Colorado Avalanche: Joe Sakic is Over-Reliant on MacFarland

Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports /
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Jun 30, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy (right) talks with executive of hockey operations Joe Sakic (left) during the 2013 NHL Draft at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports /

MacFarland’s Detriment to the Colorado Avalanche

It should come as no surprise to my readers that I consider losing Patrick Roy as head coach to be a huge detriment to the team. I think he has a hockey mind that’s unrivaled in the world — his players have said his in-game decision-making is unparalleled.

What’s more, Roy is a player hero. He helped bring the first-ever pro sports championship to the sports-loving state of Colorado. His loss stings for Avs Nation.

Related Story: Avs Broke Faith with Roy

I think his vision for the Colorado Avalanche would have eventually come to fruition (more on that in a later post) if he’d had a partner with as much confidence to make the hard decisions as he has.

He didn’t, though. Joe Sakic has ever been careful — he’s never been known as having swagger or even a grand vision. He was an amazingly talented and skilled player, a diplomat both on and off the ice. He’s generally considered a true gentleman.

So it should come as no surprise that, when it all started hitting the fan, he didn’t choose the cowboy way. He didn’t stick to his guns and see his vision through. Instead, he brought in a lawyer who was most comfortable in negotiations.

That would have been fine if he hadn’t supplanted Patrick Roy’s role with Chris MacFarland’s. Roy is no negotiator. But he took a liking to pro scouting and general player matters. That’s what MacFarland’s new role took away from Roy.

Indeed, Joe Sakic stated that, while Roy was “aware” of team decisions, he envisioned Patrick focusing more on coaching. When he resigned, Roy specifically identified his lack of input:

"“The vision of the coach and VP-hockey operations needs to be perfectly aligned with that of the organization. He must also have a say in the decisions that impact the team’s performance. These conditions are not currently met.”"

Roy stated outright that his vision no longer coincided with Sakic’s. There’s no reason to think Roy’s vision had changed. Therefore, it must have been Joe’s. And the big change was the addition of MacFarland.

Ok, what’s done is done. However, let’s examine a little more closely what exactly got done — and why I state Sakic is still over-reliant on MacFarland.

More from Mile High Sticking

The last few years, the Columbus Blue Jackets were one of the few teams worse than the Colorado Avalanche. They tried the usual — coaching change — but it didn’t come to fruition until this season. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this CBJ season represents one in which little if any of McFarland’s influence is still in evidence.

Look at some of the hires that the Avs made over the summer. The most obvious is Jared Bendar, who had literally no NHL experience (as a coach or a player). Yet he was chosen over more suitable candidates — every single one of whom had NHL experience. The list included a man, Kevin Dineen, who’d been the assistant coach on a Stanley Cup winning team, the division rival Chicago Blackhawks. Seriously, how could Bednar be a better candidate?

Here’s how Bednar was a “better” candidate: He worked closely with MacFarland in the Blue Jackets’ AHL affiliate system.

The other hire was assistant coach Nolan Pratt. While it’s true he was briefly a Colorado Avalanche player (he did win a Cup with the team), his coaching experience came with — you guessed it — the CBJ, or their AHL affiliates. It was understood that Sakic hired Pratt to be Roy’s assistant. Roy didn’t have input.

More From Mile High Sticking: Jared Bednar in Over his Head

The CBJ connection continues with some of the player acquisitions. For example, Columbus bought out defenseman Fedor Tyutin. Colorado snapped him up right away — and gave the 33-year-old a fat, $2 million contract. What’s more, he gets playing time whenever he isn’t injured, despite being the Avalanche’s #6 defenseman for Corsi For. He’s #4 on the blueline list for points. He’s #5 on the defenseman list for plus/minus.

Eric Gelinas, on the other hand, is higher on each of those lists, and younger and cheaper to boot. Yet Gelinas gets scratched so Tyutin can play whenever Fedor is healthy.

Even with Erik Johnson out with an injury, Gelinas can’t get a chance because there’s another former Columbus Blue Jacket on the roster, Cody Goloubef. The 27-year-old has spent the majority of his career in the CBJ’s AHL system. But Gelinas gets scratched so he can play.

But then, Eric Gelinas never played in the CBJ system. What’s more, he’s a player in Patrick Roy’s preferred mold.

To my mind, this all leads back to Chris MacFarland. It’s perfectly natural that a man in his position will return to what he knows. Unfortunately, what MacFarland knows is the CBJ organization at its worst. And what he and the Colorado Avalanche have access to is that organization’s rejects.

Next: Sakic Must Make a Move

I don’t know why Joe Sakic chose to start listening to Chris MacFarland over his Stanley Cup buddy Patrick Roy. Hell, he still has access to Craig Billington and Adam Foote. Yet their hand seems little evident in current Avalanche moves.

And what this has gotten us is a Colorado team with a 11-19-1 record that’s bottom in pretty much every statistic and last in the NHL.

The Columbus Blue Jackets got exponentially better without MacFarland. I daresay the Colorado Avalanche would start on the upswing again, too, without the lawyer’s influence. It’s time for the Avalanche to fire Chris MacFarland.