Ask most hockey people to name their favorite Russian and you'd probably hear a lot of responses like Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Ovechkin and Pavel Datsyuk.
Ask Pierre Lacroix, and I suspect he'd say Vladimir Putin.
The President of the Colorado Avalanche might not share an ideology with the Russian Prime Minister, but he certainly seems to have an appreciation for his methodologies. Like Putin, Lacroix just can't seem to let go of power. The titles may change, but in the end he's still the one pulling the strings.
So it came as no surprise this week when he finally announced that Tony Granato and the entire Colorado coaching staff would now have "former" appended to their job descriptions (joining Francois Giguere, who was sacked as GM immediately after the season) and that their replacements were coming from inside the organization. On Wednesday, Lacroix named the team's former director of retail operations, Greg Sherman, as GM. On Thursday, he tabbed AHL bench jockey Joe Sacco as the new coach.
It's just like Geddy Lee said. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
Was there ever a chance things would turn out any other way?
Oh sure, Lacroix flirted shamelessly for several weeks with Patrick Roy, hoping the ex-Avs icon could be enticed to leave the Quebec Remparts and bring a little sizzle back to this failing franchise. But after Roy shot him down, saying he wasn't quite ready for the job of coach and/or GM, well that was it. No external interviews. No thought of bringing in someone who might want to, you know, make decisions independent of The Smartest Man In The Room.
Lacroix basically said as much during the presser to introduce Sherman, pointing out that the new GM's decisions would be made "under my supervision." Considering how well other decisions made under his supervision have gone -- Andrew Raycroft and Darcy Tucker come to mind -- you have to wonder how much longer the Teflon coating that came with those two Stanley Cups will last.
To be fair, Sherman is, by all accounts, a bright guy. Hard working. A leader of men. But he's also, like Giguere, an accountant. A bean counter. And how'd that work out, again?
This is a guy who went from working at Arthur Anderson to running the Avs' merchandising to working on the team's cap management. Sherman obviously did a nice job hawking Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg sweaters during the glory years. But going by how little cap room this last place team has to work with ($44 million committed to just 13 players), it's hard to point to anything positive he's achieved on the hockey side of the operation.
Don't worry about that, though.
"I don't want to look back," Sherman said. "To say why things did or didn't happen, I couldn't comment on . . . We're all about looking forward now."
Well, that's encouraging. So why exactly was he promoted?
"I got my MBA free of cost while working for arguably the best GM in all of sports," Sherman told the Denver Post.
There you have it. He may not know hockey, but he knows how to play the game.
At least with Sacco, Lacroix can suggest that he's hired the next Dan Bylsma, right? I mean, both are former journeymen players who cut their coaching teeth with brief tenures in the American Hockey League. Of course, Bylsma's transition was eased considerably by a lineup that includes Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury. Sacco, on the other hand, will be forced to depend on Paul Stastny and. . .um. . .well, a bunch of guys who played for him last season in Lake Erie.
Which is promising because, after all, Sacco's track record speaks for itself. Not impressed enough by that 60-79-9 mark he strung together over two years at Lake Erie, the fourth-worst result of any AHL team over that span? How about the fact that the Monsters were just one of three teams to score fewer than 200 goals? Or that they finished 14th in the 15-team Western Conference last season?
Hey, that's one better than the Avs.
So maybe Sacco wasn't the best choice, but he might have been the only one. Granato and his staff deserved the ax, but honestly, after watching how shamefully the team treated him for the last two months, who else would take the job?
At least Sacco won't have to suffer for long. As soon as Roy's ready -- mid-season? Next year? The gig is his. Count on it.
And Sherman's not likely long for the role, either. The heir to the GM's job already is apparent. No surprise that it's Eric Lacroix, the crown prince who was hired on as director of hockey operations.
Bringing in his own son. Let's see Putin top that.