Unraveling Avs get rid of Hartley

Posted: Thursday, December 19, 2002

DENVER (AP) -- Bob Hartley led the Colorado Avalanche to four straight Western Conference finals and a Stanley Cup championship in 2001.

It wasn't enough to save his job.

Citing a slow start and a lack of passion in his team, Colorado general manager Pierre Lacroix fired Hartley on Wednesday after 4 1/2 seasons.

''We are an organization with very, very high expectations,'' Lacroix said. ''We've done it every year that we've been in Denver and it's no different this season. It was obvious that the team is not showing any emotion, the team is not doing what it needs to do to fulfill these expectations, so I am convinced it was the right time.''

Lacroix said assistant coach Tony Granato will take over as Colorado's permanent coach.

Hartley, who was promoted from Hershey in 1998, is Colorado's wins leader at 193-109-48. He was 49-31 in the playoffs and was the first coach since Chicago's Billy Reay in 1967 to take his team to the conference finals his first four years.

''That's part of the business,'' Hartley said. ''Everyone has different opinions and that's the way Pierre feels.''

Colorado finished within a game of reaching the Stanley Cup finals last season, but wasn't able to break out of an early-season funk this year.

The Avalanche traded Chris Drury and Stephane Yelle to Calgary for Derek Morris, Dean McAmmond and Jeff Shantz just before the season in an effort to give the team a boost. It hasn't worked.

Colorado, which is vying for an NHL-record ninth straight division title, is just 10-8-9-4 this season. The Avalanche have 33 points, 10 behind Northwest Division leader Minnesota, and have struggled the most at home, winning just three of 15 games.

Lacroix, who hasn't been shy about trading players in the past, said he decided to fire Hartley because he believes this year's team is the most talented in his nine seasons as Colorado's GM.

''As far as a consensus when I speak with other people in the league, this Avalanche team right now is probably the best we've had,'' Lacroix said. ''For whatever reason, the passion just wasn't there.''

Granato, who retired in 2001 after 13 NHL seasons, got the job despite having no prior NHL coaching experience before this year. He joined the Avalanche as an assistant this season.

''Any time someone loses their job, it's tough on all of us, but when asked to step in the experience is no problem at all,'' Granato said. ''I am very experienced. I have been in this game for a long time. I know what I can bring to the team. I am looking forward to the challenge.''

Granato becomes Colorado's third consecutive hire without any prior NHL head-coaching experience. The Avalanche promoted Marc Crawford from Cornwall in 1994 before hiring Hartley.

Lacroix said he didn't give Granato's lack of experience much thought in making the decision.

''I never had a doubt, it was right in my face,'' Lacroix said. ''Knowing what I know about Tony and the way he's been handling himself since August, it's obvious because he has all the attributes and all the assets in order to do the job.''



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