Monday, the Colorado Avalanche lost to the Detroit Red Wings sinking into last place in the NHL, while the Denver Pioneers fired two-time NCAA Champion coach George Gwozdecky. Unfortunately, neither of the state’s two premiere programs is stirring up enthusiasm that their best days are ahead of them. Nostalgic memories of both teams’ two championships are leaving hockey fans in the region skating on thin ice. With hockey at the highest levels melting before our eyes, it seems that a simple phone call could create a new favorable arrangement.
Avalanche, pick up the phone and call Gwozdecky.
It seems like a simple solution for the club. The Colorado Avalanche fell behind again too early against their former rival from Detroit and tried to stage a comeback too late to record any points in the standings. The promise of the shortened season has given way to the hope of top draft pick Seth Jones, a Colorado native who likely would have contemplated playing for George Gwozdecky had he not progressed so quickly. Of course, the Avalanche are not one player away from being a competitor.
As for Gwozdecky, being unceremoniously thrown out of his University of Denver tenure after 19 years behind the bench has opened up new doorways. DU performed at a level of excellence unmatched by any school in NCAA hockey, winning 20 games or more 12 years in a row. While Gwozdecky’s teams suffered early exits in the NCAA tournament over the last handful of years, to most, his ability to recruit and develop the best talent in the country made him seemingly irreplaceable.
At 59, Gwozdecky is suddenly a highly sought after free agent in the Avs backyard. With his record for winning with young players, he is the perfect fit for a team looking to develop youth. Not only could he tutor freshman Seth Jones next year, but also then junior Gabe Landeskog and fifth year players Ryan O’Reilly and Matt Duchene. Maybe Gwozdecky can reignite Paul Stastny, who helped win one of DU’s championships. Perhaps he could even find the magic within David Jones.
The Avalanche would be truly foolish to let this opportunity slip away. Call Gwozdecky and offer him the job now or at the end of the year. Current coach Joe Sacco’s tenure will not survive a season of such poor defense and special teams. And the gap between projected success and playoff appearances with the Avalance leaves management desperate to develop talent, something Gwozdecky excelled at in the college level.
The argument that college coaches cannot translate to the pro level falls short in the NHL. If Avs assistant David Quinn can make the jump back to college, accepting the coaching vacancy at Boston University, why can’t Gwozdecky take the big job? Strategy is not so different in the two leagues and Gwozdecky’s aggressive behavior will set him apart from his peers in the NHL.
Of course, the Avalanche can let the former Pioneers coach pass by on his way to success at another institution. The Avs like to build from within, even if that strategy is playing out with disastrous consequences again. As for DU, they will try to replicate success with a new coach, likely tied to the former bench boss, but where does that leave hockey fans looking for success?
The Denver Cutthroats are in the playoffs in the CHL. Until the Avalanche find Gwozdecky’s phone number, Go Fish.