Sunday, March 07, 2004

Calling Olaf, is anybody home?

The worst loss on home ice since the Avalanche were the Nordiques, was Sunday afternoon the final wake up call for Pierre Lacroix?. A 7-1 shellacking that shows a team rather unprepared for the playoffs, one with some pretty troubling questions. Goaltending, defense, goal scoring, coaching, team chemistry all of them areas of concern for Avs fans. This is not be the Avalanche team we've become used to the last number of years.

Pierre Lacroix should make sure his phone is charged and ready to go on Tuesday. His team needs help, hard as it is to believe. When Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne joined the Avs in the off season, many ceded them the Western division title, making them the favorite to win the Stanley Cup this year. But with sporadic success on the ice of late, and losing to teams many feel they should beat easily, the Avs don't appear to be clicking very well. Indeed the addition of Kariya and Selanne has had the opposite effect, neither player has played anywhere near their potential, making their line quite ineffective of late. When split up they end up making two lines non productive, not what Av fans expected back in the summer.

Sunday night will be sending alarm bells not only throughout Denver, but through the Avalanche office. They were outscored, outplayed, outhit and outcoached by a Flames team that is in a life and death struggle to stay above the cut off line. Perhaps they just wanted the game more last night, but so impressive were they, you would have thought it was the Flames that were only a few points behind first place Detroit not the Avs.

With a line up most teams would want at the end of a trading deadline, the Avs are in the strange position of having to add on, when they really shouldn't have to do anything. Goaltending all of a sudden has become an issue, back up Phillipe Sauve was tagged for the 7 goals Sunday, probably wondering why his defencemen chose not to come back and help. Also on the hot seat is David Aebischer, who has been constantly hearing that he's not up to the task at hand, perhaps all that negativity has finally caught up with him. The normally solid Av goaltender, has been making Av games more of an adventure than most fans are used to. The Avs have lost six of their last eight games, finding things particularly difficult on home ice. Losing as frequently and as badly as they have of late and at home, is making things rather warm at the Pepsi centre and in the Denver media.

Lacroix has to ask himself a very important question, and he needs to have an answer by Tuesday morning. Is Aebischer's play of late indicative of a problem area, or just a bad patch that has to be played through? What he decides by Tuesday will make all the difference in the Avs season, their playoff hopes and whether he needs to make a number of drastic changes by 12 noon Pacific time. His team is still at the top of the standings, so he may choose to let the Avs sort it out among themselves, but it would seem some sort of wake up call is needed for these guys. Player changes or a coaching change all have been rumoured in the last six weeks, Lacroix will be thinking hard about what is in the teams best interest.

Olaf Kolzig's agent had best be standing by Tuesday, Trader Pierre may be on the phone bright and early helping to lighten Ted Leonsis' payroll load just a little bit more. The February slump, that now moves into March dictates that a change will be made, never afraid to make a deadline trade in the past, Lacroix will most likely steal the show again.

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