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An Avalanche of changes, Sherman in, Granato out

by Dan Rosen
It's restructuring day in Denver and that means Tony Granato and five other members of the Colorado Avalanche hockey operations staff have been relieved of their respective duties, while Greg Sherman and Craig Billington have accepted promotions.

In separate press releases Wednesday, the Avalanche detailed their management restructuring, as announced by President Pierre Lacroix.

It started early, with news that Granato, his assistants Jacques Cloutier and Dave Barr, goaltending coach Jeff Hackett, Assistant to the General Manager Michel Goulet and video coordinator PJ DeLuca would not return next season.

Later, Lacroix announced Sherman, who was the assistant general manager for the past seven seasons, has been promoted to general manager, while Billington has added assistant general manager to a title that already included vice president of hockey operations.

"Greg Sherman deserves the opportunity to prove he can be an effective general manager in our business," Lacroix said in the second press release.  "He has shown that he possesses the necessary qualities required to be successful with this new challenge in front of him."

Sherman, 39, has been with the franchise for 13 seasons. Billington, 42, has been with the Avalanche for six years and was named a vice president last summer.

Along with Lacroix, Sherman and Billington will have to find a replacement for Granato, who in just one season in his second term as Colorado's coach failed to get the team in the playoffs.

Colorado was a disappointing 32-45-5, good for 69 points and 15th in the Western Conference. The Avs couldn't overcome a series of injuries, most notably to Joe Sakic and Paul Stastny. With Peter Budaj and Andrew Raycroft in net, they were 26th in goals-against average (3.08), hence the reason Hackett is also being replaced.

Neither Sherman nor Billington will be made available to the media until after a replacement for Granato is named.

"Surrounded by a strong hockey staff and under my supervision, (Sherman) will have all the necessary support to lead the Avalanche in this new direction," Lacroix added.

Sherman, who has an accounting degree from the University of San Diego, previously worked alongside former GM Francois Giguere on all personnel and business related matters, including contract negotiations, arbitration cases and cap management. He coordinated all financial obligations for the Avalanche and their American Hockey League affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters.

"I look forward to the challenge," Sherman said in the press release. "We all know the task ahead and we need to get to work. There are a lot of things to be done here. I am surrounded by a group that has great knowledge of the business and we are looking towards the future with a lot of optimism. Our fans can rest assured that every effort will be taken to bring an exciting brand of hockey back to Pepsi Center."

Billington, who also was in charge of overseeing the Avalanche's prospects, is handing that responsibility to David Oliver, who now is the team's director of player development as well as the GM of the AHL's Monsters.

Lacroix also announced that Brad Smith, Colorado's director of player personnel, will have a more active role in personnel decisions and will be tasked with managing the team's depth chart. And, Eric Lacroix has been hired as director of hockey operations.

Eric Lacroix spent last season as a pro scout for the Phoenix Coyotes after previously working for four seasons in the Avs' hockey operations department.

Director of Amateur Scouting Rick Pracey will continue to oversee the team's scouting efforts heading into the Entry Draft later this month. The Avalanche have the third selection.

It's no surprise Granato was let go as coach considering the Avalanche had offered his job to Patrick Roy. Colorado had been without a GM since letting Giguere go April 13.

Goulet had been with the organization for 13 seasons and Cloutier for 12. Hackett spent the past three seasons as the team's goaltending coach. Barr and DeLuca just completed their first seasons with the Avalanche.

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