Well, Here We Go Again: A Look At The Avalanche Approach To House Cleaning

Bruce Bennett

In related news, it was announced today that Mile High Hockey will receive Avalanche press credentials sometime after hell freezes over but before pigs learn to fly.

On Saturday, the Avalanche closed out another disaster of a season, finishing with the 2nd worst record in the NHL. On Sunday, the predicted house-cleaning took place as the Avalanche parted ways with everyone in the front office responsible for the on-ice abomination that has become all-too familiar to Denver fans. Oops, I think I might have been misinformed. After studying the in-depth 82-word press release, it appears that only coach Joe Sacco has lost his job. Additionally, VP of Hockey Operations and rumored-GM-in-waiting Eric Lacroix will also be leaving, apparently of his own accord (wink win, nod nod). Consider me completely underwhelmed.

As a sports blogger, I always find discussing potential firings to be a little difficult. As a working stiff and a family man I am acutely aware that these are people's jobs and livelihoods that we are talking about so casually here. I know that it comes with the territory for these folks, but it still is hard for me to "root" for the Granatos and Saccos and Gigueres of this world to lose their job. However, it is a subject that, although unsavory, is unavoidable.

With that in mind, I have to ask just a few simple words of the Avalanche brass: What. The. Fuck?

It's been 3 years since the Avalanche have made the playoffs, 10 years since the Avs have won a division and 11 years since they've advanced past the 2nd round of the playoffs. They sold out 3 games this year. So, clearly this is a franchise heading in the right direction. Changing the coach - and ONLY changing the coach - is just what this franchise needs. After all, in 2008 the Avalanche parted ways with Joel Quenneville after a "disappointing" 44-win-season and second-round playoff exit. They kept the rest of the front office in place - GM Francois Giguere included - and new coach Tony Granato improved the team by...uh, negative 12 wins. Hmm, maybe the answer is a bit deeper than a coaching change?

Four years ago, Avalanche President Pierre Lacroix cleaned house. He fired his GM (Giguere) just days after the season ended and promised to "start the process of restoring this franchise to where it belongs". After a failed flirtation with Patrick Roy, Lacroix completely reorganized the front office and coaching staff that summer. Since then, some names and titles have changed, but, inexplicably, the cracked foundations of the franchise remain today. The Avs will have a new coach next year and maybe a new GM too...but it sure looks like it's time for more. It is time for wholesale changes at the top level. Four years ago, I called the Avs' front office situation A Fine Mess. The only thing that's changed since then is the calendar. We're all four years older and the Avalanche are no closer to respectability.

Pierre Lacroix has done a lot for the franchise in his 18 years of service. Joining the Nordiques a couple of years after the Eric Lindros windfall, Lacroix molded a talented young team into a two-time Cup winner, orchestrating big trades for Patrick Roy, Ray Bourque and Rob Blake. However, recent history has been less kind to Lacroix and the Avalanche. Since stepping aside as GM in 2006 and becoming the team President, the Avalanche have employed two GMs, three coaches (and counting) and have turned over every player and pick in the organization with the exception of Milan Hejduk and Paul Stastny (for now). During Lacroix's tenure as Avalanche President, only 6 teams have a worse record.

GP W L OT PT GF GA
Detroit Red Wings 540 318 154 68 704 1668 1402
San Jose Sharks 540 320 157 63 703 1601 1350
Pittsburgh Penguins 540 322 169 49 693 1730 1477
Vancouver Canucks 540 313 170 57 683 1591 1362
Chicago Blackhawks 540 294 184 62 650 1636 1483
Washington Capitals 540 292 183 65 649 1662 1552
New Jersey Devils 540 299 193 48 646 1402 1345
Boston Bruins* 539 291 186 62 644 1555 1409
Anaheim Ducks 540 287 190 63 637 1529 1472
Nashville Predators 540 287 194 59 633 1507 1442
New York Rangers 540 286 195 59 631 1476 1348
Buffalo Sabres 540 281 194 65 627 1636 1527
Montréal Canadiens 540 273 201 66 612 1550 1509
Dallas Stars 540 274 207 59 607 1503 1512
Calgary Flames 540 268 204 68 604 1525 1534
St. Louis Blues 540 264 206 70 598 1456 1461
Minnesota Wild 540 270 213 57 597 1401 1441
Ottawa Senators* 539 268 211 60 596 1544 1536
Philadelphia Flyers 540 266 210 64 596 1618 1595
Phoenix Coyotes 540 261 218 61 583 1435 1530
Carolina Hurricanes 540 255 223 62 572 1539 1626
Los Angeles Kings 540 252 221 67 571 1452 1497
Toronto Maple Leafs 540 238 227 75 551 1547 1737
Colorado Avalanche 540 250 241 49 549 1497 1620
Atlanta Thrashers 540 242 235 63 547 1529 1712
Florida Panthers 540 229 226 85 543 1415 1585
Tampa Bay Lightning 540 235 238 67 537 1533 1738
Columbus Blue Jackets 540 227 242 71 525 1373 1595
New York Islanders 540 223 245 72 518 1436 1684
Edmonton Oilers 540 214 267 59 487 1408 1673

*stats don't include last night's Sens / Bruins game.

The Avalanche have a problem, and it isn't their coach and it isn't their GM. The problem runs deeper than that. Or, maybe I should say, higher. It is, sad to say, time for new blood at the top. The Avalanche don't need to clean house this summer. They need to tear it down and completely rebuild it. It's time to clean up the mess once and for all. Thank you for the Cups, Pierre, but now it's time to go.

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