Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco was featured on an NHL media conference call on Tuesday morning. The following are some highlights from the call.
Q: 18-year-old kids being what they are, are you surprised that not only Matt (Duchene), but also Ryan (O’Reilly) has done enough to become such a vital part of your team? Sacco: After watching their training camp, I'm not so surprised. Obviously I'm surprised because they are 18, but they are mature hockey players for their age. They both seem to have a really strong work ethic. I mean, they're the first ones on the ice to practice and they're the last ones to leave the ice. They put the time and the work in.
Like I said before, they are mature players for their age and they both have excellent hockey sense. The biggest thing is they've been contributing to our lineup and they've been helping our team win.
Q: Along the way, will you be determining whether staying in Colorado is better for their development as opposed to sending them back, both players? Sacco: Like I said before, right now they deserve to be in our lineup. They're going to remain in our lineup. We'll just take it on a game-by-game basis.
We have the option to send them back to juniors if we feel that is best thing for them and us. Right now, certainly the way they've played, they deserve to be here.
Q: How big a role has Craig Anderson been in this 6-1-1 start considering he was in Florida last year and a free agent signing? Sacco: Craig Anderson has certainly been a guy that…all you can ask of your goaltender is for him to give you a chance to win. Over the course of the first eight games, he's done that and more. We do make some mistakes, there's no question, but we’re working hard. We make some young mistakes at times; we have had breakdowns but Craig has been there to save us.
He has given us a chance to be in every game and to compete and to win every game. He's only 28 years old and entering what I would consider is the prime of his career for a goaltender. He's been very solid so far. Not to repeat, but he's giving us a chance to win every game.
Q: When it comes to those teenagers you were talking about earlier, do you see any advantage in the fact that they get the chance to go through this together? Sacco: I think that's a good point. Yeah, I think it does help. I do remember, you know, just quickly when I was a first-year player, there was another young player. The two of us were together our first year. I think it makes the transition somewhat smoother and a little bit easier to deal with. You have somebody to talk with and that's kind of going through the same thing emotionally.
Both of these young players, like I said before, are mature for their age. They seem like they're both good character people. They have good qualities about themselves. You know, I think that having each other there to lean on in certain situations that come up during the year, I think they could benefit from that.
Q: You've been through the NHL and played yourself. For any young player, is the toughest part of the adjustment the mental side maybe or physically the grind of more games generally than most young guys have played? Sacco: Yeah, I think it's fair to say it's both. Physically, you know, they are playing against a lot bigger and stronger and faster competition. The course of 82 games is different, too. These guys are both out of juniors, so they're used to playing more games than maybe a college player would.
But certainly that's going to take some time to adjust. We know there may be points during the season where they may hit the wall a little bit. It happens to everybody, it happens to some of the best players in the game.
We're just trying to make sure that…one thing we're going to try to do with these two players is make sure that their game is consistent. If they can bring what they have over the course of the first eight games, if they can bring that over the course of 82 games and continue to work hard and improve every day, there's no reason why they can't stick here.