The (Coach) Q Factor

Because everyone just can't get enough of Colorado Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville right now, we're going to beat this horse to death if it's the last thing we do.

One of the major complaints among fans here at MHH and around the Internets is the ongoing goalie carousel that Coach Q insists that Peter Budaj and Jose Theodore ride, despite Theodore's consistent poor play (which has reemerged this season, right on schedule) and Budaj's clear dominance over the course of The Streak last season.

Consider for a moment that goalie tandems like the one Coach Q has tried to produce this season are rare and hardly illustrious.  The only example that comes close was the 1980-81 Islanders, who successfully rode the goalie team of Chico Resch and Billy Smith to the Stanley Cup playoffs, but it wasn't until Resch got benched for Smith that the team won the Cup.  Nobody else has ever had similar success.

So---setting aside the painfully obvious track record of Jose Theodore---what makes Coach Q think a one-in-one-out goalie team could work in Colorado?  Did Q ever do that kind of thing in St. Louis for the Blues, the only other team he's coached?

I'm glad you asked.

Joel Quenneville coached the St. Louis Blues from 1997 to early 2004, when he departed and was replaced by his assistant Mike Kitchen.  During Q's tenure, the Blues had an overall record of 307-191-70-18.  The Blues never made it past the second round of the playoffs, but they enjoyed a fair amount of success.

So how did goaltenders play into the Blues of the late 1990s to early 2000s?  In each season that Q coached, did he rely on a sole starting netminder or did he employ the tag team he seems obsessed with in Denver?

In Q's first partial season with the Blues, the second half of 1996-97, Grant Fuhr was the foundation of the team.  He played 73 games and finished with a record of 33-27-11.  Fuhr wasn't nearly as good as his Edmonton Oilers days, but he was still a fairly reliable guy.

1997-98, Fuhr was still around and still the number one.  He played a less-grueling 58 games, but still almost 30 more than backup Jamie McLennan.  The Blues made it to the second round of the playoffs that year with a regular season record of 45-29-8.

The next season saw the first true goalie tandem attempt by Coach Q, when he split the efforts of an aging Fuhr (39 games) and a young McLennan (33 games) almost evenly.  Perhaps ironically, that was the worst season the Blues had under Coach Q, and they finished with a mediocre 37-32-13 record.  They did make it to the second round of the playoffs, but Grant Fuhr played 13 games and McLennan only 1, so the tandem didn't continue into the postseason.

The best year the Blues had under Coach Q, the year that won him the Jack Adams trophy (see photo above), was 1999-00.  St. Louis finished with a 51-19-11-1 record and 114 total points.  That season, the big revelation was Roman Turek, who played 67 games in net, winning 42 of them, and relegated Jamie McLennan back to his old backup role.  The Blues got upset in the first round of the playoffs that year, but their regular season success was clearly built on a traditional, one-starter goalie system.

The following three and a half seasons, the Blues employed only one other goalie tag team.  In 2002-03, Brent Johnson played 38 games and Fred Bathwaite played 30.  Interestingly, five other goalies suited up for the Blues that season, including Tom Barrasso, Chris Osgood, Curtis Sanford, Reinhard Davis and Cody Rudkowsky.  None of them played more than nine games, however.  St. Louis and its goaltending army, despite finishing the season 41-24-11-6, was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs and Coach Q wouldn't last the rest of the next season.

In sum, the Blues' best year under Coach Q was done with a sole starting goalie.  The worst year featured a goalie carousel similar to the one currently being employed in Colorado with Peter Budaj and Jose Theodore.  Coach Q has never had considerable success with the system, regardless of who the goalies were or are.

So why does he still seem hell-bent on sticking with it, despite his past experience and the evidence right in front of his eyes?  

I wish I had the answer to that.  

UPDATE: According to Dater, Coach Q gave the team an earful during practice on Monday.  Clearly he doesn't seem to share our opinion of where rests the fault for the past five games.

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