granato-tony-090603

Avalanche head coach Tony Granato was fired Wednesday in the second major move by the team in the last two months. ((David Zalubowski/Associated Press))

The Colorado Avalanche made a major personnel shakeup on Wednesday, firing head coach Tony Granato and five other staff members while hiring Greg Sherman as general manager.

Others given the axe are 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.

Colorado let general manager Francois Giguere go in April.

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

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

13 years with the team

Sherman has been the team's assistant GM for the last seven years, and has spent 13 years with the franchise.

"I look forward to the challenge," said Sherman. "We all know the task ahead and we need to get to work. There are a lot of things to be done here.

"I am surrounded by a group that has great knowledge of the business and we are looking towards the future with a lot of optimism. Our fans can rest assured that every effort will be taken to bring an exciting brand of hockey back to Pepsi Center."

The Avs also named Craig Billington as vice-president of hockey operations and assistant general manager. David Oliver was promoted to director of player development, and Eric Lacroix was hired as director of player personnel.

Rampant speculation

The Avalanche skated to a 32-45-5 record last season, their worst since moving to Denver from Quebec in 1995.

Speculation was rampant that Granato's job was on the line after Patrick Roy confirmed last week that Colorado offered him the head coaching job, which he turned down to remain in Quebec.

The team did not indicate when a new head coach would be named.

This was Granato's second stint behind the Colorado bench. Granato joined the Avalanche as an assistant coach in 2002-03 under Bob Hartley. After a poor start to that season, Hartley was fired and Granato was promoted to head coach in December 2002.

He impressed in his rookie year, leading the Avs to a second half charge that earned the team a playoff spot and a 42-19-13-8 record.

The 44-year-old from Downers Grove, Ill. continued his great run in 2003-04, sporting a 40-22-13-7 record. But he couldn't make it past the second round of the playoffs.

After the '04 playoffs, Granato was replaced by Joel Quenneville, and reassigned to his old job as an assistant. After Quenneville was fired in late May 2008, Granato was once again the bench boss for the 2008-09 season, where the team finished last in the Western Conference.

Salary cap constraints

The team Sherman inherits faces major salary cap constraints.

The Avalanche has only about $10 million to $12 million to fill out the team, and 14 players have contracts that make up almost $44 million next year.

That total doesn't include captain Joe Sakic, who was injured for most of the year, and goalies Peter Budaj and Andrew Raycroft. Both are unsigned for next season, while Sakic has yet to decide if he'll be back for a 21st season.

 

With files from The Canadian Press