Greg Sherman. Joe Sacco. Sylvain Lefebvre. There have been a lot of new names thrown around the front office of the Colorado Avalanche. But one thing is for certain: the message is loud and clear. There is no turning back now.
Pierre Lacroix is getting this franchise ready for the post-Joe-Sakic era. While Sakic still hasn’t made a decision on whether or not he will be returning to the Avs for a 21st season with the franchise, the team seems to be moving on ahead of him. Sakic missed most of the 08-09 season with multiple injuries, participating in only 15 games and notching just 12 points. Sakic has worn the “C” on his sweater proudly for 19 years, but in the last few off seasons has taken longer and longer to commit to another year on the ice, each year signing only a one-year contract.
Sakic was part of what was known in Colorado as the “dream team,” along with Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote. These team assistant captains, all who came to Denver as part of the Quebec Nordiques package, led the Avs to two different Stanley Cup champions as well as multiple division and conference titles. And then came the rain on the parade, the NHL lockout — and when the game returned with a newfound salary cap, there simply wasn’t room for the entire captain roster. So Foote and Forsberg left.
Things changed. The Avs slipped slowly down the standings and scoring dipped. Tony Granato was replaced by Joel Quenneville. Jose Theodore came on board instead of David Aebischer. But still, Avs fans pined for the glory days and the dream team. We had all tried to move on — and failed. Denver even got to re-live the best years of the Avs briefly when Foote and Forsberg returned in time for the 2008 post season.
Us Avalanche fans aren’t big really big on the whole moving on thing. We’ve tried. We’ve failed. It was hard to let go of Patrick Roy, really hard. And just as hard to let go of Forsberg — both times he left. Even our coaches don’t want to leave — Granato went from head coach to assistant coach back to head coach before being canned earlier in the week. Change just isn’t our thing.
Until now. Apparently this whole President-Obama-change-is-easy mentality has caught on to Pierre Lacroix, who has decided that people other than French Canadiens can run the team. Six were fired earlier in the week (I mean, they even fired the video guy!), and this new guy that no one really saw coming in as GM, this Sherman or whatever his name is, brings in two coaches who have never coached in the NHL before. They are rookies. Interesting, considering our new-found position as #3 in the draft pick scenario. Soon we’ll be getting a rookie of our own.
Our new GM said something very interesting this week when he introduced Sacco and Lefebvre: “Joe and Sylvain are familiar with our personnel, especially our young players within the system, and each played a role in implementing the organization’s vision with these players.” That’s the sound of the future, kids. It’s the sound of change. Sherman is sending not-so-subtle signs that the new era of Colorado Avalanche hockey begins now, and this is one that is going to be forced to find talent within the system — just as Detroit and Chicago have successfully done before us. And in just a few more weeks, we will have yet another rookie to add to our line up — the #3 draft pick of our choosing.
Now, I’m not suggesting I don’t want any rookies on our team. God knows we have had fantastic luck with youngsters. For the love of Gordie Howe we have Paul Stastny and Marek Svatos, we’ve had John-Michael Liles since the beginning, even Milan Hejduk was a young Av, TJ Hensick and the brilliant Peter Budaj. But what I am suggesting is that this is the beginning of the post-Sakic era, of a new kind of Avalanche franchise. Sherman is getting the fans ready for the inevitable: Sakic will not be around forever, and the days of resurrecting old heroes are past.
As my fellow TAS writer Drew observed weeks ago, the Avalanche were living in the past. Well no more. We have been catapulted in to the future, even if we weren’t ready to move on just yet.