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The Ax Rarely Falls In Denver, For What It's Worth

Jim Armstrong at the Denver Post looks at the strange coaching atmosphere in Denver professional sports in that it's almost impossible for anyone to get fired:

Denver has become the exception to the rule in pro sports. For whatever reason, local coaches are immune from the pressure felt by their contemporaries in other markets.

They say they're under pressure to win, but are they? If they don't win, it's not like they lose their jobs. Maybe they don't get a new company car or a ringing endorsement in the newspapers, but they don't lose their jobs.

The last coach of one of Denver's major pro sports franchises to get the gas? That would be the Avs' Tony Granato, who was replaced by Joel Quenneville in 2004 and promptly hired as an assistant coach.

So there you have it. Even when a coach gets fired around here, he doesn't get fired.

Presumably this piece has something to do with Coach Q's situation, except that not renewing an expired contract is not exactly the same thing as being fired.  So even if Q finds employment with a different NHL team this summer, he wouldn't technically have been given the ax by the Avalanche.

Details aside, what if Coach Q does pack his bags and take that manly mustache of his into the sunset?  Who would replace him?

Well, Tony Granato would be a top candidate, of course, having already briefly coached the Avs back in 2003 and 2004.  He's had three more years as assistant coach and presumably has further developed his skills behind the bench (minus the power play).  Don't forget, despite all the criticism he has faced, that he holds the best winning percentage of all four Avalanche coaches (.647) and a better playoff percentage than Joel Quenneville (.500 and .421, respectively).

Ron Wilson may be departing from sunny San Jose, so he could also be a candidate.  Rumor has it that anything less than a very deep run in the playoffs by the Sharks would mean Wilson's ouster, and you have to assume that he will be highly sought by various teams if he is indeed let go in the coming days/weeks.

Another coach facing possible unemployment is Tampa Bay boss John Tortorella, he of the fiery disposition and preference for run-and-gun offense.  He's currently coaching Team USA in the World Championships, but may find himself polishing his resume when he returns.  If the Avs were to hire him, he would maintain one coaching legacy (sweet facial hair) and rekindle another (bat shit craziness) that have defined the Colorado franchise.

Facing Tortorella in the World Championships is Canada's assistant coach Pat Burns.  Burns left the NHL in 2005 after a cancer diagnosis, but he's healthy again and showing the fire that drove him to three Jack Adams trophies and a Cup with the New Jersey Devils.  While it is rumored that Burns could be seeking another head coaching job in the big league, he's still employed by the Devils and may not want to leave.  

And let's not forget both Bob Hartley and Marc Crawford.  Hartley is currently unemployed but rumored to be talking to Ottawa.  Crawford's days in Los Angeles are surely numbered by now, even though you can't be expected to win many games when you have a junk lineup.  Considering Avalanche GM Francois Giguere's recent bout of nostalgia (see: Forsberg and Foote), it wouldn't be outlandish to suggest he'd try to bring back either of the two Cup-winning, former Colorado bench bosses.  

There is no doubt that Giguere would interview any of these individuals (and others) if Joel Quenneville were to depart from Denver.  But that's still a big IF, and not all the possible candidates are currently job hunting.  

Who would you prefer?  Did I leave out somebody particularly noteworthy?

ADDENDUM: It's a landslide.  The vast majority of respondents to Adrian Dater's call for a vote on Coach Q have chosen "nay."  So I guess Sandy Clough has a lot more people to dismiss and shit on.  Unfortunately for him, they all probably used to listen to his radio show.  His advertisers are going to be pissed.