Thursday, May 22, 2008

Avalanche Taking A Big Risk With Granato

It was announced today by Colorado GM Francois Giguere that Tony Granato will be the new head coach of the Avalanche.

Granato has been the assistant in Colorado for the last three years but was their head coach for awhile in the early part of the decade. That ended in failure but Giguere is tempting the fates once again.

The conventional wisdom is that assistant coaches have to go somewhere else to be the main guy because they're bound to have spent too much time playing "good cop" with their players and won't be able to coerce and mould the team once they're promoted.

The Av's didn't have far to look in the case of John Paddock.
His short-lived reign as Ottawa head coach after being promoted from an assistant will go down in franchise history as a disaster, and not just for failing to instill discipline. He was cocky and foisted some questionable philosophies on a team that was primed to win it all. He didn't even make it through the season before the chute was pulled.

There are other examples.

Dave Lewis was a mild mannered assistant in Detroit for 13 years, many of them under Scotty Bowman, before he was given the reins of the team in 2002. The Wings had two identical 48 win seasons before going out in rounds 1 and 2 respectively. Lewis was fired in favour of Mike Babcock.

Jim Playfair was an assistant in Calgary for three seasons but was seen as a major reason for a disappointing first round loss in 2007 that led the way to Mike Keenan being brought in to crack the whip.

One positive story is Larry Robinson, who was an assistant in New Jersey for 74 games when he was suddenly thrust into the head role when Lou Lamoriello fired Robbie Ftorek. Robinson led the Devils to the Stanley Cup that season and back to the finals the next.

Obviously Giguere believes in Granato and that's all that matters right now. Any time a GM hires a coach, he's rolling the dice with his own career as well.

Bryan Murray in Ottawa certainly knows what that feels like as he interviews candidates this month.

But let's just say it's a safe bet that assistant coach Greg Carvel won't be moving into a bigger office anytime soon.

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