30 Thoughts: Avalanche zero in on Roy for head coach | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in Canada30 Thoughts: Avalanche zero in on Roy for head coach

Posted: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 | 09:16 AM

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Patrick Roy, left, is rumoured to be the favourite candidate to succeed fired Joe Sacco as Colorado Avalanche head coach. (Clement Allard/Canadian Press) Patrick Roy, left, is rumoured to be the favourite candidate to succeed fired Joe Sacco as Colorado Avalanche head coach. (Clement Allard/Canadian Press)

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There is a sense of real disappointment among the hockey coaching fraternity that the head coaching vacancy in Colorado is Patrick Roy's to fill if he wants the job.

There are important meetings this week that could determine future head coaching situations. Let's take a look, starting with the Colorado Avalanche.

There is real disappointment around the coaching fraternity that this is Patrick Roy's job to lose. No matter what Roy's brother, Stephane, claimed, it was his Facebook posting that alerted Denver Post reporter Adrian Dater to the best confirmation of Patrick's interest. Yes, the day will come when Mark Zuckerberg and the Google twins control our brains... but not yet.

Several coaches potentially interested in the job see the Avalanche as a "sleeping giant," as one said. There are some strong building blocks, with another one coming June 30 -- the first-overall selection in the 2013 NHL draft. Colorado is built for speed and that's one heck of a home-ice advantage playing in the high altitude of Denver.

For now, Joe Sakic, Colorado's new executive vice-president of hockey operations, is zeroing in on Roy. NHL teams that have drafted players from the Quebec Remparts (as well as agents who've had players in Quebec City) think he's a very good coach. Roy's been riding the buses since 2005, so he's pretty dedicated to it.

Obviously, running a bench in the NHL is a much different animal. "St. Patrick" tends to, uh, invite controversy and that's not ideal at this level. Dale Hunter left a similarly comfortable and lucrative situation with the London Knights, had some success as head coach of the Washington Capitals and decided to go back. Roy, I think, is different. He wants this challenge.

As is normal with men and their toys, the biggest issues are money and power. One of the reasons Roy turned down a job with the Avalanche in 2009 is the salary he wanted and the salary offered were in different area codes. When Roy's name surfaced this time, there was skepticism about how much Colorado would be willing to pay. Apparently, coaches there tend not to make a fortune. That one should get figured out.

As for power, Roy won't get full control like he does in Quebec City, but he'll be surrounded by people who know him and value his opinion. One of the keys to all of this is Craig Billington.

"I'll definitely be working with him quite a bit," Sakic said of Colorado's vice-president of player development. So will Roy. The Hall of Famer didn't get along with all of his backup goaltenders, but he did with Billington from 1997-99. Apparently, when Billington scouted in the Quebec City area, he stayed at Roy's home.

So what's left to get figured out? It sounds like Roy wants to be convinced that Avalanche president Josh Kroenke is serious. In the last five seasons, Colorado's never ranked higher than 21st in team spending. It made a wise investment in Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau. But Matt Duchene is one year away from a big raise and the Avalanche failed to see the danger in a prolonged contract battle with Ryan O'Reilly.

If Roy likes the answer, it's his job to take.


1. O'Reilly has one year remaining on his offer-sheet contract with Colorado and cannot be traded until Feb. 28. In a phone conversation after his introductory media conference, Sakic was asked if the centre was still considered a long-term piece of the puzzle. He seemed surprised by the question. "Of course he is. If we didn't think so, we wouldn't have matched."

2. Other coaching stuff. There is a meeting scheduled Wednesday at which Coyotes general manager Don Maloney is expected to update his coaches and staff on the situation in Phoenix. "I gave my word to Don," Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett said after returning from the worlds, that "I will let it play out and am not going to talk to anyone. There have been so many ups and downs ... let us know when it's done and we'll figure it out from there. It's all vague until someone buys the team." (No one quoted on the record is used as an anonymous source.)

3. Will potential employers wait for Tippett? When it comes to ownership, the Coyotes saga never moves quickly. I'm not sure Sakic, for example, would be willing to wait, especially since there are no guarantees at the end.

4. Newly hired Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill might be patient. It's been reported he will interview current assistant coach Curt Fraser, who previously worked for him elsewhere, and Willie Desjardins, the AHL coach of the year with the Texas Stars. Nill has a history with Jeff Blashill, who has guided the Grand Rapids Griffins to the AHL Western final. Nill also played with Montreal Canadiens assistant Gerard Gallant. I'm not saying any are favourites, but some guys like to interview as many people as possible.

5. Asked if the Detroit Red Wings' move to the Eastern Conference made it easier to take the Dallas job, Nill replied: "The Ilitch family? We're a part of them ... saying our goodbyes and thank yous is easier when not coming in here eight times a year."
6. We probably won't know until after the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs how many open jobs there will be. In Vancouver, Canucks GM Mike Gillis already had one meeting with owner Francesco Aquilini. Belief is there will be another, likely this week, before any decision is made.

7. I wonder if one of Ron Rolston's assistants in Buffalo will be Mark Morris, head coach of the AHL Manchester Monarchs. Morris hired Rolston as his assistant back in 1996 at Clarkson. Lately, Morris has done a great job with the Los Angeles Kings' AHL prospects.

8. Former Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan on what he learned in Dallas: "Two things. First, how to manage an NHL schedule. In the AHL, you usually play on the weekend and practice during the week. Here, it's very different. Second, you have to find a way to positively push your players through the season. The margin of missing the playoffs is so small ... you have to get them ready. I am a much better coach for this experience, learning how to handle that."

9. Gulutzan was thankful for the notes he received. Darryl Sutter of the Kings and San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan texted him hours before they prepared to face each other in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal. And Mike Babcock called the morning after his Red Wings lost Game 1 to the Chicago Blackhawks in their Eastern Conference semifinal.

10. Prior to this year's playoffs, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman talked about last season's post-playoff discussions with his leaders. "It was such a sudden end," he said. "We all felt there was a lot more hockey left in our group ... there was an empty feeling, [that] we should still be playing, we're not far away. We didn't make drastic changes ... we didn't need to blow it up because we had a good approach." Chicago ousted the Minnesota Wild in five games for its first playoff series win since the 2010 Stanley Cup victory, but if it doesn't come back against Detroit, will the organization feel the same?

11. One coach on Niklas Kronwall of the Red Wings: "He is taking it on his shoulders. It's like [Mark] Messier determined to prove he can win without [Wayne] Gretzky."

12. This goal is a perfect example of why Rick Nash has had so much trouble scoring. In Columbus, he depended on himself as the Blue Jackets failed to find him a centre. With the New York Rangers, he hasn't been able to adapt to guys who can get him the puck. Here, he got room and took advantage, but teams defend too well to let that happen often. With a full training camp, exhibition games and practice time next season, will it be different?

13. A lot of angst in Washington after the first-round defeat. This was a good season for the Capitals. They rediscovered enthusiasm, very similar to what happened when Bruce Boudreau first arrived. The biggest question the Capitals must answer is: How did we lose what Boudreau built and how do we prevent that from happening again?

14. Some Southeast Division teams aren't thrilled about slugging it out with the big boys under re-alignment, but if you're a good organization, it should help. Cliff Fletcher once explained that the Calgary Flames never win the Stanley Cup in 1989 if it isn't for being locked in with the Edmonton powerhouse. It forces you to be great.

15. Conspiracy Theory: Sharks GM Doug Wilson wasn't going to trade Dan Boyle at the April 3 deadline, but he wanted Boyle -- and his other veterans -- to think he might. There's been a lot written and said about Extreme Makeover: San Jose edition, but the more I look back at it, it's not just about increasing Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski's roles. He wanted Boyle and Joe Thornton, among others, to believe, "If this doesn't work, I'm next."

16. At even strength, Thornton's been on the ice for eight goals -- and only one goal against -- while playing tough competition. In Game 3 against the Kings, tied at the end of regulation, he's on the ice. In Game 4, up one with time winding down, he's on the ice. I wonder if a guy like Toronto Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis is thinking, "Darnit, I might have convinced this guy to come near home and play centre with Phil Kessel next season if things didn't go well. No chance now."

17. Thornton played his fewest minutes per game in the regular season since the turn of the century, which helps. Yet another key was a meeting with the leadership group after fatigue hit during the season. "We agreed to give [players] more time off if they agreed to take care of themselves away from rink," McLellan said. "As long as they committed to using it properly and being attentive in non-ice practices and video sessions. We had to make our adjustments that way instead of practice." Obviously, that arrangement worked pretty well.

18. McLellan on his relationship with Thornton: "You go through phases, like a marriage. I think somewhere along the line, we were able to create a trust level between us using him as a teaching tool. We show his mistakes and good plays, but make sure that if it's mistakes, before I show them to the group, he knows what they are so there aren't any surprises. If you're going to be berating your captain and leader, prepare them for it so he's fine with it."

19. Hockey Night in Canada host Ron MacLean asked why San Jose was fined $100,000 for questioning the Raffi Torres suspension, while Alexander Ovechkin can cite a conspiracy and not get fined. There's a difference between answering a reporter's question and putting a lengthy statement on a league-owned website. Yes, the teams run the sites, but it's very much an NHL initiative. Ask James Dolan. As a media member, I wish Doug Wilson would do this 20 times a year, but a league can't allow it to happen. I know you won't like that answer, but that's my guess.

20. Great line from Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray about Chris Kunitz, who he signed in Anaheim: "When we were playing Anaheim in the 2007 final [Murray coached Ottawa then], I was mad at something Corey Perry did and yelled at him. He said, 'That's why you drafted me.' Kunitz is the same."

21. What victorious GM Ray Shero said to counterpart Garth Snow after the Pittsburgh Penguins-New York Islanders series: "You gave us everything we could handle and we wish you were moving to the Western Conference."

22. I had a chance to talk to Islanders head coach Jack Capuano after he concluded exit interviews. He was really interesting to listen to about the team's future. He warned his players, particularly John Tavares that, "It's only going to get tougher ... As well as he played, he has more to give. We had a good year, but nobody is satisfied. Other organizations are going to make changes, teams that missed the playoffs are going to try to be better. It's going to be tough to get back to where we were. Don't take it for granted. John has the right mindset for that."

23. Capuano on if he had talked to Frans Nielsen about emotionally handling the tying goal that went off his stick in Game 6: "I never brought it up. Frans is a perfect example of how we want to play. It's an unfortunate situation, but there are too many positives this kid brings us to worry about 'What if?'"

24. One Boston Bruins' thought on coming back against Toronto: "Where the %#&@ has this been all year?"

25. The Bruins are uniquely qualified to address how a devastating defeat can affect a team: In 2010, they blew a 3-0 lead to the Philadelphia Flyers; one year later, they won the Stanley Cup. That isn't to say Toronto is going to win it next year, but it shows there is precedence for recovery.

26. The Bruins decided not to run away from what happened in 2010. Four months after their own Beantown Meltdown, they went to Vermont for a few days of training-camp team building. Prior to that, the coaching staff met with counsellors and planned out how to "interweave" the loss into the activities. Assistant coach Geoff Ward had a lot to do with those planning sessions, along with head man Claude Julien.

27. "The biggest thing that we found was we had real team chemistry to a fault," Julien said. "We got along so well, nobody was able to say it the way it was, nobody wanted to get into anybody's kitchen ... There is a difference between professional and personal. Just because you tell someone to pick up their game doesn't mean they don't like you as a person. Our team was a little too sensitive."

28. Julien noticed a change that November. The Bruins had two stretches when they lost four out of five games. "We put what we learned into practice," he said. "We were tested on what we had worked on and we worked out of it."

29. There was a report in Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet that Alexander Edler's five-game suspension for kneeing Team Canada's Eric Staal would carry over to the 2014 Sochi Olympics because he served just two games at the worlds. Not necessarily correct. A separate committee would have to approve that. Whatever the case, glad to hear Staal's injury was not a worse-case scenario. That was terrible.

30. Don't be surprised to see new competition committee members announced soon. David Backes of the St. Louis Blues will stay on for the players, but several need to be replaced. Ex-Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk is still listed as a league representative.

Follow Elliotte Friedman on Twitter @FriedgeHNIC

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