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Colorado Avalanche fire coach Granato, name Sherman new general manager

Avalanche head coach Tony Granato, back, directs his team. The club fired Granato and six other members of the hockey operations staff today. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/David Zalubowski

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Avalanche head coach Tony Granato, back, directs his team. The club fired Granato and six other members of the hockey operations staff today. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/David Zalubowski

DENVER - The Colorado Avalanche promoted Greg Sherman to general manager and fired coach Tony Granato and five others in a sweeping shakeup Wednesday.

Sherman has spent the last seven years as the team's assistant general manager and replaces Francois Giguere, who was fired in April following the team's worst finish since moving to Denver in 1995.

"Greg Sherman deserves the opportunity to prove he can be an effective general manager in our business," team president Pierre Lacroix said in a statement. "He has shown that he possesses the necessary qualities required to be successful with this new challenge in front of him."

The Avalanche also fired assistant coaches Jacques Cloutier and Dave Barr, goaltending coach Jeff Hackett, assistant to the general manager Michel Goulet and video co-ordinator P.J. DeLuca.

The team had no timetable for when a new coach would be hired.

The first sign that Granato's job was in jeopardy came when the team courted Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy to be their coach. Roy turned them down after spending two weeks mulling the offer.

Sherman inherits a roster strapped by salary cap constraints. They have only about US$10 million to $12 million in which to fill out the team, and 14 players with contracts that account for nearly $44 million next year.

It's a figure that doesn't include captain Joe Sakic, who spent most of the year on the injured list, and goaltenders Peter Budaj and Andrew Raycroft, who are unsigned for next season.

Sakic has yet to decide if he'll return for a 21st season.

A perennial Stanley Cup contender after moving from Quebec to Denver in 1995, the Avalanche missed the playoffs for a second time in three seasons as they stumbled to a last place finish in the Western Conference, scoring a league-low 190 goals.

When Giguere was fired, Lacroix stepped in to oversee the Avalanche.

"The immediate future of this franchise is my primary concern, so it was important to act now and start the process of restoring this franchise to where it belongs," Lacroix said in April.

Lacroix served as president and general manager of the franchise for 11 seasons, putting together the pieces for two Stanley Cup championships.

On Wednesday, Lacroix announced a new management structure for the team, headed by the 39-year-old Sherman.

"I look forward to the challenge," said Sherman, who has been affiliated with the club for the last 13 years. "We all know the task ahead and we need to get to work. There are a lot of things to be done here ... Our fans can rest assured that every effort will be taken to bring an exciting brand of hockey back to Pepsi Center."

Colorado also appointed Craig Billington as vice-president of hockey operations/assistant general manager and David Oliver as director of player development.

Eric Lacroix was brought in as director of hockey operations, while Brad Smith serves as director of player personnel. Rick Pracey remains director of amateur scouting.

"Surrounded by a strong hockey staff and under my supervision, (Sherman) will have all the necessary support to lead the Avalanche in this new direction," Lacroix said.

Granato was in his second stint in charge of the Avalanche after taking over for Joel Quenneville in May 2008. Quenneville now coaches the Chicago Blackhawks, who advanced to the Western Conference finals before being eliminated by the Detroit Red Wings.

The Avalanche were besieged by injuries last season and went long stretches without Sakic, offensive threat Paul Stastny and top defenceman Adam Foote.

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