DENVER (AP) _ The Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday parted ways with head coach Marc Crawford, who led the team to a Stanley Cup two years ago but was criticized this year when his underachieving team made an early playoff exit.

Crawford had one year left on his contract, and was offered another year, according to general manager Pierre Lacroix. He said Crawford was looking for a longer commitment and told the team he would not return.

Asked if that meant Crawford quit or was fired, Lacroix said: ``That's a legal matter we have to address.''

On May 6, two days after the Avalanche season ended, Lacroix had promised to make a sweeping re-evaluation of the team that would include Crawford's status. At the time, Lacroix declined to give Crawford a vote of confidence.

Crawford, 37, is considered one of hockey's brightest young coaches. He has a 165-88-41 coaching record in four NHL seasons plus a 31-21 mark in the playoffs.

In his first season as an NHL head coach in 1994-95, Crawford led the Quebec Nordiques to the best record in the Eastern Conference and was named the league's coach of the year. In his second season, after the franchise moved to Denver, he led the Avalanche to the Stanley Cup title.

The following year, the Avalanche posted the best regular-season record in the NHL but bowed to Detroit in the Western Conference finals. In Year 4, the Avs bowed to underdog Edmonton in seven games of the first-round series.