NHL

Avalanche fire GM Giguere after finishing last in West

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The Canadian Press
4/13/2009 2:16:13 PM
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DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche fired general manager Francois Giguere on Monday, saying fans and management "deserve better" than a last-place finish in the Western Conference.

Team president Pierre Lacroix called the season "unacceptable" and will oversee the Avalanche until a replacement is hired.

This is the first time the team has come in last in the conference since the franchise relocated to Denver in 1995. The Avalanche had a 32-45-5 record and were 28th in the league, in front of only the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay.

"We are too proud of what we have accomplished in this market to ignore where we are and what happened in just a very short period of time," Lacroix said in a statement. "Ownership and the dedicated Avalanche fans throughout the region deserve better results."

Colorado didn't announce a timetable in hiring a replacement for Giguere, who was appointed executive vice-president and GM in 2006. The team wouldn't comment beyond Lacroix's statement.

For now, coach Tony Granato's job remains safe.

Granato took over for Joel Quenneville last May when Quenneville and the Avalanche split. Quenneville now coaches the Chicago Blackhawks, who face Calgary in the first round of the playoffs.

After Colorado's disappointing season concluded with a 1-0 loss to St. Louis on Sunday, Granato said it was going to be a long summer.

"When you finish a year like this, you want to start the next year right away," said Granato, who's in his second stint as coach of the team. "I think this team has to come back with an edge next year, right at the start of training camp. ... You want to get back out there and find a way to turn it around as fast as you can."

Lacroix served as president and general manager of the franchise for 11 seasons, assembling the pieces for two Stanley Cup championships. Under his watch, the team captured nine straight division titles, appeared in six conference finals and won two Presidents' trophies for most points in the regular season.

"The immediate future of this franchise is my primary concern, so it was important to act now and start the process of restoring this franchise to where it belongs," Lacroix said.

The Avalanche were hurt by injuries and went long stretches without captain Joe Sakic, offensive threat Paul Stastny and top defenceman Adam Foote.

"Frustrating," Ian Laperriere said. "That's the only word that comes to mind. We played some good games, but not enough of them."

The players knew changes were coming.

"Obviously, we all played below our capability," Laperriere said. "We should have played better and done our jobs better. Anyone that goes home thinking they did their job is fooling themselves. Everyone could have done more and should have done more."

One problem facing the new general manager will be a salary cap that doesn't offer much financial flexibility. The team also has to wait and see if Sakic returns for a 21st season before investing in other players. If Sakic does return, it might have to be at a bargain rate.

"That's obviously a priority -- find out what Joe's intentions are," Granato said. "As soon as he gives us that, we'll be able to find out what else we can do to try and improve over the summer."

Francois Giguere (Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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