(Above: a photographic representation of the current state of the Colorado Avalanche. That's right! It's symbolism!)
Having watched the Avalanche since they invented hockey in 1995, gosh, golly, that was really probably the worst playoff series I've seen them in. Worse than the meltdown against the Oilers and Curtis Joseph, worse than... worse than any of the other losses (it's early, my memory isn't so good any more). Usually they've played a part in their own defeat, but this time around -- I couldn't really think of anything to write about the series (as you may have noticed!) because it looked like the Ducks had scheduled a series of exhibitions against a Belarusian minor league team.
And now Pierre Lacroix is out. Probably a good thing -- general managers really have a short shelf life (aside from Bob Clarke, who has nine lives) and Sneaky Pete's strokes of genius have become fewer and fewer in recent years. Most of the attention focused on the Theodore trade, but in retrospect, two preseason pickups may have been far, far worse... Pierre Turgeon and, holy God, Patrice Brisebois. Montreal fans had made Brisebois their whipping boy for years, and now, Avalanche fans can see why. He wasn't a Norris Trophy winner in his prime, and his prime was a decade ago. And luckily, barring a buyout, Avalanche fans apparently have another whole year to see both of them taking up space that could be better used by, I dunno, bringing back Rene Corbet or something.
(Above: Rene, longing to make Mike Vernon look foolish just one more time)
I'm curious to see who shows up in the Avalanche GM spot next year -- please, God, let it not be Eric Lacroix (the Denver Post says Pierre has a "candidate in mind" -- uh oh). Second round or not, whoever it is has a tough job ahead of them. There's only a handful of bona fide offensive threats on the team -- Sakic (who's got maybe a year or two left), Hejduk, Tanguay, Brunette, hopefully Wolski; Rob Blake is also about done; there's not a lot of cap room. I can't find any list of whose contracts are up and whose aren't (I know Hejduk, Theodore, Turgeon (shit), and Brisebois (dammit) are signed for next year, Sakic and Blake aren't) but I suspect a lot of useful guys -- your Laperrieres, Laaksonens, and so forth -- are up.
Every year it's been fashionable to write off the Avalanche, to say "this is where it all ends" -- and it hasn't yet. And I know there's a long offseason ahead. But I have a feeling that a long, cruel, post-apocalyptic winter is in the offing.
(Update: The Rocky Mountain News has a bit on the impending free agents -- apparently I called it wrong and Laperriere and Laaksonen are locked up. But Tanguay, Liles, Svatos and Vaananen are restricted free agents, Hinote, Skrastins, Dowd, and Clark unrestricted. Of those latter four, I'd love to see Skrastins back -- in fact I'll be really upset if he's not -- Dowd played well after being acquired, Hinote is pretty effective, I don't know much about Clark...)
(Update to the update: I mentioned knowing little about Clark, then noticed he was the second leading-scoring defenseman during the playoffs. I also note that he used to play for the Atlanta Thrashers, the team that plays in the city in which I live. I never claimed to be good at this.)