Is Joe Sacco on the hot seat? And, if so, what sort of season do the Avalanche need to have for Skipper Joe to be back behind the bench in 2012?
Unfortunately (for Sacco), many here seem to think that Sacco needs to make the playoffs - or at least be in the running.
Brett Shumway, Mile High Hockey: Playoffs or pink slip.
Mike @ MHH, Mile High Hockey: Yes. 10th or better in the West.
Matt Muzia, SBN Denver: I think hot seat is an unnecessarily strong term. Sacco won't likely get fired if the Avalanche start out of the gate poorly, but I can definitely see the team not retaining him after this season if they finish in the bottom 10 of the league once again.
Austin Snow, Avs Chill Zone: I have a hard time with Sacco sometimes... I still get that feeling like he is a minor league coach when I hear him or see him. I think the Avalanche need to make the playoffs for Sacco to be back. I know that's shooting high, but it happened two years ago, and we have a significantly improved team compared to that one, so it should be possible. Even if there are things out of Sacco's control like injuries, I feel like another down year will cause management to seek a new voice to change things up a bit.
Stephen Crociata, Mile High Sticking and SBNation New York: I do not believe Sacco is currently on the hot seat but if the Avs fall into the lottery once again I do not believe we will see Sacco in the 2012-13 season.
Derek Bell, Mile High Hockey: If he isn't on the hot seat this season, I would be very shocked. There are only so many lottery picks an ownership should tolerate before something has to be done. Whether or not it's ALL on the coach is another subject entirely. Unfortunately for Sacco though, the coach is generally the first one to feel the heat and I'd say it's at about a 6 right now. In my mind, if this team misses the playoffs again, he is gone.
Jaye Horbay, Mile High Sticking: Tough to say. We've seen throughout the league, coaches who should have been fired in the middle of the season but weren't, Bruce Boudreau, Corey Clouston, whoever coaches the Panthers these days. I'm not saying Sacco is in that mix, but it seems that, much like Boudreau and Caps GM George McPhee, Greg Sherman is putting all his eggs in the Joe Sacco basket and will keep filling it till he either sleeps with his wife or totally screws up. Not making the playoffs for consecutive seasons would count as a screw up. Playoffs or bust.
David from Slovakia, Eurolanche: I do not expect his departure before the end of the regular season. I guess that Pierre Lacroix has his plan and his man for the future behind the bench for the season 2012-2013. The 2nd round of the playoffs is the only thing which could "save" Sacco for the next seasons. Sacco will stay in Colorado at least to the end of his contract, no matter what will happen.
And more than a few think that Sacco could even be in danger before the end of the season.
Adrian Dater, Denver Post: Is the Pope Catholic? Yes he's on the hot seat. He's a "rookie" coach in his first contract, entering the third and final year of the deal and he's coming off a 29th-place finish. If the Avs get off to a bad start and it continues into, say, December, I'd say the odds would be strong he'd be replaced. Who would take his place? I would bet the odds as 80-20 it'd be Sylvain Lefebvre. That's just how the Avs work when it comes to coaches - promote from within.
I think Sacco is a good coach and I like him personally, so I'm hoping on something of a selfish level he succeeds. But I have no illusions that he'll be out if the team has anything close a start that resembles the final third of last year.
Sean Payton, Anyone But Detroit: He is. Honestly, I was very surprised Sacco was retained this offseason - I felt that keeping him on after the bottom fell out in February was a way for management to sort of tank it without actually tanking it. He is on a short leash - it would only take one bad month for Sacco to be cut loose.
Nic Zamora, Avaholics Anonymous: Sacco is definitely on the hot seat. His 1st year, we made the playoffs. 2nd year, we failed miserably and I believe this will be his year to show which Sacco is the real one. The Avs need to at least make the playoffs this season. Anything less than that and Sacco (and Sherman) should be canned. Honestly, if the Avs are out of contention by the time Christmas rolls around then I doubt we see him at any point in 2012.
David Driscoll-Carignan, Mile High Hockey: Although I think he's a good coach, Sacco is definitely on the hot seat. I don't think they'll retain him if the Avalanche don't make the playoffs this year. Actually, if things get off to a slow start, they may make a move midseason. Lucky for him, the Avs have had great starts both years under his tenure.
AJ Haefele, Mile High Hockey: I think he has to be a little bit but maybe not as much as some would like. There were an awful lot of circumstances that led to the team's collapse last season and it's always difficult to tell exactly where coaching falls into that. His up-tempo style has meshed well with the young, speedy lineups we've been icing the last two seasons but questions remain about whether or not he can ever coach a team with a competent defense that doesn't rely on lights-out play by the goalie. I think if the Avs show plenty of progress and are competitive until the end we'll see Sacco behind the bench again in 2012. A slow start could trigger a quick ascension to the Avalanche coaching throne by current Lake Erie bench boss David Quinn (hawhaw).
Cheryl Bradley, Mile High Hockey & Avalanche Breakaway: I don't consider Sacco's seat hot although I wouldn't want to sit on it bare-assed. Use whatever reasoning you like - pop psychology, stats, the Magic Eight Ball - and you'll come to an obvious conclusion: Sacco lost his locker room last season. He also didn't have an answer when teams found a way to stop the Avs' run-and-gun style. He's a young coach, however, and still has some learning to do, much like his team. The brass will be watching him, for sure. Still, I don't think they'll be pulling the plug at the first sign of trouble. If the team takes a nosedive like last season, it would not be a surprise to see a new coach behind the bench to finish out the year. However, I wouldn't expect it to happen before January.
Sandie Gauthier, Mile High Hockey: Yes and no. Off the bat no, but if the Avalanche can't win, or go on a horrid streak like they did last season, only at the beginning of the year instead of the end of the year, then he is going to be feeling the heat. The fact that the Avalanche have kept Sacco after last season proves that they see something in him that they like and that they want to keep, at least for now. I don't think we'll see Sakic behind the bench in '12, I think he wants to spend time with his family and won't want to be behind the bench just yet.
A couple of people pointed out that the Avalanche haven't always been super-patient with their coaches. And by "haven't always been", I actually mean "have never been"
Geoff Rosenthal, The Avs Factor: If Bob Hartley can be fired mere months after winning a Stanley Cup, then surely Joe Sacco is on the hot seat after a disastrous end to the 2010-11 campaign. It became apparent last season that players weren't responding to some of Sacco's techniques and philosophies, especially his love for putting players in the doghouse. I don't think the Avs need to get off to a super hot start for Sacco to stick around, but they do need to play with heart and a lot of energy for a full 60 minutes. If the coach can't get his players to do that, he shouldn't be behind the bench.
Ryan Boulding, The Avalanche Guild: Unless Joe Sacco can improve on last season - easy - and returns to or exceeds the play from 2009-10, he will be constantly looking over his shoulder. The club seriously got away from him last season and he made some very questionable coaching decisions. In fact, despite having coached more games than Tony Granato during his first two seasons, Sacco has one more win, 41 more losses and 12 less playoff games under his belt. Considered unfit for the job due to inexperience, Granato was yanked in favor of Joel Quenneville. He waited three years before getting another chance, so Sacco will need to produce to continue in Denver. A side-note here is that former coach Bob Hartley has the longest tenure in Colorado at four years, which isn't a long time, so we know the team isn't afraid to move one.
And, keep in mind, Sacco isn't exactly working with a stacked roster...
Mike Chambers, Denver Post: No. It's not Sacco's fault the Avs are so far under the cap. With significant improvement, Sacco will be re-signed.
Mike Verminski, Put It On Ice: If the team is "rebuilding" as they claim to be then Sacco should not be on the hot seat. A team isn't expected to dominate during rebuilding years. The Avs got lucky in 2008-09 which created high expectations for last season and even this season. The team is young and I don't think Sacco is on the hot seat since they are rebuilding.
Andi D, Mile High Hockey: I think Sacco will be given the entire season - the remainder of his contract - on the bench. He was a Jack Adams finalist his first year and dealt with the hockey equivalent of the perfect storm the second, so this year will be used to prove one of them a fluke. I like Sacco, as do many of the players. He's truly a players' coach - he played in the NHL himself and can clearly relate to the guys, and he has an innate knack for motivating and bringing out their best play. It's not his player relations that are the issue, however. It's his on-ice strategies that sometimes leave some to be desired. But he's a young coach, surrounded by other young coaches. He's trying to invent the wheel here because he has no one to show him how it's done. It might be painful now, but learning takes time. To judge Sacco (who is in his 2nd year as an NHL coach) with higher expectations than we are laying on Duchene (a 2nd year player) is unrealistic. I believe Sacco has the smarts to become a great coach in time. It looks like the front office agrees and still has confidence in him - if they were going to make a premature coaching change, they would have made it already based on the results last year. I think the Avs just have to have a decent season - meaning they're at least a bubble team (which should be pretty easy if everyone is healthy) - for Sacco's contract to be renewed. Are there better coaches from a strategy standpoint out there? Probably. But without the complete trust and support of the team, even the best strategist can't convince the players to go out there and win games. As long as Sacco has a loyal locker room and makes progress in learning coaching strategies, I think he'll have a job with the Avs.
Angélique Murray, Colorado Avalanche Prospects, Mile High Hockey & Chicks Who Give A Puck: I'm not a fan of Joe Sacco and haven't been since his days of coaching the Lake Erie Monsters. I do not feel he is the long-term solution for the Avalanche. Nevertheless, it is hard to justify firing the guy if the Avs make the playoffs or finish close to the top eight in the Western Conference. Still, if the Avs have a similar finish to last season, there is little reason to believe he would be able to retain his job. You can only use the injury excuse for so long. Yet, is he being put in a position to fail considering the low payroll and rebuilding nature of the team?
Norbert from Austria, Eurolanche: Joe Sacco is not really on the hot seat. Especially because of the fact that he is in the last year of his contract. He still is a Jack Adams Trophy nominee two years ago and I think the injuries from last season are also on the thoughts of management. So unless the Avs are not the worst team in the NHL by the beginning of December, I don't expect Sacco to lose his job before April 2012.
Hopefully, the Avalanche will be playing well enough next year that a coaching change won't be on anyone's mind. But, a poor season - especially since the franchise won't be "rewarded" for futility with a lottery pick next year - could spell the end for 5th coach of the Colorado Avalanche. Oh, and speaking of that potential lottery pick, we're going to take a look at that tomorrow.