A Legend Returns – Colorado Avalanche Appoint Patrick Roy as Head Coach

Patrick Roy won two Stanley Cups whilst with the Avs, in 1996 and 2001. (Courtesy of sportsillustrated.com)

Patrick Roy won two Stanley Cups whilst with the Avs, in 1996 and 2001.
(Courtesy of sportsillustrated.com)

On Thursday, the Colorado Avalanche named Hall of Famer Patrick Roy as their new head coach and vice president of hockey operations. The move was an exciting one for fans in Denver and hockey writers alike, for the sporting icon brings with him an exciting mixture of controversy, entertainment and a veritable wealth of NHL experience. With a spell as coach and general manager of the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts under his belt, questions abound as to whether Roy’s cavalier style of management will transfer to the elite level.

This post will take a brief look at the credentials the man who once uttered possibly the most famous line in hockey history amidst a heated exchange with Jeremy Roenick, “I can’t really hear what Jeremy says because I’ve got my two Stanley Cup rings plugging my ears” (You knew I would find a way to mention it!), brings to the NHL.

Talking to the goal posts –

His many curious superstitions aside, in terms of being able to relate and connect with players on a daily basis, Patrick Roy is ideally positioned. Careers in the NHL don’t really come much better than the one he put together, four Stanley Cup victories including two with the Montreal Canadiens and winning the Conn Smythe Trophy on three occasions, in two separate decades. The respect garnered by these achievements should create instant warmth from both the veteran core and the talented youngsters on the avalanche roster.

Despite this, the issue here could be his volatile approach, as evidenced by a repertoire of shocking TV interviews, the incident with his son Jonathan and his acrimonious trade from the Canadiens, not to mention his general ‘blood and guts’ style of competing. The NHL has changed drastically, even from his own playing days and getting to grips with the psychology of the modern game will be vital. That being said, the situation now is eerily similar to the circumstances of his first spell, a roster of under-achieving youngsters needing the guidance of a fiery master. Not that I’m making any Matt Duchene/Joe Sakic comparisons just yet, the later coincidentally being reunited with his old teammate after taking over the role of executive vice president of hockey operations in early May. Overview, expect drama.

The dynamic duo –

On the marketing front, the return of Sakic and Roy is a dream combo to revitalise a flailing franchise. Bringing together the most popular player in Colorado’s history with the man who literally put the Avalanche on the NHL map; carrying them to the Stanley Cup in the first year after their move from Quebec.

Failure to make the playoffs has created a severe dip in attendance figures over recent years, startling considering the franchise set a sell-out attendance record between 1996 and 2006. I would expect a positive surge in these numbers for next season’s opening games at least, until fans realise they have the exact same team. Excuse my pessimism, but it feels a little as though the management are trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes by bringing in the distraction of a big name. Though this will be seen as a positive from a business standpoint, the talented players on the team really need surrounding pieces to have a chance at the postseason.

A bridge too far? –

The main question mark around Patrick Roy is the significant leap from the junior leagues to the NHL, and whether he will be able to adapt to the demands of a role which requires far more communication than his previous experiences. Though he is a natural leader and did a great job with the Remparts as coach and GM, finishing with a .640 win percentage over eight years and winning the Memorial Cup in 2006, he held a god-like power with the Quebec team which ensured his word was law, on everything from trade decisions to line-ups.

In contrast, he is now a mere cog in the wider Avalanche machine, needing to find a careful balance between implementing his own thoughts and adhering to the decisions of the administration around him. This is arguably the most difficult aspect of his new position and as Dale Hunter’s year at the Washington Capitals proves; taking a coach straight from the Juniors isn’t always a direct recipe for success.

Saint Patrick? –

I believe the positives of Patrick Roy’s appointment far outweigh the negatives, though he brings with him a cacophony of controversy and a sometimes detrimental personality, he also brings four Stanley Cup rings and more than anything else, hope. For the fans in Denver and players such as Gabriel Landeskog or Matt Duchene, having a proven winner in their corner could herald the return of glory days.

One comment

  • Great analysis of the hiring, Sam. Will be really interested to see how he does, partly as I’ve no idea how he is as a coach. He hasn’t sent a ton of players on to the NHL, with Jonathan Audy-Marchessault being the most notable player of his to make the NHL, although Ryan Bourque and Mikhail Grigorenko have great chances to improve on that record. He did coach Radulov for part of the Memorial Cup season, but I can’t give him too much credit for moulding him into the player he became. Saying that, since he was made head coach, the team made the playoffs every year with a lack of marquee talent and have made it to the second round in all but one year, so I can’t argue against that record.

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