Please excuse my absence during the surprise announcement that Avalanche assistant coach (and former head coach) Tony Granato will be taking the reigns left to him by Joel Quenneville next season. Sometimes I actually have to do work at my job.
Anyway, it's probably not worth saying how disappointed I am, and not because I dislike Tony Granato---I don't---but because we all know the Avalanche needs a new direction from the top down. Recycling old coaches (and clinging to an old era) is probably not the best strategy for a team that could be seeing the departure of long-time captain Joe Sakic (this summer or next), not to mention Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote (eventually). Whether they like it or not, the Avalanche front office is going to have to start thinking toward the future.
Now, as for the selection of Granato, it's not really a shocker, honestly. Pierre Lacroix may not be the GM anymore, but he's still pulling the strings and you have to know that he played a major role in this selection. Granato is Lacroix's boy. And let's be honest, Granato is not incompetent. He's been a solid assistant coach under the right head coach. He did well under Bob Hartley. He did well with the power play before Q's obsession with being wrong and bull-headed kicked in this past season.
And Granato has some solid numbers as a former head coach:
With Granato as head coach, the Avalanche compiled a record of 72-33-17-11, giving him the top coaching mark in franchise history based on points percentage (.647). Granato owns a .605 career winning percentage as an NHL head coach (72-44-17), the second highest in franchise history. Among active NHL coaches, Granato ranks fifth in career winning percentage behind Bruce Boudreau (.664), Dave Tippett (.632), Randy Carlyle (.630) and Mike Babcock (.621).
But, and this is the big BUT, Granato choked (twice) in the offseason with some really solid lineups. He lost in the playoffs with a team that had Sakic, Forsberg, Foote, Tanguay, Roy and Blake---and they were all healthy, and they had all won a Cup together before. How is that possible? Was it just because Bourque had retired? I doubt it.
Tony Granato's been in the Avs system for a long time. He's put in his time, and somebody decided that he was owed the head job (again). It didn't go so well the last time (overall), but he's older, has more experience and is just hangin' out with nothing else to do.
So Granato, at least for 2008-09, will be the head coach of the Avalanche. I guess we'll survive. I mean, it could be Quenneville again.
Honestly, I think the really interesting aspects of this story are 1) the Denver media had NO IDEA this was going to happen, and 2) the Avs will have to hire a new assistant coach to replace Granato. Kevin Dineen maybe? The offensive assistant coach is the main power play guy, usually, so there's at least a small chance that the PP will improve next year.
I have to say, though, that if they had to pick a Granato to coach the team, I would have preferred Cammi .