Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Joe Sakic Discusses Future with the Avalanche

I had a craptacular day today and once it was finally winding down, I came across an article on 9News.com. And let me tell you, it let me turn down the suck and turn up the good. Anyone still remember that movie? No? Good.

Let's cut right to me pilfering the content of that article. The first paragraph should be enough to have you up and whistling "zippity-doo-da" tomorrow morning:

When the Colorado Avalanche named Tony Granato as their new head coach late last week no one could have been happier then captain Joe Sakic.
"Ah ha!" you say. "Giguere signed Granato because he knew it would lure Joe back for one more year."

It's a good theory. I don't fully buy it but it's a good theory. I think removing Quenneville was enough to lure Joe back for one more year. I also think that Sakic still has at least one more good season in him and he's not about to go out wondering if he could have played one more year. I've said since the season ended that I didn't think Sakic was retiring and I still stand by that.

Plus his wife has left the ball in his court on this one. And I think you know what men tend to do when the ball is in their court.

Related Links
9News.com Interview with Joe Sakic

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Top 10 Reasons to Hate the Detroit Red Wings

In case anyone is bored on a Sunday and is dreading seeing the Wings hoist the Cup over their heads in a few days - sorry Pens fan - here's a Top 10 list for you from Simply Drew:
Top 10 Reasons to Hate the Detroit Red Wings.

But don't worry Wings fans, Uncle Joey still loves you.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Coach Q in San Jose

I might have a bit more to say about the Granato hiring today but in the meantime, it looks like our venerable Coach Quenneville is in San Jose at the moment. Sure, he could be just soaking up the rays but the odds are that he's interviewing for the vacant head coach position. Judging by the comments, it appears the fans are not willing to welcome him with open arms just yet.

Thanks to Puck Daddy for catching the story.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Tony Granato Named as Colorado Avalanche Head Coach

Skeletor mad
Today the Colorado Avalanche named Tony Granato as their new old head coach. On the heels of Joel Quenneville's departure, fans began questing candidates far and wide for the newly vacant position. But Francois Giguere didn't venture far for the answer.

The Answer is Within
Given the timing of this promotion and the past history with Granato, it seems unlikely that Giguere pursued anybody outside of the organization for the head coach position. Heck, I wonder if it was even Giguere doing the hiring. That's just conjecture on my part of course but if true, it's a shame. There were a few capable coaches available which could have brought in a new philosophy and mindset to this club. As it stands now, I currently feel a "more of the same" feeling for next season.

History Repeating Itself
I'm sure I don't need to remind anyone of Granato's last full season stint as head coach of the Avalanche. A dream team involving Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Alex Tanguay, Milan Hejduk, Teemu Selanna, Paul Kariya, Rob Blake, Adam Foote and on and on it goes. With a team like that, fans had high hopes of a birth in the Stanley Cup finals. In fact, expectations were so high that the season was captured on film. The film ended with Granato walking out of the locker room telling the team he would leave them to their thoughts. Not the strongest of concession speeches I've seen.

Will this coming season be more of the same? Well, Granato doesn't have a head case goaltender to deal - oh wait. Well, he doesn't have any players who need to be pushed to reach their full potential - oh wait. But he doesn't have any veterans to gain the respect of - oh wait.

Ok, that was a bit fecetious, especially since a couple players there are no re-signed yet and nobody is firing up their video gear expecting this team to win the Cup next season. However that's what any season is about. Winning the Cup. Tony Granato had a shot once with a superb squad. He failed.

Powerplay Suckitude
We all bemoaned Coach Q for his tactics including sitting on leads, myriad line changes and woeful special teams. And as much as Quenneville is to blame for those, Granato holds an equal share in one of them - the powerplay.

Granato was in charge of the Avalanche powerplay and it utterly and spectacularly failed this season. The Avalanche powerplay went 14.6% on the season, good enought to tie them for 2nd worst in the NHL with the New York Islanders, just half a percentage point ahead of the St. Louis Blues. That should be completely unacceptable for a team with the likes of Sakic, Smyth, Hejduk, Stastny, Svatos, Wolski and Liles to draw on.

Passion of the Tony
Granato has at least shown passion on the bench during his time with the Avalanche. Most notable was during a 4-0 beatdown at the hands of the Red Wings. After some rough play involving Aaron Downey and Ian Laperriere, Granato engaged Mike Babcock in a heated shouting match. While our former head coach stood with hands in pockets, Granato proceeded to redline himself to the point that I feared his head may explode. I was unhappy with it in the context of the game but at least it shows the man truly cares.

Experience Counts
Granato has been accepting of his shortcomings as evidenced by a demotion to the assistant coaching position. A move that many would take as emasculating was taken in stride by Granato as he realized he needed more time to learn the game from behind the bench. I would think he's spent enough time there to learn a new trick or two. Though I worry that some of those tricks came at the hands of the wrong teacher.

Stats Don't Lie
Straight from the G&M article:
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).
When you look strictly at the numbers, you'd wonder why Granato hasn't been the head coach of the Avalanche for last 3 seasons. And we all know stats don't lie, right?

Right or wrong?
In a poll I ran earlier, Tony Granato garnered 28% of the vote, coming just shy of Todd McLellan for who Avalanche fans wanted as the coach. I amended the post shortly after hoping somebody would explain why they wanted Granato in. Well, now's your time again. Is this the right move for the Avalanche or have they basically stood pat on the coaching front? I may have made my choice clear by the picture up top but don't let that sway you.

Related Links
News: Granato named head coach
Granato gets a second chance as head coach of the Colorado Avalanche
Granato named head coach of the Avalanche
Tony Granato returning as Avalanche head coach
Tony Granato announced as new Colorado Avalanche head coach
The other shoe to coach the Avs
Darn darnity darn darn darn ;)
Coach Granato: The Other View

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Denver Here I Come

(Saskatoon, Saskatchewan)
As some of you may know, I make my home in lovely Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. And while there are some upsides to living here, there are also downsides. One of those downsides was rectified earlier this year when one of our two cable carriers, Shaw, finally decided to carry Center Ice. Up until that point I was watching games via online feeds - legal and illegal -, catching the occasional TSN or CBC airing and taking advantage of my bosses ability to get Altitude on his dish. It led to a lot of frustration.

However that still left a gaping hole in my hockey life that the Saskatoon Blades have tried valiantly to fill. Sure, I could take the 5 or 6 hour drive to Calgary or Edmonton to catch a game but how many times can I watch them play the Flames and Oilers? The occasional, properly timed trip out to Vancouver has let me catch a game at GM Place which is a gorgeous arena - fans notwithstanding - but again, I'm not lacking for watching the Canucks.

Thankfully for the second year in a row I am excited for an opportunity to watch more hockey. Today United Express and the Saskatoon Airport Authority have announced two direct flights from Saskatoon to Denver each day starting the Tuesday after labour day. Yes, that's two flights PER DAY.

The details from the announcement are as follows:
There will be two flights daily from Saskatoon. The first departs Saskatoon at 7:05 each morning, arriving in Denver at 9:28 a.m. It appears that flight turns around and departs Denver at 10:02 a.m., arriving back in Saskatoon at around 12:30 p.m. The second flight to Denver then leaves Saskatoon at 1:07 p.m. and gets to Denver at 3:30 p.m. Finally, United has a 6:45 p.m. departure from Denver, getting in to Saskatoon at 9:17 p.m.

So I could be here at the office eating my lunch and - with the bosses approval of course - make an impromptu decision to take a vacation day and head out to Denver to catch a hockey game that very night. It's pretty much a 24-hour round trip so I'd be back at the office the same time the next day. Heck, I could even sleep at the airport to save on hotel costs.*

So once again, it's early in the offseason - they've awarded the Stanley Cup already, right? - and I've got something to look forward to for next season.

*I would accept any offer of reasonable accommodations by Denverites willing to put up with me for a night of hockey goodness.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Avalanche Sign T.J. Galiardi to Entry-Level Contract

The Avalanche have just announced their first roster move of the summer as they have signed T.J. Galiardi to an entry-level contract.

If you follow Jori's blog you might have noticed she actually scooped the Avalanche website on this one. I unfortunately missed it amidst the post-season fervor. The tears must have blurred my vision.

Galiardi appears to be an excellent prospect as he was 2nd in the WHL in rookie scoring (18g, 52a - 70pts in 72 games) and led all playoff scorers with 24 points in 16 games for the Calgary Hitmen.

He appears to be quite a playmaking left-winger and if there's one thing teams need, it's a slick left winger.* He is rated #6 for Avalanche prospects by HockeysFuture with a 7.0C rating. And he played for Dartmouth so the team could be adding another Ivy Leaguer to go along with David Jones.

*Disclaimer: Played left-wing through most of my "career" so may be biased towards the position.

Related Links
Next season begins: Avs sign Galiardi
Global Interview with T.J. Galiardi

Avalanche to Poach Coach from Red Wings?

Could the Avalanche be trying to poach from the enemy? Terry Frei thinks it's a possibility and that Todd McLellan, the Red Wings assistant coach, could be a solid fit for the vacant head coaching position for the Avalanche.

McLellan was snagged by Frei after the Wings morning skate Monday and asked if he would be interested in the Avalanche head coaching position. The response? "I would be very interested."

And the match made in heaven didn't stop there as he followed up with these romantic words: "So I'd like to coach a high-tempo, fast, puck-possession type team."

Now I'm very interested. McLellan is in charge of the Wings forwards including their powerplay so how could you not be intrigued?

Read the whole piece from Frei as it really delved deep into McLellan's past including a stint in the WHL where he set foot on the ice against our very own Joe Sakic.

EDIT: I'd love to hear from the folks who feel Tony Granato would be the best option. I'm not a big fan of Granato stepping into the head coach role - heck, he's struggled at times as an assistant - but I'm open to hearing why I might be wrong.

Related Links
Wings assistant coach could be the Avalanche's next coach
The men behind Mike Babcock

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Patrick Roy to Coach the Colorado Avalanche?

The speculation began even before Quenneville was let go. With Patrick Roy having begun a coaching career, everyone wondered if Roy would ever coach the Colorado Avalanche.

Now that Quenneville is gone, the speculation starts in earnest as the two most common names being bandied about are renowned 3-time Jack Adams award winning and Stanley Cup winning coach Pat Burns along with one of the most famous - or infamous - goaltenders of all time, Patrick Roy.

But not only did St. Patrick grow infamous as a goaltender with a penchant for the dramatic and the ability to get in players heads, he has grown infamous behind the bench of the Quebec Remparts.

In his first year coaching the Remparts, Roy led the team to a Memorial Cup championship. It was only the 7th time that a rookie coach has won the Memorial Cup. I was in Quebec the day the team paraded down the streets and you could feel a sense of aura around the team and Patrick. It's an aura that seems to follow him around like a shadow.

However that aura quickly turned dark the following year as Roy was involved in two incidents which reminded everyone of his quick and fiery temper. Following a game against rival Chicoutimi, a group of Chicoutimi fans swarmed the Remparts bus. Roy got out and in the scuffle was alleged to have struck Chicoutimi co-owner Pierre Cardinal.

Roy stayed on as coach, the media firestorm subsided and the Remparts marched on to the playoffs. Then during a 10-1 beat down at the hands of Chicoutimi, a brawl broke out which saw goaltender Jonathon Roy, Patrick's son, fly down the ice and attack Chicoutimi's goaltender, who was not even close to a willing participant. Shortly after the scuffle was broken up, Jonathon flipped off the Chicoutimi crowd.

Why does this reflect poorly on Patrick? Well, it would appear he urged his son on. Watch closely after the ref initially restrains Roy and you'll see Patrick make a gesture to the effect of "Get the F down there!" The result was a 5-game suspension for the elder Roy and 7 games for junior.

Francois Giguere has gone on the record stating the next coach for the Avalanche must be willing to play a high-tempo, puck possession game. It will also need to be someone who will hold players accountable for mistakes and not be so easy-going.*

He has said nothing to the effect of wanting a hot-tempered coach that will need to be handled with kid gloves lest he destroy another office.

*That last part was stated on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada last night and I couldn't find a clip to share.

Related Links
Roy knows the way to the top
Who's next for the Avalanche
Speculation on Avs successor already under way
Roy coaches Quebec Remparts to Memorial Cup
Arena fight puts police onto Patrick Roy
Patrick Roy and son suspended for on-ice brawl
Avalanche, Quenneville mutually part ways
Patrick Roy and son (with story on Hartley office trashing)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Joel Quenneville Parts Ways with Colorado Avalanche

After all that work I did this morning - and after telling myself to just wait because a decision was imminent - the decision has been made: Joel Quenneville will not return as the head coach of the Avalanche.

I like the mutual decision as it appears to mean Q is willing to realize he wasn't bringing the necessary methodology to the table.

Should Q Stay or Should He Go?

Though the NHL playoffs continue, us Avalanche fans are relegated to starting our off-season banter on who should stay and who should go. Front and center in that discussion is our venerable coach Joel Quenneville.

Since as early as last season fans have been calling for Quenneville's head:
"He juggles lines too much!"
"He won't stick with a goaltender!"
"He sits on leads!"
"He wears bad ties!"

For months those cries were heard and unheeded. At one point, fans who felt Q should go were called chuckleheads who didn't understand hockey. But even as the Avalanche snuck into the playoffs amidst injuries, many peoples still felt Quenneville was the wrong coach for the team.

Then the Avalanche dispatched of the Minnesota Wild in a series where Quenneville appeared to outcoach an excellent coach in Jacques Lemaire. You started to wonder if maybe we'd been too hard on Quenneville. Then the Detroit Red Wings rolled in, swept the Avalanche out of the second round for the second time in Avs last two playoff appearances and we were back to square one. Granted that the Wings are playing amazing hockey and the Avalanche had a decimated lineup, but there didn't seem to be much of a gameplan in effect and the team was playing uninspired hockey.

Once the playoffs were over for the Avalanche, the question became primary on everybody's mind. Will Quenneville stay or will he go? Will he leave of his own accord or will Giguere tell him his services were no longer necessary? Will he stay but with a fashion consultant?

Joe over at MHH has been blogging faster than most people talk as more and more details on the Q's status trickle in. But today, the breaking point on the Quenneville saga may have been reached. In Rick Sadowski's blog at the Rocky Mountain News, Sadowski reports that Francois Giguere has headed out east to observe the World Championships.

You could say Giguere is going to enjoy some hockey but for the most part, when a GM heads halfway across the continent in the offseason, he's doing it as a business trip. And who's at the Worlds that Giguere could be interested in? Pat Burns of course. Back behind the bench, Burns is an assistant coach for Team Canada - 4-0 so far TYVM - and appears to still have the coaching fire in him.

Would a 3-time Jack Adams award winner - the only 3-time award winner in history - be the right fit for the Avalanche? Well, I certainly can't see him being any worse. Sure, you could claim his 88-89 win came on the back of Patrick Roy but my goodness, the man won the award while coaching the friggin' Leafs! You find me a coach who can win an award while coaching a team in Toronto and I'll show you a man who deserves a job.

But reegardless if Pat Burns comes aboard, my feeling is that Joel Quenneville has worn out his welcome with the Colorado Avalanche and Francois Giguere is echoing that sentiment by not extending his contract.

Related Links
Offseason Playbook: Forwards
Offseason Playbook: Defense
Offseason Playbook: Goaltending
Dater's take on Quenneville
Better know a free agent: Joel Quenneville

Friday, May 2, 2008

Avalanche Over, What Next?

I threw my notes on the game out last night so no point recapping. Just look at the score and you'll know all you need to know.

So where do we go from here? Well, I don't know about anyone else but I still want to see who will win the Stanley Cup. And not only that, the World Hockey Championships get under way this afternoon. Can you believe Selanne joined the Finnish team? Amazing what an extra 5 months rest will do for someone who was thinking of retiring.

So I think I'll be using those as a way to get over the complete beatdown that was handed to the Avalanche by a team with a gloating, mocking fan base. I don't know if I'll watch any Red Wings games though. You know, to avoid the nightmares.

But what about Forsberg retiring? And is Sakic going to play again? Will Foote come back? Will the team re-sign Theodore? Is Budaj the answer?

I've got thoughts on all those subjects but I think I'll wait until the season is fully over to expand on them.

One thing I'd like to note is the injuries the team had. Not because I'm using that as an excuse why they lost. I'm using that as an excuse why this team still deserves our pride.

Dario from ITCS caught the morning show with Coach Q who revealed that Peter Forsberg was playing with two torn groin muscles while Scott Hannan and Ian Laperriere were both playing on a broken foot. Two torn groin muscles and the man was still skating. A broken foot each and they were still lacing up their skates and giving it their all. That's courage and dedication right there and they deserve our thanks for gutting it out.

Add up Ryan Smyth's likely broken foot, Wojtek Wolski's 5 broken ribs, Marek Svatos' torn knee, Paul Stastny's bum knee, Brett Clark's bitched shoulder and Theodore's bubonic plague and you have a worn out, beat up team. And though I was a bit pissed last night due to an 8-2 drubbing, after putting the injuries into perspective and what some of the players played through, I can honestly say I'm proud of the squad for giving it their best.

It's just too bad their best wasn't enough.

Related Links
Living with the aftershock
So much for pride, Mr. Theodore
The scoop on the Avs injuries
Avs season ends with thud
The End.
Q&A with Francois Giguere

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Avalanche Swept by Red Wings

The game wasn't even half over and I was already writing a "recap" post. The Wings torched the Avalanche 8-2 to end Colorado's season. But not Joe Sakic's career. He will be back next season.

How is it possible that up to this point, TJ Hensick and David Jones had the least ice-time of the Avalanche forwards? Just ridiculous. Those two were the only players left that had any jump to their step and their asses are planted on the bench. Inexcusable.

Theodore made big saves against the Wild. He did not make any saves against the Wings. Blame the defence as much as you want but Theodore was not good enough this series.

2-on-1's are tough but it looked like Theodore was flowing through mud on the two that beat him today. And that first goal? There's the backbreaking goal I was talking about the other day. It just came one day later than I thought it would.

Ill-advised pinches, lazy turnovers, non-existent outlet passes. The quality of play was just not there from these guys.

Yes, the Wings are a talented, tenacious team but the defence should have been able to do better than this.

Who was the idiot that brought the octopus in and tossed it on the ice when the Wings were up 6-1? Not only are you an idiot for carrying an octopus around with you, but you're an idiot for not having a modicum of decency.

I would never flaunt a blowout in another teams building, not even Joe Louis.

This is it for Forsberg. No way he comes back to play next year when his body couldn't even hold out for a dozen games this season. It's unfortunate but you have to admire the man's competitiveness in trying to stage a comeback.

As for Sakic, as I said above, I don't think this is it for him. He still has a season left in the tank.

Offseason game plan
A bit early to discuss that, at least for me. I have thoughts on what needs to change but I'll wait until the loss stings a bit less.

Up next?
For me, the World Championships kick off tomorrow. If the Avs were still in, it would mean double-duty in terms of fandom. As it stands, I'll be able to devote my entire heavy heart to hoping for a World Championship Gold on home ice.

Related Links
NHL.com Event Summary

RSS Awareness Day

RSS Awareness Day
I'm going to use this space to promote technology for a moment rather than hockey. So if your mind is so far into preparation for tonight's game, read no further and I apologize for breaking you out of the zone.

I did not realize this but today is RSS awareness day.

"What is RSS?", you might ask.

"Awesome!" would be my response.

RSS is a great way to keep tabs on your favorite websites without needing to visit the site every hour to see if there's anything new. It helps give the notion of users being "pushed" data over the Web which is in stark contrast to the long standing need for users to "pull" their data in. Oddly enough, it appears that only 5% of Web users take advantage of this technology.

If you use Firefox or IE7, your browser has native support for subscribing to feeds. Just watch for the orange RSS icon in the address bar of your browser.

I personally don't like the built in support - mostly because your date is then tied to one browser and machine combo - so I use Google Reader. Some folks use other aggregation tools like iGoogle and NetVibes and there are also tons of desktop RSS clients out there. Even Outlook has RSS support these days.

To subscribe to my feed, enter the below URL into the RSS reader of your choosing:

All the other Avalanche blogs and news sites have RSS feeds located somewhere so subscribe and stay fresh!

Related Links
RSS Awareness Day

Playoff Gameday: Avalanche vs Red Wings - Game 4

Could this be it for the Avalanche team and fans this season? Will tonight's game end in the agony of a sweep at the hands of the team's "bitter rivals", the Detroit Red Wings?

I will boldy say "No!"

I was off most of the afternoon giving a talk at the U of S to get high school students interested in the tech world - and believe me there's lots to be interested in - which left me a bit behind on my actual work.

So I don't think I'll be saying much other than:
Stastny - out
Smyth - out
Wolski - out
Forsberg - out
Svatos - out
Clark - out

Is there anyone left to suit up?

And finally, I will not allow myself to believe this is Joe Sakic's final year.

So this isn't much in terms of a preview from me. Fortunately the Avalanche fan base are blessed with a great group of bloggers who have put out some amazing posts today which should keep you reading until game time. And not only amazing posts, but some pretty clever titles.

So I'll encourage everyone to check out their words and make sure to clear a 3-hour timeslot from 9:30 ET to 12:30 EDT. The game doesn't start until 10:00 EDT but use the first 30 minutes to align the beer and chips on the coffee table, put the kids to bed (if applicable) and settle into a nice ass-groove in your favorite chair/couch.

From that point on, cheer like hell and help will this team to a victory tonight. Because nothing hurts worse than getting swept.

Related Links
ColoradoAvalanche.com Preview
TSN Preview
19 Reasons to watch tonight
The wheels on the bus fall down and down
O Captain! My Captain
On effort
Peter Forsberg out for Game 4'
Theodore's goal: Playing for pride
MHH Gameday Open Thread
On the Wings Preview