All the Red Wings’ old friends are coming back to play, just in time for the Red Wings to never see them again.
The abominable Colorado Avalanche are bringing back Joe Sakic to run the team, and possibly Patrick Roy to coach. No word on whether Claude Lemieux and Adam Foote would return as assistants.
The news should be exciting to Red Wings fans. Two of the biggest names from the other side of the best hockey rivalry of our lifetimes are back. We’ve been waiting 10 years for the rivalry to rekindle, if only to remind us of Igor Larionov vs. Peter Forsberg, the Claude Lemieux turtle, and Patrick Roy losing to Mike Vernon.
It wasn’t Red Wings who lost the spark. They’ve been good. The Avalanche going from great to good to awful that soiled the whole thing. With the Red Wings owning someone known to stir a drink or two in Jordin Tootoo and the Avalanche owning two former players in important positions who knew what the rivalry meant and must have some unsettled hatred for the Red Wings this is the rivalry’s best chance to renew.
The problem, however, is two fold. First there is realignment. The Red Wings are going to the Eastern Conference. The Avalanche are staying in the West. While the new schedule will allow for them to play every year, they wouldn’t meet in the playoffs unless both made the Stanley Cup Finals.
That may not be a total loss. The Red Wings and Penguins had a minute rivalry after meeting in back-to-back Cup finals, although I feel like the remaining hatred on the Red Wings side is more generally towards Sidney Crosby and the Penguins are too busy dealing with Philadelphia to consider the Red Wings a rival.
The second part of the problem is much worse. The Avalanche are awful, and they’re going to be awful for the length of Sakic’s tenure.
Take a look at the general mangers still in the playoffs. Ken Holland’s front office experience before being named GM with his current team: 15 years. Chicago’s Stan Bowman: 9 years. Los Angeles’ Dean Lombardi: 13 years. San Jose’s Doug Wilson: 7 years. Pittsburgh’s Ray Shero: 13 years. Boston’s Peter Chiarelli: seven years. Ottawa’s Bryan Murray: 12 years. New York’s Glen Sather: 21 years.
Joe Sakic’s front office experience before becoming general manager: two years.
These types of things don’t work out. Ask Joe Nieuwendyk. He was in a similar situation with Dallas: a formerly beloved player with little front-office experience taking over team operations. While he did a lot better than what people will give him credit for, stockpiling picks while the team was in bankruptcy, the Stars missed the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season and he got fired.
Nieuwendyk also hired a young coach who had no NHL experience in Glen Gulutzan. He just got fired by the guy who replaced Nieuwendyk as GM, Jim Nill, a guy who by the way has 19 years of experience in an NHL front office.
The jump for Roy won’t be as bad (assuming he is named coach). Dan Bylsma took over a team in the middle of the year in his first year as a head coach and won a Stanley Cup. But Bylsma at least had AHL and NHL coaching experience as an assistant. Even Gulutzan had ECHL and AHL coaching experience. Roy has spent the past eight years in QMJHL, guiding his team to a couple of good years and a couple of average ones.
The delight Red Wings fan will take in watching two of Colorado’s best on the ice fail together in management will be the last act of this already dead rivalry.