With the Colorado Avalanche moving on from the disappointing tenure of Dean Chynoweth after four listless seasons as head coach of their AHL affiliate, most recently the San Antonio Rampage, the organization sets out for a new path. As such, we give you six names to keep an eye on as potential replacements for Chynoweth and some of their background.
An assistant coach for the last three years under Chynoweth, Ladouceur has been the defensive coach in his time in the Avalanche organization. While there hasn't been very much high-level talent in on the blue line in recent years, he helped youngsters Chris Bigras and Nikita Zadorov in transition years for both players and they are expected to be permanent fixtures on the Avalanche roster moving forward. While they stand out as successes, others such as Stefan Elliott, Duncan Siemens, and Brandon Gormley were less successful in their AHL development and none appear to be destined for full-time NHL duty at this point in their careers.
Ladouceur finished a 931-game NHL career as a defenseman in 1996 and immediately transitioned to coaching. He's spent 11 years as an NHL assistant with the likes of Hartford/Carolina, Toronto, and Montreal as well as four years as an AHL assistant with Hamilton, Lake Erie, and San Antonio. He also had a disastrous one year stint as the head coach of the OHL's Oshawa Generals in 2005-06. His overall experience is certainly something that could appeal to Avs brass when looking for San Antonio's next coach but his lack of head coaching experience and the recent comments by Borna Rendulic, in which he accused the Rampage coaching staff of not caring about player development, might be too much to overcome. Still, for now, we're listing him as a name to keep an eye on unless the Avalanche decide to completely clean house in the AHL.
An assistant with the Avalanche in the NHL for the past five seasons, Army came to the Avalanche organization following nine years as a head coach, the first three with the Portland Pirates of the AHL, and the last six as the leading man for Providence College of the NCAA. Before that, Army spent nine years as an assistant for the Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks in the NHL. With that kind of experience as both an assistant and head coach, it's obvious why Army is valued by the Avalanche front office.
His candidacy here, however, is largely built on the organization's recent preference for familiarity and his strong work in developing some of the younger players on the Avalanche, most notably Mikhail Grigorenko this past season. Cited by numerous Avs forwards as a big reason for their improvements throughout the season, Army might view this as a demotion of sorts in dropping from the NHL to the AHL but certainly success in the AHL has led to NHL head coach opportunities for many others so if he's feeling ambitious, this might be the route for him.
A name connected with the Avalanche last summer in their search for a new assistant coach after the departure of Andre Tourigny, it was a surprise to many when Dave Farrish ultimately got the job many expected would go to Groulx. A head coach for the QMJHL's Gatineau Olympiques for 10 of the past 12 seasons (with a two year stint as the head man of the AHL's Rochester Americans in between), Groulx has been a very successful coach in juniors and was allegedly heavily sought after by his former adversary and current Avalanche coach Patrick Roy.
Groulx's successful tenure with the Olympiques obviously shows an acumen in teaching and developing young players and the organization's pursuit of him last year would seem to make him a natural fit yet again. Groulx is considered highly ambitious, though, and may see Patrick Roy as the ultimate roadblock in advancing from AHL head coach to NHL head coach. Still, Groulx would be an excellent addition for the Rampage and his work with the U-20 Team Canada in the past suggests he could have an even brighter coaching future down the road.
Another guy from the QMJHL, where the Avalanche have sunk an enormous amount of resources in recent years as they draw from Roy's experience leading the Quebec Remparts, Dumont is a guy who has been the head coach of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles the past 2+ seasons after 4+ years leading Val d'Or, also of the QMJHL.
Dumont's success hasn't been overwhelming and his track record certainly doesn't inspire much confidence but given Colorado's affinity for everything QMJHL in the past three years, if it's true he's looking to move up, this might be the organization willing to give him the chance.
The current head coach of the ECHL's Fort Wayne Komets, Graham has been very successful in his short tenure leading Colorado's lowest professional affiliate. They are currently competing for the Kelly Cup once again and has familiarity with several of the Rampage players as many current and future Rampage players shuttled back and forth between Fort Wayne and San Antonio this season.
His success using their players could inspire the Avalanche to make the leap to the AHL. He is considered a very good teacher and at just 37 years old might be an up-and-comer in the coaching business.
The former Av himself! Once teammates with Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy, he has been hard at work carving out his own legacy in the coaching world as head coach of the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds for the past four seasons. His coaching career initially began as an Avalanche assistant on Joe Sacco's staff from 2009-11 and his familiarity with Avalanche management could facilitate a return to the organization he finished his playing career with.
Konowalchuk would certainly not be a choice of nepotism, however, as his Seattle teams have steadily improved under his watch and he's slowly built Seattle into a quality organization. His success in building and developing a junior organization would serve him well in a similar capacity with the Rampage. Another guy who could be a rising star in the coaching ranks, it would surprise few if Konowalchuk took the leap from the WHL to the AHL to lead the Rampage into the future.