Coach Joe Sacco and staff:
Joe Sacco accomplished something amazing this season: he took a team that finished in last place and coached them into the playoffs in his rookie year. Yes he had a very different team from last year, but that his success this season really is astounding. He seems to have a particular talent for getting young players to play well and recognizing when lines needed to be kept together despite not scoring much and when to break them apart. The best thing about Sacco, though, was his willingness to trust rookies in important situations time and time again. On the con side of things, my only serious problem through the season was the goaltender situation. Craig Anderson was played too much even though Peter Budaj was an excellent backup. There is no doubt that cause some of the Avs problems down the stretch. I also got pretty sick of him scratching John-Michael Liles but when Liles was great during the last few games and the playoffs, credit to Sacco for playing him. Still though, the Wheel of D issue did get a little frustrating. Still though, despite various issues on special teams and problems holding on to leads, Sacco had a game plan and a team identity that he wanted to create and that was very refreshing to see.
Paul's Take: Another first year success story for the Avalanche
is the execution by the novice coaching staff. Sacco & Co. moved into their new jobs with a very clear and powerful direction. They set out to create and identity and style of play - and they did it from day one. Sacco is in the final running for the NHL's Jack Adams award as best coach, and he has earned that nomination. The only blights on the coaching staff in my opinion is the mishandling of the bloated defense corps, the head-scratching reasoning behind the arbitrary scratching of players, and the abuse of Craig Anderson. Andy was great in the playoffs, but he looked miserable and tired (mentally and physically) down the stretch after the Olympic break. I'm hopeful Sacco will use his superstar a little more judiciously in 10-11. Still, mission accomplished fellas. Great job!
Greg Sherman and staff:
Drafted Matt Duchene
Drafted Ryan O'Reilly
Signed Craig Anderson
SIgned David Koci
Acquired Stephane Yelle
So drafted Duchene, O'Reilly and signed Anderson. Those were, uh, some pretty good moves. Fantastic in fact. The scouts for the Avs are some of the very best in the league. The Avs right now are largely a homegrown team, especially up front, and that bodes very well for the future. After the Raycroft/Budaj debacle is was important to find a goalie that could give this team some confidence and Sherman did that by giving a career backup with some great numbers a chance to be a starter. Anderson was probably the best free agent signing for any team this summer. I think we'd all like to forget that Koci was ever on this team but its not like he took up a lot of cap space. And to the trades. I'm gonna say, straight up, that both of these trades infuriated me at first but both worked out in the end. The Quincey trade certainly looked good through half the season but during the second half a player like Smyth would have been very, very useful and Quincey started playing like shit. But on the other hand, this team is not in win mode, it is in rebuilding mode and Quincey is a young defenseman with a lot of potential. But on the other hand, the Avs have a lot of good young defensive prospects in their system. All and all, a call it a wash. Mueller and Porter for Wolski was also tough to swallow at first, then Mueller started scoring like crazy. Wolski was also very good for the 'Yotes though. Honestly, talent for talent, I think this trade is pretty even. But Wolski (from what I hear) was not especially getting along with Sacco and locker room cancer like that needs to be nipped in the bud. I like Wolski a lot but the Avs definitely benefited from this trade. Getting Yelle back was also a great move. The cons for the Avs this season were not the moves they did make but the moves that they did not. The Avs had players like Svatos, Clark and Salei with trade value who are now going to leave the team with no benefit to the Avs. Maybe they couldn't find anybody who wanted them but that, to me, was the only major failing of the Avs front office this season. Excellent season for them and hopefully this summer will continue the streak of solid moves.
Paul's Take: Yes Greg Sherman is a first year GM and a former number cruncher, but his performance for the Avs this season should be categorized a resounding success - no matter how you spin it. Starting with the crafty drafting of two amazing 18 year-olds in Matt Duchene
and Ryan O'Reilly, and ending with the deadline acquisition of Yelle and the insightful "gamble" on Mueller, Sherman's moves are decisive, informed and not meaningless. More important than those smart acquisitions though is the fact that he didn't give up anything in the exchange. I miss WW, but the trade was very business-minded and astute on Sherman's part. He gets the "minus" because of the non-handling of the 8 defenseman situation. The Avalanche boasted 3 D-men (Clark, Salei, Foote) in the final years of their contracts, and two of those dudes look to get cut loose when their contracts expire (Foote excluded from the conversation of course). Sherman wasn't able to unload the "fat", and that was a definite missed opportunity. In his defense, those were really difficult players to move, with inflated salaries, and little performance to entice any buyers. Still, he could have done something, couldn't he? And the Avs painfully need some top talent on the wings. Maybe there are plans to address that issue in the near future, but it wasn't taken care of this season