Avalanche Thoughts – Patrick Roy Now Bench Boss
My thoughts on the Colorado Avalanche hiring Patrick Roy as the new head coach.
The dynamic duo is back.. Earlier this month, Joe Sakic was named Vice President of Hockey Operations in the Colorado Avalanche organization. That’s just a fancy way of saying that he makes all the key decisions, from management to player personnel.
Sakic’s first key decision? Hiring a head coach. After days of speculation and leaked information, Sakic and the Avalanche made it official on Tuesday: Patrick Roy would be the head coach of the team. On top of that, he was also named Vice President of Hockey Operations. That’s just a fancy way of saying that he and Sakic basically runs the entire organization.
Is the team trying too hard to relive the glory days? You know, the days when the team actually made the playoffs and won two Stanley Cups under the leadership of Sakic and Roy. Maybe. But it’s not without merit.
Sakic has been hanging around the organization for the last two years and has hopefully learned from the many mistakes made during that time. Plus, as I’ve previously written, Sakic brings a certain respect that can’t be earned.
As for Roy, his junior coaching record speaks for itself. He went 307-128-32 and won a Memorial Cup championship while coaching the Quebec Remparts. That means, unlike Joe Sacco and Tony Granato, he actually won games as a head coach before his time in the NHL. He also has great experience working with young players and the Avs are one of the youngest teams in the league.
Here’s one thing I know about Sakic and Roy through my years of watching them play in the burgundy and blue: They’re winners. They know how to win and they expect to win. They won’t sit idly by if the team continues to go downhill, especially Roy.
Last year it took an outburst from back-up goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere to fire up the team. The angriest we saw Joe Sacco during his time as head coach was in his final game, where he was upset about a non-goal in a game that meant nothing to his team. It won’t take Roy four years to get angry if this team is playing as bad as they’ve been playing over the past few years. If he sees the same kind of effort that I saw this past year, I hope Stan Kroenke has extra money set aside for locker room renovations, because Roy will be doing some redecorating.
There is a different kind of pressure on Sakic and Roy now though. When they were wearing jerseys, they had the ability to control the outcome of the game. Need a big goal in OT? Sakic could put the puck on his stick. Need a save to keep it a one goal game? Roy could flash his glove. Now that they’re wearing suits, they’re at the mercy of other players. Sakic can’t unleash his deadly wrist shot towards the net if the team needs a goal. He has to hope that Matt Duchene can use his speed and skill to create a chance. Roy can’t make the big save that keeps the team in the game. He has to hope that Semyon Varlamov can flash the pad and make the big save, something he’s struggled to do in his brief time in Denver.
Roy and Sakic are already coming under scrutiny for “trying to relive the glory days” and not thinking of the future. Maybe that’s partially true, but this team needed a spark. For too long they’ve hired from within the organization. Not only has that failed to capture the attention of the fan base, it’s failed to produce on-ice results. Roy and Sakic re-ignite a hockey hungry town and can’t be any worse than what we’ve put up with over the past few years.
If things don’t work out, then they don’t work out. But I applaud the team for trying something different and something that has people talking. Sakic and Roy are brilliant hockey minds that have been around the game their whole lives. I have a lot more faith in them than I did in Tony Granato and Joe Sacco or Francois Giguere or Greg Sherman, who is still with the team but has about as much power as Jay-Z did when he owned 1% of the Brooklyn Nets.
When negotiations were on going with Roy, Montreal columnist Francois Gagnon mentioned that Roy wanted assurance from management that the team would spend money. The Avs have been at the bottom of the league when it comes to payroll for awhile now, and while money doesn’t guarantee championships, it does show a commitment to trying to win. It tells me that management will try to land the big free agent, sign an extra free agent, or sign players like Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog to a long-term deal. It also tells me that we’ll be avoiding another Ryan O’Reilly situation where the team was forced to pay their player on another teams terms.
For the first time in years, it’s been an exciting time to be an Avalanche fan. Ever since the season ended, the team has gotten a much need front office make over. That make over will continue on June 30 when the Avs pick first in the 2013 draft.
Sakic passed his first test in his new role. Roy might be a buzzworthy choice, but he’s not a safe choice. A safe choice would’ve been Alain Vigneault or Lindy Ruff. Two coaches with NHL experience. Sakic is taking a risk with Roy. They share the same front office title, which could cause some problems if they disagree on certain player decisions, and that’s something that Sakic could’ve avoided with Vigneault or Ruff, who likely would’ve kept their nose out of management problems and just stuck to coaching. Sakic knew what he was getting into when he hired Roy.
I doubt that Sakic made this hire “just to be nice” to Roy or “relive the glory days.” If he did, then this hire is doomed from the start. But Sakic likely made this hire because he feels that Roy is the best man for the job. He knows that Patrick is up for the challenge to turn this team around and shuffle in a new glory period.