It's hardly a secret the Colorado Avalanche are stuck squarely in the middle of a major rebuilding phase, so it should come as no surprise the club is about to miss the postseason for a third straight spring.
While not being a playoff team at this stage is understandable for a youthful club still trying to find its identity, Jean-Sebastien Giguere thinks his young teammates are a little too comfortable with their current standing in the NHL.
Giguere, a 35-year-old veteran of two Stanley Cup Finals, laid into his fellow Avs following their 3-1 home loss to the Calgary Flames on Monday. The loss was the fifth straight and ninth in 10 games for Colorado and it came against the only team in the NHL with less points than Avalanche.
It seemed like the perfect time for Giguere, who made 31 saves in the loss, to unburden his soul about what's going on with the Avs. What followed was a series of candid remarks to Denver Post writer Adrian Dater that could wind up having a lasting effect on an organization in flux.
Giguere expressed his anger to Dater on a variety of subjects, but if there's one segment of the interview that is the real attention-grabber, it's when the veteran netminder fumes about Avalanche players who are more concerned with postseason vacations than doing their best to finish the season strongly.
"Some guys are more worried about their Vegas trip at the end of the season than playing the games, than playing every minute of the games," Giguere said. "Quite frankly, I don't care about your Vegas trip right now."
Dater calls that specific sound bite "the strongest quote I've ever gotten from an Avs player in my 18 years covering the team" and that's not difficult to believe. Hockey players are renowned (and often ridiculed) for their restraint in interviews and it's rare to hear such a blatant calling out of teammates in the NHL.
In this case, Giguere knew he had every right to sound off about the state of the Avs because of the team's lack of veteran leadership. After all, Gabriel Landeskog, the club's captain, is only 20 years old and the "C" on his sweater isn't nearly enough clout to allow him to speak as freely as Giguere did. Also, considering Giguere did not specifically mention the "Vegas" offenders by name, there's no guarantee Landeskog wasn't one of them.
The only player older than Giguere on Colorado's roster is the club's longtime winger Milan Hejduk, who was a member of the Avs' last championship team in 2000-01. The problem is Hejduk has never been an outspoken guy and also is currently sidelined with a shoulder injury.
Giguere, meanwhile, isn't just a veteran, he's a guy with a strong connection to some formidable teams. He not only led Anaheim to a Stanley Cup title in the spring of 2007, but Giguere also was awarded a Conn Smythe Trophy in 2003 when the Ducks fell in seven games to the New Jersey Devils.
Although Giguere's career has cooled off since leaving the Ducks, a resume like his still gives him a whole lot of leeway to sound off, and he used every bit of it after Monday's loss.
"It's embarrassing," Giguere fumed. "I'm embarrassed to be here right now. It's not even funny."
What should be interesting to see now is how the Avalanche respond to Giguere's comments, if they do so at all. The worst-case scenario if you're a Colorado fan would be the front office punishing Giguere by trying to get rid of him. That would send a terrible message that the franchise is more concerned with people towing the company line rather than heeding the words of a guy who has earned the right to gripe.
After all, if Giguere is right about Colorado's country club atmosphere, then the veteran goaltender, who is signed through next year and has a no-trade clause, is exactly the type of passionate player the Avs need to keep in the fold.
Another possible result of Giguere's tirade is the Avs will be forced to fire head coach Joe Sacco, a scenario that was highly likely before the goaltender let loose. Sacco led the team to a surprising playoff run in his first season in 2009-10, but unless his team goes on a miracle run to the postseason this month, it seems obvious the club will soon part ways with the coach. If anything, Giguere's damning words about the state of the team may force Colorado to let Sacco go before the season ends.
The only real positive to take from this season seems to be Colorado's current standing as the odds-on favorite to land the No. 1 pick in this summer's draft. However, even that coveted consolation prize could wind up being less important to the club than convincing themselves they can win now. Giguere clearly believes the time for waiting for a brighter day to arrive has long since past.
"At some point, we have to understand there's no more excuses. It's not about being young," Giguere said.
Colorado has nine games left in the regular season. That is plenty of time to see if Giguere's harsh words have any affect on the team's play. If they fail to move the dial, however, the situation in Denver may be even darker than it appears.