The Colorado Avalanche Just Don't Know How to Say Goodbye

Geoff TownsendAnalyst IMay 23, 2008

As if the experiment involving Adam Foote and Peter Forsberg wasn't enough of a sign, the Colorado Avalanche announced Thursday that former head coach Tony Granato would be renamed to his old position, only four years removed from a demotion in which he was replaced by the man he now replaces, Joel Quenneville.

Now riddle me this.  What was the rush in Denver to sign a new head coach? 

The Avs are not yet a month removed from the playoffs and had been rumored to have been interested in Detroit Red Wings’ assistant Todd McLellan especially but also had several candidates on the table.

Pat Burns, a three-time NHL Coach of the Year, is still under contract in New Jersey, but word is he is eager to come back and coach an NHL franchise. 

Patrick Roy had his name brought up but quickly announced his intention to stay in Quebec and incite goalie-on-goalie brutality.

Other names brought up included John Tortorella, who was fired in Tampa Bay, Kevin Dineen, the coach of the AHL's Portland Pirates, and Ron Wilson of San Jose, who was voted by ESPN as the eighth best coach in the league for the 2007-2008 season. 

The list isn't a long one, but Granato? 

Francois Giguere made it a point to say after Quenneville was fired (because no coach is humble enough to come to the team that pays him millions of dollars a year and say "I'm just not the man for the job") that the process would be a long one yet he settles on a coach that has been canned from the position as soon as he did?

Of course, the decision needed to be an economical one.  The NHL is still a business and in the end, it is all about profit.  But doesn't the team they field, including the coaches, play a roll in those economics? 

If the Avs don't improve under Granato, is he to blame? Or Giguere perhaps? 

With the names available that are either job searching or interested in starting again (which is the case for Burns, whose colon cancer is in recession) I'm not sure that Granato is the one who will take Colorado past the Wings in round two.  In fact, I'm not sure he wins a game either.

Let's face it, Denver.  The Avs were swept by the one team in the NHL that cannot be allowed to do so.  Whether the rivalry is alive or not plays no role in that either. 

Regardless of the fact that Claude Lemieux is long gone or that Patrick Roy isn't on the ice to get bloodied up by Chris Osgood doesn't matter, the media personnel at both Joe Louis Arena in Detroit and the Pepsi Center in Denver will not let those clips die.  The mere thought of a Wings-Avs match-up in the playoffs drove even the oldest of the old-school NHL fans to the edge of their rockers.

Had Colorado won the series, Quenneville most likely straightens his tie in the Pepsi Center next year, but he couldn't even coach his way to one win, which is unforgivable against the "Dead Wings.” 

In the eyes of an Avalanche-adoring crowd, Quenneville allowed an octopus to land on his ice and watched as his team lost by six goals in an elimination game.  In this city and with this team, that is criminal.

Sure, Avs apologists will argue that they were injured. 

Point noted. 

They were also outmatched in every other statistic though.  Franzen lit them up for nine goals, they made Chris Osgood look like he was the reincarnation of a goalie the city of Denver still holds near and dear, and the special teams looked like they may have been outwitted by a wobbly skating group of pee-wees.

Those special teams, though, were Granato's responsibility as an assistant coach.  I don't see how management expects to improve when they insist on using the same pieces. 

Consider restoring an old car.  It makes no sense whatsoever to use the rusted floorboards or the transmission that proudly roared for 100,000 miles. 

The Avalanche power play was effective 14.6 percent of the time last season, good enough for third worst in the league.  14.6 percent! That is an awful lot of rust.

Some have also clamored that Granato is the winning-est coach in Avs history.


He also boasts a less that stellar 9-9 record in the playoffs, only slightly better than Quenneville's 8-11, and Granato never came close to matching up with a buzz saw like the Red Wings. 

Pat Burns was 16-8 (.750) in 2003 alone when he coached the New Jersey Devils to a Stanley Cup.

My gripe is not with Granato.  In no way is he the one to blame for his hiring.  He simply signed his name next to an "X" on a sheet that said, in short, that he would be making a lot more money next season. 

My problem, however, is in Giguere and his urgency to hire a coach who is still a good five years away to being experienced enough to lead a team to the pinnacle of the NHL.  His insistence on his choice is also a disheartening reality. 

As an Avalanche fan and a hockey fan, I am miffed.  The economics may be attractive, but the coach is not. 

At this point, I may even concede to interviewing Scotty Bowman.  Perhaps then the culture in Denver may begin to change.