One of the biggest question marks hovering above the Colorado Avalanche this offseason is the future of coach Joel Quenneville, who has been defended by the mainstream press as he's been attacked by me and the rest of the online Avalanche community.
So far, there is no word from the team.
Our take is that he's simply the wrong coach for the Avs. The lineup, at least on paper, was built for speedy, score-at-will offense. Paul Stastny, Joe Sakic, Wojtek Wolski, Milan Hejduk, with Ryan Smyth and Andrew Brunette down low, were the foundation of a run-and-gun attack that could have led the league in goals scored. Instead they spent most of the year below the goal line or dumping the puck and weakly chasing it into the corners.
Sure, injuries played a big role in the lower productivity of the Avalanche offense, but the replacements---TJ Hensick, David Jones, Jaroslav Hlinka---are all quick, shoot-first-ask-questions-later kind of players. They're skill guys. And they suffered similar problems once injected into Coach Q's system of dump and give up.
For the most part, his defenders have only the horrendous amount of injuries to point to as reason to keep Coach Q around. "It wasn't his fault" is pretty much their only line of argument.
With everything on the plate of general manager Francois Giguere, why hasn't a contract extension for Coach Q been signed, sealed and delivered already?
You can quibble about Quenneville's tinkering with his lines, slam the lack of productivity on the power play or decry the coach's history of impatience with goaltending. Passionate detractors can be heard grumbling from the cheap seats of the Pepsi Center.
But after Coach Q gutted out adversity the hockey gods seemed to take great pleasure in giving the Avs via nasty crosschecks and significant injuries to Sakic, rising star Paul Stastny and big free-agent acquisition Ryan Smyth, it seems to me that Quenneville's performance has earned another term on the Colorado bench.
Coach Q "gutted out adversity," but the team failed to win. The best coaches are those that continue to win despite personnel losses. Coach Q didn't do that. In fact, at times the team seemed crippled by his line combinations, his atrocious power play strategies and the dreaded goalie carousel---the existence of which doomed the Avs in the early season and the non-existence of which doomed them in the post-season.
For what it's worth, Terry Frei points out the major failures of the coach, even though he says later in the article that Coach Q will likely get a new contract:
In fact, the Wings might even have done the Avs favors by giving them such a rude face wash and making it obvious that Detroit's strengths — including speed, puck control and movement; an ability to make opposing forecheckers look silly; proficiency at setting up in the offensive zone; and then awe-inspiring passing throughout the zone, and not just down low — highlighted Colorado's shortcomings. And then there was Colorado's hard-to-explain ineptitude on the power play, a problem that needs to be aggressively addressed.
Was this problem a lack of skilled personnel or a lack of coaching ingenuity?
So far, there has been no word as to what Avalanche general manager Francois Giguere is going to do with Coach Q. Says Dater:
I’m honestly a little baffled about what’s going on with Coach Q’s situation. Everybody is keeping real quiet about it, so I don’t have a great idea what’s going to happen at the moment. Coaches usually aren’t left hanging like this. I think he’ll be back, but it seems clear that Francois Giguere is at least still thinking about it some. The other question is, does Quenneville even really want to re-sign here? He’s not saying anything about it one way or the other, which is a little odd too.
If Giguere rehires Quenneville, he gets a coach who has led his team to the second round of the playoffs two years out of three (the other year they missed the playoffs altogether), but no division titles and a 2-13-1 record against traditional nemesis Detroit. And both those second round appearances were embarrassing sweeps.
On top of that, there's now word coming out that Coach Q had, to some extent, "lost the room" at times, at least with affable veteran Andrew Brunette. Brunette, who has worn the A as an alternate captain for the Avs and is generally very well-liked and respected by fellow players, apparently had some major problems with his coach.
I think Andrew Brunette will be gone. I hope I’m wrong on that, too, because he’s a great guy to talk to about the game. He’d probably make a great coach some day. But I think he’s done here. He didn’t always see eye to eye with Joel Quenneville...
And from Kiszla:
Maybe a good player doesn't mesh with a smart coach's system. If Quenneville returns, it probably makes sense to let winger Andrew Brunette go as an unrestricted free agent.
If Coach Q's system was so smart, why couldn't Andrew Brunette, a good player who played well under a similar-minded coach (Jacques Lemaire in Minnesota), mesh with it? Methinks the system wasn't so smart.
Hopefully Francois Giguere will do what's right for the team and seek a new coach, preferably one with a different background, mindset and style than Coach Quenneville. And hopefully Quenneville moves on to a team more suited to him.