Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville has been a lightning rod pretty much the entire 2007-08 season. This blog and others have complained about him almost non-stop since game 2 or 3. Readers have been inundating the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post with calls for his head. Even the message board die-hards have created clever graphic banners demanding he be forcibly removed from his position behind the Colorado bench. And like yesterday.
But while the fan base of the team has had enough, convinced that Coach Q has jumped the Yeti, others aren't quite seeing it that way. Others like Scott Burnside of ESPN:
It's early to start talking coach of the year honors, but if the Colorado Avalanche manage to sneak into the playoffs, you'll have to put Joel Quenneville on a very short list of candidates. Without top scorers Ryan Smyth and Joe Sakic and Paul Stastny, the team's best player, the Avs are 6-3-1 over their [last] 10 games and tied for sixth in the conference heading into Monday's action. Quenneville has managed to keep the team in the hunt with Jose Theodore slowly returning to some of the form that made him an MVP back in the day with Montreal.
The Avs are getting by without their stars, and some think it's been because of Quenneville, not despite him. Even the fans seem to be coming around, as Rick Sadowski of the RMN reports:
The e-mails from fans demanding that the Avalanche give Joel Quenneville the heave-ho have subsided in recent weeks, perhaps a sign that the head coach isn’t doing such a poor job after all.
While some undoubtedly believe that the Avalanche has managed to stay in the hunt for first place in the Northwest Division despite Coach Q’s presence behind the bench, the guy ought to be given some credit for keeping the team afloat despite the absence of injured stars Joe Sakic, Ryan Smyth and Paul Stastny.
Even if it's true that Q and the Avs are enjoying more success than they probably should be without the Three Esses, you can't view the season through the cloudy lens of just twenty games or so. The team has played 55, after all.
I'd argue that the Avs would be in an even better position right now had Q not made such blatant and inexcusable errors in the early part of the year. How could we forget the goalie carousel fiasco that saw both Peter Budaj and Jose Theodore endlessly platooned despite the fact that neither has ever played well in that situation? It wasn't until both goalies got consistent starts that they started to excel. Theodore especially has enjoyed a return to form only because Q finally abandoned his one-and-done method of abusing losing netminders.
And what about the offensive lines? Blessed with one of the deepest rosters in the entire NHL, Q impatiently changed his combinations from shift to shift without rhyme or reason. A line that scored two goals the game before would be completely changed the next. Paul Stastny, Jaroslav Hlinka and Andrew Brunette seemed to have instant chemistry in the very first game of the season (three goals, five assists among them), but they hardly played together again after the Avs got blanked by the Predators in game two.
And what about the defense? Q relied far too heavily on Scott Hannan from the very beginning, despite his consistently weak play. And he's just now figuring out the strengths and limitations of guys like Jeff Finger, Kurt Sauer and Kyle Cumiskey. And the saying "Skrastins Not Withstanding" wouldn't have been coined had Q skratched him on a more regular basis like he has finally begun to do.
Anyone remember that Wyatt Smith played 25 games this season, while Brad Richardson and the the two Codys suffered two months or more in the AHL?
What about the horrendous power play? Even though TJ Hensick has begun to revitalize what remains the 3rd-worst power play in the league all by himself, and assistant coach Tony Granato is the man directly in charge of it, the blame for the failure of the Avs special teams ultimately rests on Q's shoulders.
And what about Q's unceasing insistence on sending Tyler Arnason into critical face-offs when his percentage in those situations has been atrocious from the start? That alone should disqualify him from Jack Adams consideration.
I could go on. I encourage you to do so.
There's no way that Coach Joel Quenneville deserves to win the Jack Adams, even if the Avs do make the playoffs. It should never have been a question, even with the injuries they have suffered. The only reason their place in the post-season is in doubt at all is because of Q's inept team management.
Can you imagine Q getting the Adams Trophy over guys like Dave Tippett, Mike Babcock and new Washington coach Bruce Boudreau? Guys who have inspired, revitalized and expertly guided over-achieving teams deserve the honor, not a guy who makes decisions based on whims, grudges and a dart board.