In my last post, a recap of the 7-5 loss to Edmonton, I went out on a limb and tried to translate a seemingly innocent statement by Joe Sakic---that the team wasn't prepared to play Edmonton---to mean that the players were frustrated with Joel Quenneville and the rest of the Avalanche coaching staff.
Now, that quote can be read two ways. Either the players just came out in the first period and didn't care, didn't play hard enough, and it's all their fault. Or---and I admit this is pretty paranoid and maybe a major bit of reaching---they weren't prepared for the game by the coaching staff. Super Joe, infamous for his simple, matter-of-fact comments to reporters' questions, could be speaking in code these days. Is he blaming himself and the other players, or are his quotes a veiled cry for help? Is he trying to tell the world that the coaching is at fault without actually saying it? I wonder, but that's probably just me.
Lots of caveats, lots of "that's probably just me." I hated my English classes in college because teachers would obsess over the "deeper meaning" and "hidden symbolism" of essays and stories that were more products of their own world views and agendas than the authors'. I don't know Joe Sakic, and I don't get to talk to him, so I don't want to put words in his mouth and assume he means more than what he does.
But there's a pattern forming in the quotes that are appearing in Terry Frei's and Adrian Dater's articles for the Post.
This time, it's Andrew Brunette doing the talking:
"It seems like when we get on a roll, something happens. We get an injury or lose a guy, and it's back to square one, trying to find chemistry," said Brunette, the team's second-leading scorer. "For me, the biggest thing has just been chemistry. Through injuries, through different things, we can't seem to all get together on the same page when we're out there."
If you're like me (or Dater, who also pointed it out), the phrase that registered the loudest in your head was "different things." Could those different things be the constant changes to line combinations, not to mention the malicious-appearing benchings and minor league reassignments that have plagued the team all season long?
Asked if he and other players believe Quenneville changes things too much, Brunette was brief: "It's been like that all year, so we should be used to that by now."
Except that you can't get used to constant changes. It's impossible to get used to something that is suddenly different than before, by definition. So, while Brunette's obviously trying to keep the responsibility for the team's failures on the shoulders of the players themselves (very typical for NHL players, as opposed to some other professional athletes), he seems pretty frustrated. It's apparent in the player interviews on Altitude, and it's apparent in the quotes to the Post. You'd think it would be tough, but Brunette's fifteen word sentence above contains enough frustration and resignation to write a 200-page book.
We here in the idiot blogosphere, comprised entirely of people who don't know anything about hockey and have no direct exposure to the Avalanche team, have been criticizing the coach all season for his obsession with change and inconsistency. We've lamented the lack of chemistry that is so apparent it's impossible to miss, even if you only see the team on television from 2000 miles away. Andrew Brunette confirmed what we feared all along---the Avalanche are barely a team and don't know how to play together, and it is at least implied that the coach is to blame.
I guess we all get a cookie for being right. Unfortunately, it's stale and expires before April.