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Sheldon Keefe to the Avalanche?

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Could it happen? His name has made the speculators lists, but would he fit in there?

Christian Bonin | TSGphoto.com

Sports Illustrated's Allan Muir took a speculative trot down the list of potential coaches to replace Patrick Roy with the Colorado Avalanche and came up with one interesting name at the bottom of the list: Sheldon Keefe.

The article seems like one of those name anyone I can think of exercises, beginning with Bob Hartley, but he left off unemployed former Binghamton Senators coach Luke Richardson, Jacques Martin, the Penguins assistant who's been getting some buzz as a possible replacement, and most of the other big names in the AHL. Maybe it was more carefully chosen than it seems at first blush.

Keefe might be a good candidate for the job.

The Marlies, under Keefe, played a speed game that relied on getting another goal as the first tactic, and sometimes the only tactic. Their top defender, T.J. Brennan, and then the top man in the playoffs, Connor Carrick, were tops in scoring, not keeping shots away from the goalies. The Marlies had an effective puck-moving defence most of the time, and they spent a lot of time facing the right direction on the ice, but they were not a "built from the blueline out" type of team.

No one has ever called the Colorado Avalanche defence tight. Not unless it was their turn to pick up the cheque for dinner.

A coach like Keefe could be just the man to take the Roy style that emphasized the transition game above all else, add in some better execution on zone exits and entries, and turn the Avalanche into some kind of pale copy of the Dallas Stars. Most importantly, a man like Keefe might be able to fully utilize Tyson Barrie and help him and the very young part of the team—the part that can score—grow into a functioning core of players.

It's not impossible to imagine that the Avalanche would look for a totally new face. Tradition says that when you're fixing a big mess, you go with a known quantity, a steady hand, a veteran with a name. But when the Avalanche had a mess in the AHL, they sought to solve it in a bold and innovative way.

The Avalanche fired everyone in San Antonio after a terrible season, one that saw their entire core of AHL players leave the organization before Joe Sakic could even form the words qualifying offer. They took a long time about it but finally hired Eric Veilleux, a junior hockey coach who had just started to get his feet wet in the AHL with Norfolk when that team dropped down into the ECHL.

Veilleux had just jumped from his job with Norfolk and taken on the position of general manager and head coach of the Victoriaville Tigres a few weeks before he dumped them for the head-coaching job with the Avalanche's AHL team. The Colorado organization doesn't have a lot of moral high ground over Roy and the manner and timing of his exit, given their role in Veilleux's moves, but they have shown a willingness to go "off the board" in hiring.

A coach like Keefe could also be the worst mistake the team has made in years. He hasn't proven himself at the NHL level, he's had one year of experience at the AHL level, and his decisions and choices in the Marlies' playoff run showed a coach who retreats into traditional ideas when he's pressed—run with the goalie who is winning even if he's not very good, get some size out there, etc. etc.

Short of locking the man up in the cellar of Ricoh Coliseum, all the Leafs can do, if the Avalanche makes an offer, is hope their cash-rich organization appeals more to the man than the budget team in Denver. But he will leave someday. His path to the NHL is blocked in Toronto by a very large and immovable object, so the best he can ever hope for there is a useful season or two as an assistant.