Colorado Avalanche: Does Joe Sakic Need to Step In?

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 27: Former NHL player Joe Sakic is introduced during the NHL 100 presented by GEICO Show as part of the 2017 NHL All-Star Weekend at the Microsoft Theater on January 27, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 27: Former NHL player Joe Sakic is introduced during the NHL 100 presented by GEICO Show as part of the 2017 NHL All-Star Weekend at the Microsoft Theater on January 27, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Colorado Avalanche need their HHOF GM, Joe Sakic, to help their current superstars learn how to deal with the spotlight and pressure.

The Colorado Avalanche aren’t playing their best hockey. As we know, they’ve dropped six straight. We’re all hoping they pull out a win tonight, but that will still make this four-game home stand unsuccessful (1-1-2) instead of disastrous (0-2-2, for example).

Whenever you see a team faltering as spectacularly as the Avs are now, you start to wonder if the GM is going to step in. Usually you’re wondering if there’s going to be a coaching change. After all, it’s happened four times already this season in the NHL.

Well, GM Joe Sakic may occasionally get splashy with trades, but he doesn’t tend to handle his personnel that way.

Speaking of trades, might Sakic look to the trade market to get the team fired up. You never know. The St. Louis Blues have indicated their shop is open, and you’ve got to think Los Angeles or Philadelphia might be looking to jump-start a rebuild by unloading some assets for picks and prospects.

That said, as I noted in my mid-season state-of-the-team series, Colorado is in its own rebuild. It wouldn’t behoove the team to trade away the future to those basement teams. They’re more likely to be on the lookout for picks and prospects themselves.

I mean, I’d like for him to step in and advise Bednar a little in why he built the roster as he did — I don’t think the coach always manages the moving parts best. However, Sakic doesn’t appear to be a micro-manager.

However, there is one area in which Sakic may decide he needs to step in — team morale.

Focus on Team Motivation

Motivating people changes from moment to moment in addition to person to person. As I mentioned in part three of my series, coaching is an art form. And motivation is the toughest part of that job.

So, how do the coaches go about motivating the Colorado Avalanche players? Man, I wish I knew. If I did, I’d have a job with the team already. It’s been their problem for, oh, eight years or so.

The players are tight. They love playing for each other. I think their chemistry is as solid as it’s ever been. So at least the Avs don’t have problems like the Senators and Blues seem to.

For players like Erik Johnson and J.T. Compher, playing time might be a prime consideration. EJ likes to be the workhorse of the team. Compher likes to not be on the fourth line.

Tyson Jost and Samuel Girard just need guidance. They’re the Avalanche’s top sophomores. Their motivation is there — they just need to learn how to use it to their best advantage.

They, like the rookies, are still hungry. The rookies need guidance, too.

We also have a lot of role players, as any team does. Those players need to be fighting for ice time and even roster spots. I have no problem with coach Jared Bednar’s system of benching players who aren’t playing well. I just wish he’d implement it on Gabriel Bourque.

Presumably the goalies also have their own intrinsic motivation. Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz are trying to make the team as the number-one and number-two guys. Semyon Varlamov is trying to earn a juicy contract with a new team.

But there’s one tough nut to crack — the team’s top line. The Avalanche go as they go typically.

Leading the Superstars

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I think players like Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog thrive on being underdogs. They want to thumb their nose at you when you doubt them.

Unfortunately, that ship has sailed. They’re getting recognition, deserved recognition. But I think it’s no coincidence that their play started to falter when those spotlight started getting brighter.

This may be a moment for Sakic to step in. (This was definitely the moment Patrick Roy was built for, but moving on.) Sakic thrived under the pressure. Spotlights, expectations, leadership — none of that was too heavy for Super Joe to carry on his shoulders.

I don’t know how he did it — an expectation of greatness and your place in history, I guess. Maybe an arrogance not quite as obvious as Patrick’s but present just the same — I deserve to be here.

I think that’s what our top line is lacking right now. And that’s why I wish Sakic would take a little bit of an active role with the superstars.

Because what is Jared Bednar, who never played in the NHL and doesn’t have the coaching chops yet to use that to back himself up, going to tell the elitest players on the team? Indeed, it sounds already that he kowtows to them, holding meetings because it pleases them and asking for their opinion for line changes.

It’s great for those great players to have such a voice in how the team is run. But they need to lead the team moving forward.

No, really, a bit of fiery Roy would be useful right about now.

Next. How the Colorado Avalanche can Develop Secondary Scoring. dark

In any case, I guess the Colorado Avalanche’s stars are just going to have to find their own way just like Roy and Sakic did in their day.