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Duchene: Avalanche players knew Sacco’s style of play ‘would fail’

Oct 28, 2013, 9:28 AM EDT

Joe Sacco Getty Images

Without doing a major overhaul of their roster, the Colorado Avalanche have transformed from one of the worst teams in the NHL to one of the best. The big question now is how close to sustainable this is and, if the Avalanche really are serious contenders now, how much of the credit should go to new head coach Patrick Roy.

Avalanche leading scorer Matt Duchene would argue that the Avalanche’s coaching change has made a significant difference. He wasn’t a fan of former bench boss Joe Sacco’s tactics and now that he’s gone, Duchene doesn’t mind going public with his criticisms.

“There were very few people in this (dressing) room who were happy. Our style of play, it wasn’t right for this team. We knew it would fail,” Duchene told the Denver Post. “That was the hard part. We knew (any) success was going to be short-lived. It was hard to really be excited about it.

“For myself, it was really hard to look at what we were doing and think it would keep on working. I can honestly say now, it’s not like that.”

Duchene credits Roy for working with players “constructively” rather than having a doghouse. He also appreciates his fast-paced system.

Sacco is an assistant coach with the Buffalo Sabres now and he decided not to respond to Duchene’s comments.

The Avalanche earned a 3-2 victory against the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday to wrap up their October schedule with a 10-1-0 record. They’re enjoying offensive depth far beyond what they had last season, but it’s been their goaltending that has stuck out so far. Semyon Varlamov has been one of the league’s top netminders and backup Jean-Sebastien Giguere has allowed just two goals in three starts.

Colorado will resume its schedule on Friday against the Dallas Stars.

  1. guitarmy204 - Oct 28, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    I hope all these quotes get brought up again if they go on a long slump.

    • jpelle82 - Oct 28, 2013 at 9:58 AM

      no kidding, pushing the cart in front of the horse a bit here….

      • pxland - Oct 28, 2013 at 10:53 AM

        How is that? The coaching system changed and the players like it better. That’s not going to change through the bad times.

      • tru2joelu4eva - Oct 28, 2013 at 12:52 PM

        you people clearly don’t watch the avalanche. everything duchene said about sacco’s system was a secret to NO ONE

      • avscup - Oct 29, 2013 at 9:53 AM

        Maybe you never suffered through the Sacco Era. The coaching sucked and so did the play.

    • endusersolutions2013 - Oct 28, 2013 at 2:16 PM

      I don’t see how the comments could cause a future issue. If they came from Roy, sure, or if MD had projected future success with their new approach.

    • mp1131211 - Oct 28, 2013 at 2:36 PM

      Who gives a flying f**k if they slump the rest of the season? They’ve already surpassed a few milestones from (the shortened) season last year. They’ve created THE best start in franchise history. This year is already a huge success. There is obviously huge potential for several young players who will most likely be in Denver for a long long time. So suck it, hater. If not this year, soon, the Avs will be back, full force, and dominating!

  2. stcrowe - Oct 28, 2013 at 10:12 AM

    The whole “constructive” criticism vs. “doghouse” approach thing is often cited by players after coaching changes. Some players would rather be told what they did wrong, even if it means getting yelled at by a coach, over getting a silent glare.

    • polegojim - Oct 28, 2013 at 11:24 AM

      That’s exactly the point Crowe –

      Players don’t mind tough, as long as it’s fair nor criticism as long as it’s constructive
      They don’t mind a deserved butt chewing if it’s targeted at action and not just a punishment
      They want to feel like they can succeed by developing their individual potential with a coach who understands what kind of team he has… not one who tries to force things.

      Roy is not a ‘easy’ coach… he’s all of the above.

      • jernster21 - Oct 28, 2013 at 11:38 AM

        A dog house approach is awful for the confidence of a bunch of young kids because the reality is that they’re going to make mistakes – they aren’t going to be able to correct them if they’re stuck on the bench getting the cold shoulder from the coach, or healthy scratched. If you need to send a message, that approach might work on a veteran player who needs a wake up call, but not a kid who has yet to understand the highs and lows of being a professional hockey player.

    • hockeydon10 - Oct 28, 2013 at 1:53 PM

      Another thing you’ll notice some of the tough-but-fair coaches do is not automatically yell at players immediately when they make a mistake. Babcock is like this. Bowman was like this. (Can you tell what team I cheer for?)

      Except for their first few years, most players know when they screwed up. That bad pinch-in by the D-man, that offensive zone penalty, etc. Players that make it to the NHL are fully aware after they make a mistake. Typically they’ll want to be told how to adjust and generally taught how to do it better. They know that if they don’t it can eventually lead back to the busses in the AHL. Just yelling in a blind rage doesn’t work. Putting these guys in a “doghouse”doesn’t work. Yelling with a purpose or yelling to instruct will always get better results.

      The other difference in today’s athletes is the cooperation aspect. In the old days, the coach said do this and the players were expected to not question or even think about it. Today, these guys, and their teams, get more out of understanding why they should do something. There is a more cerebral aspect to go with world-class athleticism.

  3. w1nman14 - Oct 28, 2013 at 10:20 AM

    Is it any wonder the Sabres are now completely terrible? Anyone watching this team the last 4 years could tell Sacco’s “system” is complete garbage. He completely crippled the talent on this team from using their abilities on the ice and treated an NHL team like a freaking bantam team and had every man play the same.

    Its incredibly refreshing to see a player speak the truth instead of duck questions. That is what’s becoming so endearing about Matt Duchene the last 2 years. He’s completely dedicated to Colorado and is a total open book. That combined with where he’s taken his play the last season+ is fast tracking him to sit up there with Foppa as the most liked Avs of all time. Its really hard not to root for this guy.

    • govtminion - Oct 28, 2013 at 4:57 PM

      I agree with everything you said (especially about Duchene), with the exception of the first part… I’m not sure that Sacco is the reason that Buffalo is awful- that seems to have been in place well before his arrival. He just doesn’t make things better, either.

  4. phillyphanatic77 - Oct 28, 2013 at 10:57 AM

    I personally hope this success is sustainable… the NHL was great when the Avs were a powerhouse. The Cup Final against the Devils was a classic and so were the almost annual showdowns with Detroit. Before last season many ppl said that the Oilers might be the next Pittsburgh, but right now it’s looking more like Colorado may fit that mold. We’ll see. Their forward group is dynamic but I don’t think they can be legitimate contenders without more depth on the blueline.

    • guitarhunterdude - Oct 28, 2013 at 11:08 AM

      They certainly have the forwards to compete down the road, much like Edmonton. Unlike Edmonton, they don’t have one of the worst front offices in the league. I’m not sold on Varlamov, and their blue line looks pretty atrocious. In a few years, with two or three additions on the blue line and better puck possession, they should be contenders. I have far more faith in the Avs management than I do in the Oilers management to put together the defense and goaltending to back up that great offense.

      • avscup - Oct 29, 2013 at 9:58 AM

        Blue line looks atrocious? You ever play D? They are playing some of the best D in NHL. Playing hard man coverage and moving their feet. Adam Foote is a defensive consultant and this team is playing a style reminiscent of his play.

  5. kingcobraman - Oct 28, 2013 at 12:33 PM

    its all about attitude, you get that when you have a coach with a successful winning pedigree and respect from his players….

  6. earpaniac - Oct 28, 2013 at 12:52 PM

    2 Cups in 4 years and more young talent than they know what to do with, it seems to me teams would want to be the next CHI, not PIT.

    • phillyphanatic77 - Oct 28, 2013 at 2:10 PM

      Well I was just basing it off the high draft picks (especially forwards- Crosby, Malkin, Staal) who led Pittsburgh to a Cup early in their careers. I’m not saying Pittsburgh is the model, simply that Edmonton and Colorado look somewhat similar to that Pens squad (based mostly off offensive talent).

    • andidee15 - Oct 28, 2013 at 7:40 PM

      Duchene wasn’t talking as much about Cups as he was CHI’s fast, 2-way, transition-style game. The talent levels might be different between the two clubs, but the way they approach the game is extremely similar. COL/CHI games turn into high scoring, offensively dazzling, race-like affairs with incredible saves because both teams are playing to their strengths. Even as a fan, you feel tired at the end of them, and they’re often some of the best games of the year even when the Avs are otherwise terrible.

      The biggest difference is that like Pittsburgh, the Avs are deep down the middle while the Hawks are deeper at the wings. The Hawks also have a whole lot more defensive depth than the Avs. Still, of the two, COL definitely is closer to CHI in their overall approach to the game.

      Two Cups in 4 years would be nice though. I don’t think we’d argue with that.

  7. shamu1the1whale - Oct 28, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    Well, whatever they’re doing in Denver is certainly working for the Avs!

  8. earpaniac - Oct 28, 2013 at 4:36 PM

    Gotcha @Phillyphanatic. Your comment makes sense when you put it that way. That is logical. It wasn’t your comment just got me to thinking that I’ve heard that several times on here and other sites. And to be fairl, the Hawk’s model is clearly based on Detroit’s. the Bowman connection and all, and I believe he’s stated that before.

  9. joey4id - Oct 28, 2013 at 5:11 PM

    The players have bought into the system. That’s the biggest win a coach can have at the outset. Then a coach needs to find ways to keep the player’s attention and interest. So, you spread out the learning to last through the holidays and into Feb. afterwards you start priming the players for the playoffs. It’s progressive process which takes the monotony associated with a long season, and prepared your team to peak for the playoffs. You can’t play every regular season game like its do or die. You focus on execution, team play, tactics and strategy. If you’re doing those well the wins will come. Roy, like many if the best coaches of the games seems to have mastered this in jr hockey, and is now applying the same principles in the NHL. Jack Adams for Roy no doubt.

  10. zacmelvinmcnutt - Oct 28, 2013 at 6:32 PM

    Good for Matt for standing up and saying what’s needed to be said for the past four seasons. Sacco is one of the worst coaches the NHL has ever seen. Looking forward to seeing Duchene playing for team Canada in Sochi, it’s gonna happen!!

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