What Patrick Roy has done in Colorado as a first year coach is nothing short of remarkable. He has taken a team who could not keep the puck out of it’s own net, who finished the 2012-13 season with the League’s second-fewest points (39), and turned them into one of the best teams in the league! Should the success continue, it’s hard to imagine anyone but Roy winning the Jack Adams award, the annual coach’s award presented by the NHL Broadcasters’ Association to the coach who determinedly contributed the most to his team’s success.
Patrick Roy was hired this summer by new Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations, Joe Sakic, and has been the biggest reason for the Avalanche’s resurgence. “When I took this job, and I knew I had to find a coach, Patrick was always my top candidate,” Sakic said when he introduced Roy as the new coach May 28, 2013, “Patrick has a great hockey mind, he is a tremendous coach, and there is no one more passionate about this game. He’ll bring a winning attitude and help this young team grow, and I know he’ll get the best out of each player.”
What has made Roy such a good coach so fast? Above all, players say he coaches with a teaching style, “He explains things to you, how to make things he wants done actually work,” veteran defenseman Jan Hejda said, “and if you want to ask a question or even suggest something, he listens.”
When Roy told his new team that he wanted to be their “partner,” he seemed to take things to a new level. Instead of standing off to the sideboards checking his watch and having his assistants fish pucks out of the corner, at practice Roy is often right there in the middle of it, skating right along with the players and calling out instructions.
Roy’s famous temper was on national display opening night when he blew up at Anaheim coach, Bruce Boudreau, and nearly pushed the glass partition separating the benches down on his head. It had a great effect on the team. Here was a coach ready to fight for them after four years of Joe Sacco, whose hands-in-pockets, passive-aggressive demeanor wore the players very thin!
In addition to the culture change that has helped the Avalanche, Roy has real ideas about the game and he quickly implemented new team offensive and defensive systems. Early in the season, Avs center and Canadian Olympian, Matt Duchene, said players had no confidence in the previous coach’s system and that, “we knew it would fail. Now, there is nothing but dressing room confidence in management’s leadership and direction.”
“We were losing all the time. Things weren’t changing much. It was just bad in here. When you came to the rink, it was always just ‘Groundhog Day’ here. People were scared, people were stepping on eggshells,” center and U.S. Olympian, Paul Stastny, told The Denver Post, “but now, on the rink and off, we’re finally having some fun again. In the past, if you wanted something to change, you’d be told, ‘Look in the mirror first, you gotta play better.’ Well, yeah, I understand that, but in the past it was players on one side and management on the other side and there wasn’t much communication. We have more of a two-way street now.”
But, can the Colorado Avalanche really close the deal and make the playoffs? “It’s important for us to just focus on ourselves, to try and improve every day and work hard,” Roy said, “we don’t want to look too far ahead. It’s one game at a time for us.”