Avs Finally Drop Bomb, but Make a Small Boom

It took the Avalanche long enough to do what everyone already knew they would do, and fire Tony Granato. Even before the information was leaked to the media that the job was offered to Patrick Roy, it wasn’t a stretch to see Granato’s time with the Avs was coming to an end. It was a bit of a surprise that Granato was (re-)hired for the job in the first place, but there he was, screaming and scheming all last season.

Granato wasn’t the only one to get the axe, as five other members of the management staff were let go as well. From the Avalanche:

The Colorado Avalanche Hockey Club announced today that the organization has relieved six members of its hockey operations staff from their respective duties.

The list includes head coach Tony Granato, assistant coaches Jacques Cloutier and Dave Barr, goaltending coach Jeff Hackett, Assistant to the General Manager Michel Goulet and video coordinator PJ DeLuca.

Oh, where to begin.

Jeff Hackett was brought in at the request of Jose Theodore. After Theo left the team for “greener pastures,” I was kind of surprised Hackett was kept on. I figured he would get the boot. I would like to say he was more useful than I thought he would be, but look at how the goalies did this season.

Anyone surprised that Cloutier is gone? He was supposedly in charge of the penalty kill under Quenneville, and that hasn’t been worth beans since the lockout.

Michel Goulet was a bit of a surprise, but if you are starting over, I guess you really start over. His exit truly signals the end of the old Avs (along with missing playoffs, losing signature names, and the death of the third jersey).

Was the path for Tony Granato ever mapped out in a way he could succeed? From assistant coach to head coach of a stacked-with-stars team, back to assistant coach, and back to head coach of a team with more talent holes than a porno, Granato was tossed around by the organization, and always asked for more abuse. If Granato were to be the coach of the future everyone (and I’m sure he thought he would be), the best thing for him would have been to coach the Lake Erie Monsters. It’s worked for other teams to groom a coach in the AHL system along with the players who will soon be filling the NHL ranks. And considering how the roster looked at the end of last season, that time has come. Having said that, it took the Avs a while to take the AHL system seriously, and it’s taken them a while to adapt to the salary cap system of building from within (if they even have).

The problem the Avalanche have is the belief that the future is always now. There has never been a rebuilding time in Colorado, and the memory of time wearing the powder blue and red in Quebec is dull at best. Everything was so positive in the rockies, no one realized the wheels were falling off the bus, and things would have to be build up again. Pierre Lacroix was famous for making tight deals that brought just what the team needed at the right time, which was somewhat the talent of Lacroix, and some of it being luck. In the cap era, luck is rarely available to tap. There has never been a sense of desperation that motivates teams to build themselves back into contention. Look at the massive changes the Blue Jackets went through. It payed off for them in spades, and will again next season. The Avs are not only at that point, they are past it.

So now we have a new power structure in place. Starting with a little hiring from within. From the Avalanche:

Heading this new management structure is Greg Sherman, who has been named General Manager. Sherman, 39, has spent the last seven years as the team’s Assistant General Manager, and has been associated with the franchise for the last 13 years.

“Greg Sherman deserves the opportunity to prove he can be an effective general manager in our business,” said Lacroix. “He has shown that he possesses the necessary qualities required to be successful with this new challenge in front of him.”

“Surrounded by a strong hockey staff and under my supervision, he will have all the necessary support to lead the Avalanche in this new direction,” added Lacroix.

Under the supervision of Lacroix. Forgive me for thinking this is not a statement to rally behind. Looking back at the last season, I would say the Avs, and Lacroix, were as lazy as possible, missing opportunities in free agency, the trade deadline, and everywhere in between. I don’t believe Lacroix has lost complete interest in running the Avalanche, but to call him involved over the Francios Giguere era may be a stretch.

The best part of this promotion is that Sherman has a handle on where the team is in terms of overall talent, and who is available in the minors (of course, so is the rest of the league, since the entire system seemed to be skating in the Pepsi Center last season). The bad part is that we could be looking at more of the same. It’s which half of Sherman’s experience with the team he will tap that will set the tone, the successful first half of his Avalanche based career, or the traumatic last half.

Here is the rest of the power structure breakdown. From TSN:

The team’s new management structure will be as follows:
– Craig Billington remains as Assistant GM
– Eric Lacroix is the new Director of Hockey Operations
– Brad Smith remains as Director of Player Personnel but with expanded duties and responsibilities
– David Oliver, based in Cleveland with the farm team, is the new Director of Player Development

Eric Lacroix. Great, a guy who was considered a cancer in the dressing room is brought back into the fold. Nepotism, it doesn’t always work. But if Pierre Lacroix is hiring people he trusts to do his bidding, his son is the best place to start.

Next up, hiring a coach. I can’t imagine this will take long.

Is this the direction and moves the Avalanche need to take? We will find out soon. We wish you the best, Tony, unless you are on the opposing bench.

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Kalamazoo Wings Leave the IHL

The Kalamazoo Wings, as storied a franchise as you are about to find in the minor leagues, has opted out of the IHL.

The Wings announced today that they have…

submitted a letter to the International Hockey League to voluntarily withdraw from the league.

Keep in mind that this is not the same IHL you remember from back in the day. That IHL was a league on solid footing, with a serious hook into the NHL development system. This IHL has a much more dubious background.

This IHL sprung from the UHL, which was a 14 team league only two years before it turned into the 6 team IHL. The former commissioner of the UHL, Richard Brosal, left the UHL for the B2 Network (online broadcaster of hockey games), after he was recorded having a conversation that “never happened” about a UHL linesman being coerced into changing his account of an incident with James Galante, then owner of the Danbury Trashers (a good summery of the events can be found here at the still missed blog, sidearm delivery).

The rest of the IHL is in plenty of trouble as well. The Flint Generals have had financial problems all season long, the Muskegon Lumberjacks changed ownership before the season, and the Port Huron franchise has never been all that stable.

The Wings still plan on playing next season, their 36th. They will announce where they will play at some point soon.

The Wings announcement follows the news that the President and CEO of the IHL left his post to go back to running the… (wait for it) Kalamazoo Wings. From the IHL website:

The International Hockey League (IHL) announced Friday that Paul L. Pickard, IHL President/CEO, will leave his post with the IHL following the expiration of his two-year term as League Commissioner. He advised the IHL Board of Governors that he would not be seeking an extension of his current contract to return to the Kalamazoo Wings as team President, the position he held prior to becoming the IHL’s Commissioner.

So the league president leaves his post heading the IHL, then the team he goes back to running leaves the IHL. What does that say about the IHL? Nothing good. The only team that is on solid footing would be the Ft. Wayne Komets, who lead the league in attendance by a country mile.

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But the league remains optimistic.

“Additional expansion efforts are underway as the IHL’s geographical alignment is proven to be successful,” stated Michael Franke, IHL Chairman of the Board. “The League continues to field several calls about expansion possibilities with markets within the Midwest and new markets for the upcoming season. We, as a league, look forward to what is to come in the near future.”

I wish them the best. With attendance like this at a semi-final playoff round, they may need wishes.


It’s going to be a wild ride for the minor leagues this off season. Stick around.

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