Well, Joel, this is it. In the last few months, I've heard some people say that you are a Jack Adams candidate coach, and others who think you should be managing a Taco Bell somewhere in Idaho. Personally, like pretty much everything else in life I can have an opinion of, I fall somewhere in the middle. I continue to be amazed at how poorly you've handled your goaltenders (you make Mike Keenan look like a pussycat in that regard), and have to wonder exactly why you haven't been able to fix the powerplay (all while scratching my head at some of the insane "solutions" you've thrown at it). On the other hand, I recognize that you are great at getting the most out of players. That's why the people who are in your court are there: not for where you've taken this team, but for what you had to work with.
So, are you really a good coach? Or just a guy who can get some underachievers to achieve? We're about to find out.
A month ago, you were going to bat with guys like Jaroslav Hlinka centering our top line (apologies to Hlinka - he's a guy I like a lot) and players like Cody McLeod and Cody McCormick were being counted on to be offensive producers. All of a sudden, between trades, free agency and recovering from injuries, your roster has been bolstered with an enormous influx of talent. In the last couple of weeks, your rag-tag bunch has added Ryan Smyth, Joe Sakic, Paul Stastny, Peter Forsberg, Adam Foote and Ruslan Salei. You don't have to get 3rd and 4th liners to score goals any more - you've now got one of the best rosters in the NHL.
Even if Forsberg isn't effective (and let's be honest - until we see him on the ice, that signing looks better for the team's ticket sales team than anything else), you've got a stable of forwards as deep in offensive talent as any team. You've just added 3 (hopefully 4) superstars while our division rivals have added...um...Mike Pettinger and Chris Simon. You have a bit of a reputation that while you're squeezing production out of your 2nd tier players, your star players tend to under perform. I don't buy this myself, but there's no question we're going to see for ourselves; this team is now loaded with talent. With the moves we made today, we're better than we were at the start of the season - when must of us pegged the team for a deep playoff run.
So, you've got 19 games and no excuses. We sit 4 points out of the final playoff spot, but just 6 points out of the top team in the division (a team we face tonight). Several of the teams we're facing in the division and the conference made no move to improve their team today. We, of course, have re-loaded both barrels and have spent some healthy capital to give you the tools. You have a vastly improved defense, a starting goalie (not the one I would choose, but that's not my call to make) and an offense that should once again strike fear into the heart of our opponents (and asses into the Pepsi Center seats). We didn't get an upgrade for the point on our powerplay, so you're just going to have to figure that one out on your own. I think Liles will settle down now that the trade rumors are over, but that's just me.
Your legacy in Colorado has yet to be written. These final 19 games are going to go a long way to settling that legacy for you. Are you going to be remembered as the guy who won a few games with a lousy roster? Or will you be the guy who vaulted his team into the playoffs with a great one? It's all on you.