Thursday, August 7, 2008

Terry Frei ranks NHL coaches: Tony Granato

Our friend (well, at least he doesn't run away from me) Terry Frei, a columnist for the Denver Post, recently ranked this season's NHL coaches. Rather than do a straight ordinal ranking, Terry grouped the coaches into several groups. (Terry's approach seems more useful to me, anyway.) His groups include:
  • The Elite: men who get the most out of their rosters, regardless of how good (or otherwise) those rosters are
  • The Proven: guys you know can pull it off until their voices get stale, it's time for a change, or the general manager needs to save his job by making someone a scapegoat
  • The Jury's Still Out: first-time NHL head coaches who still have to show they can be productive in what passes in this sport for the long run
  • The Suspect: they'll have to prove some people wrong to be considered (back) among the elite
  • How the heck can we know yet?: first-time NHL head coaches
As you know, during this offseason, Badger alum Tony Granato was hired as the Avs' head coach. Terry places Granato in "The Suspect" category of his rankings:
Tony Granato, Colorado
One of the strangest situations in the league. Despite some ridiculous parroted criticisms of his work during his first stint behind the Avalanche bench, he still has the best winning percentage of any Colorado coach ... ever. But now he gets a second chance, and under conditions that might make winning difficult. He bought into the company line that it was time to trust the organization's own young talent and this might be a team headed for a fall -- no matter who is coaching.
Now, before you get all riled-up that Frei called Granato suspect (nubeetle, I'm talking to you, settle down), go ahead and read what Frei actually said. Sounds to me like he's defending Granato and criticizing the Avs, as he seems to indicate that perhaps the Avs are (unintentionally, of course) setting Granato (and the team) up for failure.

Joel of the Mile High Hockey Blog seems to agree with me, as he wrote the following:

I'm not sure if this is a criticism of Granato or a defense. It reads a lot like a defense. Criticisms of Granato are "ridiculous" and "parroted," he has the best winning percentage ever (complete with elipses for effect), and if the team sucks it probably won't be his fault. Sounds to me like Frei thinks the Avalanche organization is a lot more suspect than the head coach.

Personally, based only on what Frei wrote, I'd think Granato would be more appropriately ranked in the "Jury's Still Out" group. Granato has been a coach before, after all, and if Frei's contention really is that the odds are stacked against him by a weak team and a misguided organization, then you can't fault Granato's ability, can you?

I speculate that perhaps Frei didn't include Granato in the "Jury's Still Out" category because his criteria stated "first time NHL head coach", and this is Granato's second stint. And based on internet chatter (for what it's worth), Granato's promotion seems to have been somewhat controversial, and that perhaps fits Frei's criteria of "hav[ing] to prove some people wrong".

The Avalanche Blog on The Hockey News has a nice write-up of the situation, explaining why Granato's situation is, as Terry Frei puts it, "one of the strangest situations in the league". I believe that the author of this article is also the author of the aforementioned Mile High Hockey blog, and he finishes the article saying:
So Granato has his work cut out for him. Though I wouldn’t classify his position among other NHL coaches as “suspect” like Terry Frei has, I’m definitely worried that the Avalanche team he’s inheriting is destined for mediocrity, regardless of who is standing behind the bench.
Anyway, here's hoping that Granato is able to rise up and overcome the challenges that he faces this season. Good luck, Tony!