Thursday, July 08, 2004

Lacroix shakes things up in Mile High city

Colorado Avalanche GM Pierre Lacroix shuffled his coaching chairs today, demoting former head coach Tony Granato into an assistant's position to make room for the much sought after Joel Quenneville.

Always a GM that does the unexpected Lacroix once again surprised the league, the media and the Avalanche fan base with his decision today. Stating that he made a decision that was based on what was best for the team. The opportunity to do the Denver shuffle came about when Rick Tocchet informed Lacroix that he was stepping aside to devote more time to his family. With that opening in place, Lacroix got to work on his plan to rejuvenate the normally high flying Avalanche.

Had Tocchet not resigned, Lacroix says there probably would have not been any changes in Denver for the upcoming season, so sure was he that the Avalanche problems of this year were not the fault of the coaches but rather a matter to be addressed in the line up. But with an opening to deal with Lacroix started thinking a little deeper into where he wants the Avalanche to be. And thus began the quest for Quenneville.

The former Colorado assistant coach became available after the St. Louis Blues released him on February 24th. Having been rumoured to be in the running for jobs from New York to Ottawa, Quenneville was a hot commodity and was expected to land somewhere quickly.

According to Tony Granato when he learned that Quenneville was available he suggested to Lacroix that they pursue him and do whatever it took to get him on a contract. Lacroix must have taken him at his word but took his time getting there, for with today's announcement came a disclosure that they didn't approach him until Tuesday, which means that the entire process took less than 24 hours, now that's some skimpy due diligence! The press conference to introduce him featured his new boss on the stage with him and the old coach on a speaker phone cheerleading from afar, say what you will but the Avalanche make good if not stratelevisionison. With the surreal atmosphere skeptical media in mind, Quenneville spent a fair amount of time reassuring the Avalanche fans and media that his health concerns are no longer anything to worry about and that he was more than ready for the challenge ahead. Quenneville returns to a team he feels quite comfortable with, and feels will be a good mix for his coaching philosophy.

With a much more solid line up in Colorado, Quenneville will most likely find instant success with his new charges. Part of the downfall in St. Louis was a team that seemed unable to make the right trade at the right time and never addressed it's on ice shortcomings. In Denver, at least Quenneville will know that if there is a problem it will most likely be taken care of shortly after a request, no wonder he's anxious to get back to the Rocky Mountains. The Avalanche don't seem to work under the same blue print as many of the other NHL teams, for a coach who can get results from ordinary teams having a line up built to win is going to be a treat to work with.

As with any major change to a teams dynamic, the results will dictate the success or failure of the experiment. Quenneville again has walked into a lucky situation, with the Avalanche making an early exit this past playoff season all he has to do is get them back into the playoffs and towards the division final. With the line up put on the ice year after year in Colorado that should not be too large a challenge for him.

No comments: