Tuesday, 14 May 2013 03:27

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain: Lacroix is OUTTA HERE

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"The knock has always been that the Kroenkes only cared about the Nuggets and not the Avs. Well, this kind of proves it. That should make you feel better, but it’s kind of like installing a smoke detector after a fire guts your kitchen."

“Oh no my dear, I’m a very good man. I’m just a very bad wizard.”

Pierre Lacroix was the Wizard of Oz. Great and powerful behind the scenes, but once the curtain was slowly pulled back over the last couple of seasons, we saw he was just another fraud: furiously pushing buttons, hoping no one would take notice of the poor job he was doing (or not doing) with the Colorado Avalanche.

But the musical chairs going on over at Colorado Avalanche headquarters was a little more active than usual with Pierre Lacroix being sent off to pasture, Josh Kroenke taking the opportunity to counter his detractors by assuming a very active role in BOTH the Nuggets and the Avalanche and Joe Sakic being given the keys to the whole darn mess. The only thing that didn’t make it a clean sweep was that the actual GM, Greg Sherman is still with a job. One out of two ain’t bad I guess.

And it’s about damn time.

As you know, the Avs have been woeful, and this was exactly what the team needed – for future success on the ice and future fans in the seats. But we can only speculate what the immediate impact of these moves will be or if they will do any good at all.

So will they?

The short answer is yes. You can’t get much worse than where the Avs have been the last couple of seasons, and injecting an antibiotic like Sakic into the wound can only give them a bump. Lacroix, acting like an absentee landlord, was doing nothing for the Avs and his caustic way of dealing with players had dripped down onto everyone left to run the team. His stink was all over the Ryan O’Reilly debacle and Greg Sherman was his hatchet man (not a Juggalo). Don’t underestimate how embarrassing that was for the Kroenkes and how it affected this decision. With Lacroix gone, you can expect the team to be run markedly different, if only in the fact that it may be good place to work again. Losing didn’t suit Lacroix, and his influence became a cancer in the front office and on the ice.

Sherman had proved he was an excellent bean counter but when the money dried up in the post salary cap world, he was, to quote the Simpsons, as “impotent as a Nevada boxing commissioner.” Now that Sherman is placed back in his natural position – like a center having been forced to play winger – he may get back in a groove.

So that leaves Sakic who has stepped out of the shadow of retirement to take over the job that Lacroix essentially did. Or didn’t do. Depends on who you ask. Sakic obviously understands hockey and can hopefully make good decisions based on that knowledge. But there are a couple of things that concern me.

Sakic had been lurking around Pepsi Center “learning” the business side for the last couple of seasons. Did he see enough to learn what was going wrong or was he too busy worshipping at the alter of Lacroix as he made it seem from the press conference? If Sakic was “learning” under these folks, there’s a good possibility that nothing will change at all. You may not be able to teach and old dog new tricks, but you can certainly give him some bad habits he may find hard to shake.

I was also a little put off by Sakic’s demeanor and his insistence that he would make any final decision regarding the team. He said it over and over again like he not only wanted us to believe it but he needed to believe it himself. I’m pretty sure that this will be the system they have in place, but stating it over and over made it seem that they were hammering home that this wasn’t the proverbial “reshuffling of the deck chairs” everyone is saying it is. I guess that’s what we wanted to hear, but sometimes when you’re force fed the affirmation you’re looking for, it starts to sound fishy.

And if Josh Kroenke is now the president of the Avalanche, does this mean he’s going to crack open the bank vault and let Sakic/Sherman spend some money? It seems strange he would have hamstrung his hero Lacroix with what seemed like a spending freeze, and send him packing only to now open the checkbook. We can assume with Kroenke being directly involved, the spending will free up if he can see what he’s buying. But again, why on earth had the family been so absent up until this point? My guess is they finally realized that the people they had in charge were ruining what was once a lucrative franchise and they had to stop the bleeding. The knock has always been that the Kroenkes only cared about the Nuggets and not the Avs. Well, this kind of proves it. That should make you feel better, but it’s kind of like installing a smoke detector after a fire guts your kitchen.

It goes without saying that we all hope this works out and it should at least pay some minor dividends in the short term. I mean, you can’t get much worse than second to last overall can you? Well, I guess you can, but you’ll see the Avs improve from this. The question will be what will happen in the long run.

I kept saying I wanted Lacroix to leave Pepsi Center in a helicopter, waving goodbye like Nixon: in disgrace but with head held high. I didn’t exactly happen that way but if you remember how the Wizard of Oz ends, Lacroix drifting away in a balloon seems a little more appropriate.

John Reidy

I never really liked sports until I had a religious conversion when the Broncos lost to the 49ers in that one Super Bowl. Now I'm obsessed with all aspects of the Denver pro sports world. Oh yeah, hate college football. And I used to write a column for AV Club Denver but now am a full time contributor to this here site.

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