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Avalanche fire coach Joe Sacco after missing playoffs for 3rd straight season

Colorado Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco, back, looks on as his players take a break during a time out against the Minnesota Wild in the second period of an NHL hockey game in Denver on Saturday, April 27, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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Colorado Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco, back, looks on as his players take a break during a time out against the Minnesota Wild in the second period of an NHL hockey game in Denver on Saturday, April 27, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER - Colorado Avalanche coach Joe Sacco was fired on Sunday after the team missed the playoffs for the third straight season.

The Avs never got on track in the lockout-shortened season and finished last in the Western Conference.

Sacco was in his fourth season in charge of Colorado and wound up with a 130-134-30 mark. He had one year left on his contract.

"The organization believes a change of leadership behind the bench is needed going forward," general manager Greg Sherman said in a release. "Joe has worked for this franchise for eight seasons and he is a dedicated and hard-working coach. We appreciate all he has done and wish him the best in the future."

The Avs will soon begin their search for a replacement.

Sacco spent two seasons in charge of the organization's American Hockey League affiliate squad, the Lake Erie Monsters, before taking over the Avs in 2009 after the firing of Tony Granato.

A former NHL player, Sacco preached a fast-paced style and it served the youthful Avalanche well in his first season as the team earned a post-season spot. He was even a finalist for the NHL's coach of the year.

But Colorado couldn't duplicate that success.

Moments after a 3-1 loss to Minnesota on Saturday to close out the regular season, Sacco was asked about his future, saying, "We're certainly headed in the right direction."

His team was committed to his up-tempo philosophy. Matt Duchene recently said that Sacco's message was still getting across.

"We've all played the system he's put in place to the best of our ability. We've all worked at it," said Duchene, who finished tied with P.A. Parenteau for the team scoring lead with 43 points. "We're all still buying in and working."

Sacco will be back on the bench later this week when he leads the U.S. squad at the world championships. He will even take several Avalanche players with him, including Paul Stastny and Erik Johnson.

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