Written by Sean Payton | 09 March 2011

Theory: Sacco will be fired within days after the end of the regular season.  Avalanche management has decided not to replace Joe Sacco until then in order to give the Avalanche a competitive disadvantage through the remainder of the 2010-11 season.  

Why do they want to allow the team to play with a competitive disadvantage?  They want as high a draft pick as possible.  The top of the NHL draft is unquestionably the best place to get elite talent that can immediately help your team.   It's how Pittsburgh got Crosby, Malkin and Fleury.  It's how Chicago nabbed Toews and Kane. 

Case: An NHL head coach has 3 major functions - Sacco is failing miserably at all of them:

1. To get his team to play hard for 60mins.  Once a team quits on an NHL coach, they need to be replaced.  That has clearly happened in the case of Sacco.  Most glaringly during a 9-1 loss to Calgary on 2/14, but has occurred in recent home losses to Edmonton and it the 3rd period of Tuesday's loss in Minnesota.

2. To implement a competitive system.  Xs and Os.  A blueprint to beat Sacco's system was developed by the LA Kings in a 5-0 loss on 12/21 - don't allow them to skate.  Sacco has failed to develop a way to counter this.

3. Player Management.   Whether it was killing the morale of Craig Anderson or continuously allow Matt Hunwick and / or Kyle Cumiskey to stay in the lineup despite absouletly horrific play, Sacco has left a lot to be desired here.  

All signs point to Sacco needing to be let go.  It's clearly time.

Herm Edwards was right - "you play to win the game."  No one will ever tell the team, hey guys - only give 80% tonight or try to keep it close but make sure to lose at the end.  But management can make it harder for a team to win by controlling who is leading the team and who is on the team.  And that is exactly what they are doing.  

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Written by Sean Payton | 06 March 2011

  • How many times have we seen last night's game?
  • The Avs stop competing after an early goal against, the Avs get down multiple goals by the end of the 1st, the Avs score a single meaningless goal well after the game has been decided.
  • I can immediately think of 3 home games where that exact scenario has occurred.
  • A game to forget from EJ.  He has a bomb but it gets blocked way too often.  Part of that, I'm sure, is his pressing the play too much with the team struggling to score goal so much.
  • Teams from Alberta have outscored the Avs 19-3 in the last 9 periods of hockey in Denver.
  • Koci watch: 5:43
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Written by Sean Payton | 02 March 2011

  • First SO loss for the Avs this season.  It would have been nice for the boys to get 2 points in this one - despite being outshot 35-19 by San Jose, they really hung in there and played their best defensive game of 2011.  
  • Even Hunwick played a solid game.  (Don't get any crazy ideas, Sherman.)
  • The 3+ goals allowed streak stops at 18 games.  That means we're only as bad at defense as the 2000 Thrashers.
  • The Altitude crew mentioned this a few times, but its worth mentioning again - big game from Erik Johnson.  There is no question that EJ can be a dominate force in the NHL, the question is how often is it going to happen.  1 in 6 games isn't frequent enough.
  • Expect to see lots more of Elliott in these last 18 games.  He is playing well and the Avs need to learn what they have.  Given his age and contract status, he only needs to be as good as Budaj for Colorado to go with Elliott in a backup role next year.  So far, I think he has done that.
  • I trashed McClement for not improving the PK after his first few games with Colorado.  Well, the PK has been better of late, no question.  He did take a really dumb boarding penalty in the 3rd in this one. 
  • Porter has to score on one of the two golden chances he had in this game.  
  • Koci watch: 2:42
Next game: vs Oilers, Saturday, 8PM mountain no comments

Written by Sean Payton | 28 February 2011

  • Obvious stuff first - what an awful high sticking double minor penalty by Yip 200 ft from his own net.
  • 2nd game in the last 3 where the Avs "started on time".  The Avs outscored Anaheim 1-0, outshot Anaheim 11-5 and met their physical challenge by fighting them 3 times during the 1st.
  • But an brutal turnover from Erik Johnson behind his own net that led to a Getzlaf goal completely changed the game.  It took all of the wind out of the Avs sails and got the Gelzlaf / Perry / Selanne line rolling.  Ducks outshot the Avs 27-12 after the 1st period.
  • If you wanted to know why St. Louis was willing to let a number one overall pick go, it is because of efforts like these.  
  • Holos had a strong game.  
  • The play that Hunwick made in the 3rd to skate the puck out of the zone and setup Jones' goal is the kind of play the Avs thought they were getting when the moved Cohen for him.
  • 4 goals in the last 4 games for Dr. Jones.  The Avs actually have a player who is on a little bit of an offensive roll...
  • Was this the last game as an Av for Liles?  Stoa?  Winnik?  O'Reilly?  Hunwick?  McClement?
  • I think Liles and McClement get moved on Monday.
  • The Avs now have given up 3+ goals in 18 straight games, which ties an NHL record with the 2000 Thrashers.  The Avs are in San Jose on Tuesday - in other words, they pretty much have that NHL record locked up.
Next game: at Sharks, Tuesday, 8:30PM mountain no comments

Written by Sean Payton | 27 February 2011

  • Nice that the Avs where able to make it semi-exciting at the end of the game, but this one the Avs really had no business being in.  
  • Avs were outshot 42-17.  The Kings had 16 SOG in the 2nd period alone.
  • Holos has grown into a bit of a folk hero among the Avs blogosphere, but maybe we saw why Sacco has kept him on the bench - he looked like he was "running around like it was a Chinese firedrill" on LA's first goal.
  • (PS - yes, that's not the most politically correct statement above, but Hank Stram's taunt to the Vikings' D during Super Bowl IV remains one of my favorites) 
  • Still, unlike we've seen with early awful play by Cumiskey / Hunwick, Holos didn't go into total meltdown mode the rest of the game.
  • Credit where credit is due.  With EJ in the box for LA's 1st 5 to 3, Hunwick was on the ice and helped kill it.  The Avs should giftwrap a tape of that kill and overnight it to Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman.
  • Does Stoa not understand that this is his big moment to prove he's an NHLer?  The conversation with Stoa has switched from "when will he be ready for the NHL" to "will he ever be willing to work hard enough to play in the NHL?"
  • Speaking of hard work, after an effort like this game, it really makes you wonder why Dupuis is a healthy scratch and Maudlin is in Lake Erie?  (And Hendricks was allowed to walk.)
  • Nice to see Elliott play a better game.  I know there were some raised eyebrows when Elliott got the start, but the bottom line is the Avs know what kind of a goalie they have in Budaj, they need to learn what they have in Elliott.
  • Koci watch: 4:19.  (Believe it or not, the King's Westgarth had less ice time - 3:44)
Next game: at Ducks, Sunday, 6PM mountain
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Written by Sean Payton | 26 February 2011

In a word, the Colorado Avalanche sucked over these 20 games.  An unprecedented 10 games losing streak which saw the Avs pick up 1 of 20 available point not only ended the playoff hopes of the 2010-11 Colorado Avalanche, it forced management to "blow up the team" and address the obvious defensive and team chemistry deficiencies.  Chris Stewart, Kevin Shattenkirk, Craig Anderson and a 2nd round pick were moved for former 1st overall pick Erik Johnson, Jay McClement, Brian Elliott and a 1st round pick. 

ABD's 3 Stars:

1. (Not Awarded) - While its doubtful at best that anyone else holds the ABD 1st star award with any prestige, I do.  The bottom line was no one was good enough to earn this award.  As cheesy as it sounds, I felt that if I awarded it, I would diminish the accomplishments of former winners of this award.

2. Milan Hejduk - It wasn't an amazing performance by any means, but on a team that was playing so poorly, "Old Man" Milan still found a way to play decent hockey and have a respectable 20 games. Hedgie led the team in goals (8) and points (14) over this stretch.

3. David Jones - 7 goals including 2 game winners (on a team that won a whopping 5 games) for Dr. Jones over these 20.  Also, his minus 1 was 2nd best on the team of players who played in more than 5 games; there were 6 players (O'Bryne, Liles, Shattenkirk, Hejduk, Stewart, Wilson) who finished minus 8 or worse.

ABD's Goats:

1. John Michael Liles - A shockingly bad minus 17 for JML over these 20, including a minus 6 night in an embarrassing 9-1 home loss to the Flames.  That was far and away the worst on the team. The next closest Avs was Ryan Wilson at minus 11.

2. Ryan O'Reilly - One point in 12 games for O'Reilly.  I know that Factor's game isn't going to burn up the stat sheet, but he should scoring 5-10 points every 20 games.  Defensively, he also needed to be better - he was a minus 6.

Most surprising thing:
The complete scoring collapse. Over the first half of the season, the Avs averaged 3.3 goals for a game.  Over these 20, they averaged 2.1.  To put that in perspective, right now Vancouver is the NHL leader in G/G with 3.3 and New Jersey is the NHL's worst with, you guessed it, 2.1.

Most expected thing:
Defensive needs addressed.  While the players that were moved and acquired may have been surprising, the fact that the Avs made a move to address their blueline and penalty kill woes had to be expected, given how large the needs were.

Caution: The statistics below contain information that Avalanche fans may find disturbing.  Reader discretion is advised.

Team Stats:
Record: 5-13-2
Standings: 4th in NW division, 14th in Western Conference
Points: 12 (of 40) (-10 pts)
Average points per game: 0.60* (-0.44)
Projected points total: 83 (-11)

*As a baseline – last year San Jose (1st in Western Conference) averaged 1.39 points a game and Colorado (8th in Western Conference) averaged 1.16 points a game – anything above 1.20 is going to get you into the playoffs.

Home record: 3-7-2
Points: 8 (of 24)
Average points per game: 0.67 (-0.42)

Road record: 2-6-0
Points: 4 (of 16)
Average points per game: 0.50 (-0.5)

Goal differential: -38 (Avs: 42 - Opponents: 80) (-30)
*includes goals awarded for winning a shootout

Special Teams:
Power Play: 18.8%, 10th in the NHL (-2 spots)
Penalty Kill: 76.6%, 28th in the NHL (-3 spots)

OT Record: 1-2
Shootout Record: 0-0

Individual Stats:
Points Leaders:
1. Milan Hejduk - 14
2. Paul Stastny - 12
3. David Jones - 10

Goal Leaders:
1. Milan Hejduk - 8
2. David Jones - 7
3. Matt Duchene - 5

Assists Leaders:
1. Paul Stastny - 9
2. John Michael Liles - 8
3. Milan Hejduk - 6

Plus / Minus:
Plus leader: Cody McLeod (+1)
Minus leader: John Michael Liles (-17)

Budaj - 13 games, 3-6-1, .902, 3.49
Anderson - 10 games, 2-6-1, .837, 3.94
Elliott - 1 game, 0-1, .839, 5.00

Final Thought:
I never want to have to live through a stretch of games this bad again.  However, in the end, this stretch end up being key to a much more solid 2011-12 (and beyond) Colorado Avalanche lineup, depending on how well Erik Johnson plays and how the 2011 Entry Draft goes.  Here is to better days, Avs fans. no comments

Written by Sean Payton | 24 February 2011

  • Good start for the Avs, outshooting the Oil 11 -1 at one point, but they had no goals to show for it.  It was nice to see the team play good effective Avs hockey, if even for only a half a period.
  • The game seemed being to turn after O'Byrne's nasty skate to the face injury.  Because Koci was in the lineup in place of Winnik (really, Sacco, really?) the Avs were essentially playing 2 men down.
  • What ever confidence the Avs had built after their 4-3 win on Tuedsay completely vanished as soon as Penner scored on the PP.
  • Wasn't McClement supposed to help our PK?  He hasn't had any tangible impact, in fact, I'd argue that its gotten worse.
  • Congrats to Liles on 200th NHL assist, all as an Avalanche.  There is a good chance that assist 201 comes in another sweater.
  • Two awful goals allowed by Elliott to end the game, but at least the game was well out of hand by the time he let them in.  He deserves a break for being rusty - if the Avs were *really* still competing for a playoff spot, I doubt he would have been thrown into situation - no practice in nearly a week.  That being said, it was pretty clear he's backup material at best - at least at this stage of his career.  
  • Attendance was 14801.  I remember Hanyes and McNab saying before the game that they expected a "good crowd".  14K is what now passes in Denver as a "good crowd"?
  • I'm a big Jordan Eberle fan - anyone who watched him in the World Juniors tourneys he played in knows the kind of big goals he can score.  
  • Koci watch: 3:06.
Next game: at Los Angeles, Saturday, 2PM mountain no comments

Written by Sean Payton | 23 February 2011

  • Obvious stuff first.  Huge win for Erik Johnson and Jay McClement.  It's gotta feel as good for them as it would if your team had lost 10 in a row and finally won a game.
  • Not a particularly great game from Johnson, but he came through with a HUGE 3rd period goal (which should've been the GWG - thanks crappy defense).
  • While Stewart had a goal (maybe two), he also a had big part in the Blues digging themselves a 2-0 hole.  He had an awful coverage on Jones (which Rycroft pointed out in the Altitude post game) on Colorado's 1st goal and he took a tripping penalty on Stastny that led to Hejduk's PPG.
  • If you didn't see, EJ has already come out and said that he wants to make Blues GM Doug Armstrong sorry for trading him.  A very motivated top talent is a very good thing.
  • Anyone else think Stastny's 3 point game is his way of saying "you'd better not trade me."  Ultimately, it might be a good thing that Giguere overpaid him because it makes him very tough to move and I don't want to lose him.
  • Duchene wasn't 100%.  You've gotta think his hand was bugging him on the wide open 1st period chance he got that he badly missed on the backhand. 
  • Hunwick had another meltdown type game.  Why Gaunce sits and he plays ... ??
Next game: vs Oilers, Wednesday, 7PM mountain
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Written by Sean Payton | 20 February 2011

  • When a guy from an opposing team poses for a picture like the one above, you know had a bad night.
  • I don't think the final score was indicative on the competitiveness of the game.  The Avs compete level remained high, even after getting down 3-0.
  • Sharks dominated the 1st - outshooting Colorado 17-8 and outscoring Colorado 3-0.
  • Avs dominated the 2nd - outshooting San Jose 11-4, but could not score.
  • Erik Johnson and Jay McClement had great chances to get the Avs on the board, but couldn't bury their chances.  In other words, they are fitting right in.
  • Stoa and Jones also failed to score on their golden chances.
  • Despite the outcome, I liked what I saw from Erik Johnson quite a bit.  He is a number one dman and the Avs treated him like one.  He led the Avs in ice time, and played in all situations.  His most tangible contributions were on the PP - his a big shot and playing making ability made the PP a whole lot better.  I can't imagine he was playing that well in St Louis.
  • I was much less impressed with McClement - he was brought in to make an impact on the PK and the PK looked as awful as ever.  
  • That being said, this probably isn't the ideal first game to judge these guys in - they both played Fri night in Buffalo, got off the plane in St Louis at 2am, and flew out to San Jose at 7am.  
  • Avs missed Duchene.  
  • 1 point in 10 games.  This is getting really painful.
Next game: at Blues, Tuesday, 6PM mountain no comments

Written by Sean Payton | 19 February 2011

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