05 May 2008
This series will be looking at the Avs upcoming free agents and whether the Avs should resign them. coach Quenneville being the most important decision on the docket. So here's my breakdown of the free agent(s) and whether the Avs should resign them.
Strengths: I have been pretty hard on ol'coach Q (my recommendation will not be a shocker to anyone). But I'd be remiss to acknowledge the coach had 0 strengths. He has had 2 fairly successful coaching stints and has been a success as an assistant so he has some credentials.
His biggest strength, in my opinion, is teaching defense. The Avs have had a lot of young, and kinda young defenders come up from the minors and become quality defenders under Q's 3-year regime. Kurt Sauer, Jeff Finger, Brett Clark, and JM Liles have all come of age in that time and forwards such as Stastny, Wolski, and Guite have all become viable forward PKers. He's even been able to coax some defense out of Arnason on occasion. Sometimes. Specifically JM Liles has seen his defense improve tremendously under Q.
He has also shown the ability to be incredibly adaptable to non-ideal situations. When Injuries ravaged the team this season he was able to find an unlikely Wolski-Arnason-Svats Machine line that pretty much carried the team, along with Theo, for a month. While some of his experiments didn't work (Boychuk on the wing anybody) he generally has done well when the chips were down. Even last season he was able to make Brad May into a player who actually contributed in the points category. With other teams May only contributes in the "cheap-shot-another player" category.
One other quality he has is that he has shown impeccable character in his coaching stint here. During blowout losses I can't remember the Avs ever gooning it up. I noticed more than one occasion where Q could send out a line to counter the on-ice arms race that was occurring during some games but instead did the classy thing and sent out guys who would never fight. He even kept the detestable Brad May from being a goon here and that in and of itself is a tremendous task.
Weaknesses: Unfortunately one of his strengths is also his biggest weakness. According to my calculations, for the 17 players on Q's roster there are 680 possible line combinations (Plus some because he used a defender as a forward a couple times). I think he may have used 600 combinations. He changes lines so frequently, from shift to shift sometimes, that it seems impossible that any lines establish any kind of chemistry.
Then there's only 2 combos he can use for goalie combinations. Budaj or Theo. Q used 3 (technically he used Wieman one early game). Despite the joke the goalie carousel this season cost the Avs points and probably cost them a division title. Over Q's tenure he mismanaged Theo when he got here, and has mismanaged Budaj ever since he was called up. This has led to both goalies oft-cited inconsistencies. If the Avs re-sign Theo (spoiler alert, I think they will and should) They just cannot go into the season with Q, Budaj and Theo. It's a recipe for disaster.
I could go on all day, but one other point of contention is the seeming favorites he plays. Wolski, Budaj, Hlinka or Liles would struggle in parts and get benched, yet Q favorites like Arnason, McLeod, Clark or Skrastins would be struggling and not even see a decrease in ice time. I realize every player needs to be treated differently but this kind of random benchings kills teams.
Summary: I think Q has the tools to be a good coach, but he seems hell bent on making his personnel fit his scheme, rather than letting his scheme compliment his personnel. For example Smyth-Sakic-Hejduk should be a great line, puck control and great shots with a top-flight rebounder in front. But Q insisted that the puck starts behind the net, which isn't this roster's forté. Especially on the powerplay (which was an unmitigated disaster this season). To be a top flight coach you need to adjust your schemes to your personnel (See Bowman, Scotty; Babcock, Mike).
Verdict: Q keeps trying to stick square pegs in round holes. He would be much better suited on a team that has good young defenders that need some polishing (ironically enough I think his best fit would be St. Louis). But he's not the right coach for the Avs anymore.
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