According to Colorado Avalanche beat writer, Adrian Dater, the Avalanche are planning to renew the contract of Joe Sacco after the end of the 2011 – 2012 NHL season.
By the numbers alone it doesn’t seem like this is such a terrible move.
Under Sacco, the Avalanche have a record of 114-107-23.
The Avalanche are above the .500 mark, not by a lot, but they still at least have a respectable record.
Delve a little deeper, however, and one could begin to see how this is a huge mistake for the Avalanche.
Any coach will tell you that in order to be a playoff team you need to play well within your own division because the largest percentage of your games is played against those teams.
Since Sacco took over as head coach of the Avalanche, the team’s divisional record is 25-41-6, give or take a couple of games. That is a winning percentage of .347.
How can a team possibly hope to be competitive when they can’t win games within their own division?
Outside of pure numbers, Sacco’s handling of his team seems to be one of the most difficult things to understand in all of professional hockey.
Sacco loves to rely on sending messages to his players as a means of spurring them towards improving their game.
Players that aren’t performing the way that he wants them to be performing will find themselves benched for long period of time during games, will be demoted to lower lines, have their ice-time cut or might even be a healthy scratch for the game.
In certain instances there is nothing wrong with this tactic, but when this is your primary means of coaching a player it is unacceptable.
A perfect example of this came earlier this season when star forward Matt Duchene was demoted to the fourth line of the team because of his slow start.
Apparently the solution to Duchene’s scoring woes was to give him less than nine minutes of ice-time per game.
This tactic also didn’t seem to work too well with former Avalanche power forward Chris Stewart a season ago who ended up being traded after losing confidence in his style of game due to demotions and healthy scratches.
Again, these tactics can be used on a player but not all the time.
Coaches should be working with the player that is struggling to help them better understand the reasons for their struggles and how to best put their skills to work within the team’s system.
If that work and effort with the player isn’t successful then a healthy scratch or benching seems more appropriate.
But taking one of your best scorers off the ice in order to let him know that you’re not happy about the fact that he hasn’t scored and that you want him to perform better? How does keeping that player off the ice help him score more?
Perhaps the most glaring issue with Sacco is his ability to motivate.
The Avalanche are possibly the most two-faced team in all of hockey.
Some nights they will come out, work their tails off and make some of the best teams in the NHL look like they are standing still as they pepper the opposing net with scoring chances.
The next night it will appear as if they didn’t realize that the game started when the puck dropped.
Still more damning for Sacco is the fact that the Avalanche seem to struggle with the ability to put together a full 60 minute effort so often that the only consistent thing on their team is their inconsistency.
Some of this can be attributed to the fact that they are a young team that lacks a certain amount of maturity; but when it continues for so long and happens so often, one cannot help but conclude that the man leading the team is not much of a motivational leader.
Joe Sacco has done some good things with a young Avalanche team, that cannot be doubted.
Nonetheless, what he has shown as a coach over his first three years with the Avalanche seems to show that if he is kept on as head coach, then the Avalanche will only continue to be a mediocre team.