animated behind the bench.
Boucher would be a drastic change from the likes of Joe Sacco, both from a coaching standpoint and an emotional standpoint, but it’s possible that his fiery demeanor would have better results at motivating an Avalanche team that is occasionally sluggish. Nobody every accuses Guy Boucher of not being involved in the game in front of him.
It’s hard to say which of these coaches would be the best option for the Avalanche, but one thing is definitely certain. It’s hard to imagine that any of these guys would be any worse than what Avalanche fans are getting out of Joe Sacco.
I’m a Denver native who has been a fan of the Avalanche since they came to town and a fan of the game before that. I started writing my own blog a couple years ago before moving to Bleacher Report and becoming a Featured Columnist there. You can also find me the Burgundy Brigade Podcast