Avalanche head coach Joel Quenneville goes over a play with his team. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Jack Dempsey
DENVER - The Colorado Avalanche want to play a faster, more attacking brand of hockey, similar to the style that brought them two Stanley Cup titles.
Now, they're looking for a coach who fits that description. Joel Quenneville and the Avalanche mutually decided to end their relationship Friday, a week after Colorado was swept out of the playoffs by the Detroit Red Wings.
Quenneville was 131-92-23 in three seasons with Colorado, but just 2-2 in playoff series after inheriting a team that was on the slide after a decade of dominance in the NHL.
"Whatever happens going forward, my memories are all going to be positive here," Quenneville said.
Avalanche executive vice-president and general manager Francois Giguere doesn't have a timeline for when he'll hire a new coach, but he does have one requirement - an up-tempo philosophy. He wants the Avalanche to play with more speed.
"We've always been an organization that's been a puck possession, upbeat, high tempo, high energy, attacking (team)," said Giguere, whose franchise captured the Cup in '96 and '01. "That's the way the Avalanche have always played and I think that's the way I foresee this team continuing to play."
Quenneville thought the Avalanche were serious Stanley Cup contenders after beating Minnesota in a first-round series.
Then, injuries hit - again. Peter Forsberg (groin), leading scorer Paul Stastny (knee) and forwards Ryan Smyth (foot) and Wojtek Wolski (ribs) all joined Marek Svatos (knee) on the bench as the Avalanche could never muster any momentum as Detroit rolled past them.
"We believed we had a real good chance and things changed quickly in that Detroit series," Quenneville said. "The ending leaves a sour taste, but at the same time there's a lot of good things we should be proud of."
Quenneville said the two sides are departing on good terms.
"We'll still be able to say 'Hi' to each other," he said.
The future of Quenneville's staff remains in limbo. It will be up to the new coach whether assistant coaches Jacques Cloutier, Tony Granato and Jeff Hackett remain.
"My anticipation (is) that the coaches are going to be here," Giguere said.
Quenneville danced around the question when he was asked if he wanted to remain in Denver.
"Let's put it this way, I want to coach and I think it's a privilege to coach in this league," he said. "I would like to return to coaching in the league."
Maybe Toronto, perhaps? After all, the Maple Leafs are in the market for a coach and he once played for them during one of his stops in a 13-year career as an NHL defenceman.
"I don't want to talk about anything about the process going forward," he said.
In addition to finding a new coach, Giguere has to make tough decisions on unrestricted free agents like Forsberg, Jose Theodore, Andrew Brunette and Adam Foote.
Not to mention trying to keep his captain from retiring. Giguere is hoping that Joe Sakic will return for a 20th season. However, Sakic is coming off an injury-riddled season that saw the 38-year-old miss 38 games with a hernia.
"I'm hoping as the days pass by that he misses the game, and we'll have him back with us," Giguere said.
Giguere wouldn't tip his hand as to whom he may be after. He simply intimated he wanted a faster style of play and that it wasn't a knock on Quenneville.
"Joel Quenneville has an outstanding reputation in this business," Giguere said. "When I was hired as a GM, I was a big believer in Joel. I still am a big believer in Joel. Sometimes, for whatever reasons, you need to go in separate ways. It doesn't mean you're not a good coach."
Quenneville was an assistant with the Avalanche during their Stanley Cup run in 1996, then was hired away by St. Louis. He spent eight seasons with the Blues, becoming the team's winningest coach with 307 victories. In 2004, Quenneville became the fourth coach in Avalanche history.
He coached his 800th game this season, joining Bob Pulford and Jacques Lemaire as the only coaches in NHL history to both play and coach in 800 or more games.
Now, he's looking for work.
"It's a tough business," Quenneville said. "You're not going to be coaching in the same place forever.
"I was fortunate to be around very competitive teams (in Colorado)," he continued. "At the end of the day, it was a good three years. It was a positive ending for us."