Tony Granato, head coach of the Colorado Avalanche, reacts to a call against the Buffalo Sabres. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)
Word came out late last week that coach Tony Granato, who was handed the keys prior to the start of this campaign, could take the fall as the Avalanche will surely have its worst season since moving from Quebec in 1995.
Should Granato go, it would be the second time the 44-year-old was ousted from the Colorado bench boss role.
And the second time he was gassed too soon.
In 2004, Granato led the team to a 100-point season, but a disappointing second-round loss to the Sharks led to questions about experience and his ability to get the veteran team back to championship form. Management replaced him with Joel Quenneville.
This time around, no one is questioning Granato’s experience, but rather his unwavering loyalty to players who haven’t earned it and his ability to find a way to win in a market that demands it.
Colorado, for all its inconsistent play, has been beset by injuries this season to the tune of 249 man-games lost. The worst of which was to captain Joe Sakic, who left a huge leadership void, and Paul Stastny, Sakic’s heir apparent and the man who should have led the offensive charge.
The holes were to be filled by Ryan Smyth, Milan Hejduk and Wojtek Wolski, none of whom were able to conjure up enough to offset the team’s shaky goaltending and defense.
With Sakic likely to return for another season (I can’t imagine him going out on a low and/or passing on a chance to participate in a hometown Olympic Games), a healthy Stastny - among others - and a blue-chip ’09 draft prospect likely to be able to step in and contribute right away, the Avs will have a much different look to them next season; especially if they can squeeze a solid No. 1 goalie under their limited cap space.
The Avs aren’t a team that is going to compete for a Cup in 2009-10, but they’re much better than they performed this season and have a good core of young players both on the roster and in the system. In fact, Colorado owns three players – defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk (No. 29) and Cameron Gaunce (No. 75) and center Ryan Stoa (No. 62) – in the top 75 prospects ranked in THN’s annual Future Watch.
Much like his first go-around, Granato doesn’t deserve to have his plug pulled prematurely; he deserves an opportunity to prove what he can do with a full complement of current and imminent weapons at his disposal.
PARTY ON, GARTH
Another reason for Islanders fans to be optimistic about the future beyond the hope goalie Rick DiPietro will be healthy for the start of next season: The club has five picks in the first 60 selections of the upcoming entry draft (their own first and second; San Jose’s first; Toronto’s second; Boston’s second).
Edward Fraser is the editor of thehockeynews.com. His blog appears Thursdays.
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